Self-Sovereign Identity: True Control Over Your Data

‍Self-Sovereign Identity refers to the idea that individuals or organisations can have complete control of their digital and physical identities, as well as control over the sharing and usage of their personal data.

Digital Identity

Self-Sovereign Identity refers to the idea that individuals or organisations can have complete control of their digital and physical identities, as well as control over the sharing and usage of their personal data. This provides an additional degree of protection and flexibility, enabling the identity bearer to expose only the information essential for each transaction or activity. Identity is an extremely important part of society. So we need to make sure that user control will be the main foundation for building self-sovereign identity.

People and organisations have deployed the centralised identity model and the federated identity model as the primary approaches for handling digital identities up until fairly recently.

Digital identity

Centralised Identity Model

Under the centralised identity model, each service provider is responsible for managing the identities of the individuals they serve. The authentication information that users require to access a service, such as a username and password, differs depending on the type of service being used. Today, the centralised identification approach is utilised in a variety of contexts.

Nevertheless, there are numerous drawbacks to consider from the user’s point of view. Some of these include the requirement to manage authentication information for each service, the fragmentation of identity for every service, and the handing over of control of identity to the provider of the service.

Federated Identity Model

Federated identity is a system in which many identity providers negotiate trust agreements and operate under a single “federation” structure. Any individual who already possesses an identity in one identity provider is able to access other identity providers. One example of this would be logging into a new service with your Google or Facebook login. On the other hand, the majority of the currently available federated identity systems simply rely on a single service provider to act as the reliable identity verifier.

The federated identity model offers improved user friendliness in comparison to the centralised identity model due to the reduced amount of user credentials that need to be managed. However, the sovereignty of the identity continues to rest with the identity service providers. It also raises the possibility of illegal access to various services due to the exposure of identity information.

Under the self-sovereign identity model, people and organisations with one or more identifiers (that help in finding and identifying a person) can make claims about those identifiers without going through a third party. Also, this does not require a third party. So blockchain technology might be the most effective means of implementing a self-sovereign identity system.

Implementing the Self-Sovereign Identity Model

Users that employ self-sovereign identity have their personal data digitally signed by a third party they can trust. Prior to supplying the identity information to the intended recipient, the person providing the identity information digitally signs the data.

The recipient keeps the public keys of both the user and the third-party entity that is confirming the digital signature in a public ledger. The user of the identification information uses these public keys to verify the information that has been provided to them. As a result, users no longer have to rely on a central authority to manage their personally identifiable information.

There have already been working demos of services that make use of this technology. A good example is Kiva, which is developing an identity framework based on self-sovereign identity in Sierra Leone. Another instance of this would be the COVID Credentials Initiative; Organisations are developing Self-sovereign identity digital certificates to allow people to confirm that they have recovered fully from the COVID-19 infection, have antibodies, or have taken the vaccinations.

Limitations of Self-Sovereign Identity

Despite the fact that we encourage the deployment of self-sovereign identities in a number of aspects, there are still a lot of uncertainties that need to be solved. Interoperability is one of the issues.

It is likely that self-sovereign identity will not replace the existing identity management systems entirely; rather, it will be an addition to them and coexist with them. In the future, it is also anticipated that there will be a number of different implementations of self-sovereign identity. As a result, interoperability with other self-sovereign identity systems and conventional identity management systems is important.

The administration of keys is another problem. In the case of self-sovereign identity, the user is the custodian of their own identity information. This means that key management is more essential than it has ever been. This necessitates the development of a user-friendly system so that users may manage their private keys. A key recovery method is also necessary, as it is likely that some users would lose their keys.

In spite of the fact that self-sovereign identity is a concept in which users handle their own identity information, there are situations in which users such as minors and the elderly are unable to effectively maintain their identity information and keys on their own. Having a method of managing keys on behalf of the user is also necessary for this reason.

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