What is self-sovereign identity?
Consider how people have managed their identities in the decades preceding the digital era, and even today. Most people have a drawer, cabinet, folder, or some other safe location where they store their non-digital identity documents (such as their birth certificate, passport, and utility bills). Rather than storing these documents with a third party, we hold onto them ourselves, and only temporarily hand them over to institutions when necessary.
Self-sovereign identity extrapolates this concept into the digital world. It proposes that every individual and organisation should be able to create their own digital ‘document drawer’ which remains in their control, and that they should be able to hand over particular documents to organisations only when necessary, and usually only temporarily. This is the world we intend to enable with Ego.
The solution of combining a peer to peer approach with a (conceptually) single central register is enabled by distributed ledger technology (DLT) and next generation blockchains. DLT and identity wallets will allow participating peers to issue digitally signed statements of verified identity, and if necessary later issue a revocation, without the need for a trusted third party. With respect to user experience, it is highly scalable. An identity wallet allows users to collect and present many verified identity statements in a single transaction. As a peer to peer solution, it retains the benefit of avoiding the need to bootstrap an asymmetric network effect.
Permissioned blockchains, on the other hand, are generally preferred by enterprise. These iterations of distributed ledger technology provide many of the benefits of permissionless blockchains (such as a degree of decentralisation and trustlessness), but allow participants in the network to control which parties can run nodes and participate in the consensus mechanism, providing more certainty in terms of security parameters and ongoing operating costs.
As such, we are building a custom permissioned blockchain on which to base the NZDIF trust framework and protocol. More information on the details of this architecture will be available soon.