Identity and the Transfer of Value Across the Internet

We all know that sharing our identity online can be risky. Our information may be exposed to identity thieves, or could be used by organizations for targeted advertising, profiling, or discrimination. We often lack awareness of how our data is collected, stored, used, and shared, and we usually don’t have a clear way to manage or opt out of such usage. These problems highlight the need for better data management and privacy protection practices on the Internet.

Our team at Velosys leverages identity management methods into every solution we develop for our financial and government clients. This post explores how identity management systems support financial regulation and interoperate with other systems that need digital IDs, and how identity tokenization provides a secure solution.

Identity management within the financial services industry is key to the following federal requirements:

  • Anti-Money Laundering (AML): How financial institutions prevent and detect financial crimes like money laundering, terrorist financing, or fraud.
  • Know Your Customer (KYC): How financial institutions verify the identity, risk profile, and suitability of their customers.

Identity must also be established in accordance with local regulatory requirements. Once the requirements for identity are established, their attributes should be defined and grouped into meta data features. These identity features are stored in the users’ identity management hierarchy, where a user may restrict access to specific features of their profile. Ideally, a user’s identity should be tokenized and stored on a blockchain network where details can be managed off-chain and access to identity features can be granted on-chain. Each identity feature may be a token that is validated by a recognized, authoritative data provider or Oracle.

Tokenized Identity Management

Tokenized identity, often linked with blockchain technology and digital tokens, brings about a transformative impact in managing trade transactions over the internet. It enables secure and efficient verification of participants’ identities through unique digital identity tokens. These tokens can be quickly and securely verified against a blockchain, streamlining the identity checks and saving time and resources.

These systems leverage blockchain technology to store and verify the proof of identifiers and credentials for identities in a decentralized and tamper-proof way. They provide high security, privacy, and interoperability, but may encounter challenges in scalability, usability, and governance.

  • Self-sovereign identity (SSI) wallets: Software applications that also use blockchain systems and allow users to store and manage their own identity data and credentials. These wallets offer high privacy and control for the user but may rely on external identity networks or platforms for verification and interoperability.
  • Decentralized identity platforms: Online services that enable users to create and use decentralized identities and credentials without requiring a central authority or intermediary. These platforms offer high usability and convenience for the user, but may have trade-offs in security, privacy, and scalability.

The immutable nature of blockchain records makes identity forging extremely difficult, thus significantly reducing the risk of fraud in online trade. This aspect is crucial as each transaction is recorded, providing a transparent and tamper-proof audit trail. Moreover, individuals and organizations gain more control over their data in a tokenized system because they can selectively share information, enhancing privacy and reducing the risk of data breaches. This level of control is especially vital in trade transactions where sensitive information is often exchanged.

Tokenized identities can also be tailored to comply with various regulatory requirements like AML and KYC regulations. Automating these compliance checks can simplify adherence to legal standards in international trade. Also, the streamlined verification process and the automation of various transaction aspects can reduce the need for intermediaries, thus lowering the costs associated with trade transactions.

Integration with smart contracts is another advantage. In a blockchain-based system, tokenized identities can work alongside smart contracts to automate and enforce trade terms. This includes automatic payments upon delivery and quality checks, thereby enhancing transaction efficiency and trust.

Lastly, the global nature of tokenized identities allows for greater accessibility and inclusion in international trade. This is particularly beneficial for individuals and businesses in regions with limited access to traditional banking and identity verification systems.

Self-Sovereign Identity – Our Preferred Approach

In essence, tokenized identity revolutionizes trade transactions on the internet by improving security, efficiency, and compliance, while also offering greater control and privacy to users. The success of this system, however, hinges on technological advancements, regulatory backing, and the acceptance and trust of the global user base.

The optimal solution for decentralized identity management varies depending on specific use cases, user preferences, and market demands. Among the methods available, Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) emerges as a prominent approach. SSI advantages include allowing users full ownership of their personal data, thus reducing reliance on centralized servers prone to breaches. It also offers users complete control and autonomy over their digital identities with the ability to selectively disclose data.

Incorporating blockchain technology, SSI addresses digital identity management issues through decentralized storage, allowing users to store and maintain full control of their ID data in a decentralized identity wallet app. Blockchain enables instant verification of ID data without needing to contact the issuer, speeding up identity verification processes.

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) and the use of blockchain technology in identity management offer several significant benefits:

  1. Enhanced Privacy and User Control: SSI empowers users with full ownership and control over their personal data. Unlike traditional identity systems, individuals decide how much of their personal information to share and with whom, enhancing privacy and reducing the risk of data breaches.
  2. Increased Security: Blockchain technology, integral to SSI, enhances security by decentralizing data storage. This decentralization removes central points of failure, making it more difficult for hackers to access and misuse personal information. Moreover, blockchain’s inherent characteristics ensure that the data is immutable and tamper-proof.
  3. Efficiency in Identity Verification: SSI streamlines the identity verification process. With blockchain, verification can be instantaneous, reducing the need for intermediaries and making the process more efficient for both users and organizations.
  4. Interoperability: Blockchain-based SSI systems are designed to be interoperable across different platforms and services. This means users can manage their identity across various domains without needing to create and maintain multiple credentials.
  5. Compliance with Regulatory Standards: SSI systems can be designed to comply with global privacy standards like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), offering a more straightforward approach to managing and protecting user data, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
  6. Innovation and Economic Opportunities: By providing a secure and reliable framework for identity management, SSI and blockchain can fuel innovation and create new economic opportunities, especially in sectors where identity verification is crucial.

SSI represents a paradigm shift in personal identity information management, placing control in the hands of individuals. It is an innovative approach to digital identity, recognizing the increasing importance of privacy, security, and user agency. The success and impact of SSI depend on technological progress, regulatory changes, and the readiness of users and institutions to adopt this new identity management model.