What is self-sovereign identity?

What is self-sovereign identity?

To provide data confidentiality, portability, and interoperability, digital identity management systems are evolving from entirely centralized to more decentralized alternatives. Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is predicated on the concept that individuals have a right to an identity not contingent on a third-party identity provider, such as the state or any central authority. To be effective, its implementation will involve the establishment of technological standards and socio-political modifications founded in legislative reforms. According to Sovrin, "self-sovereign identity (SSI) is a term used to describe the digital movement that recognizes an individual should own and control their identity without the intervention of administrative authorities”. Thus, SSI allows people to interact in the digital world with the same freedom and capacity for trust as they do in the offline world. Christopher Allen established ten criteria for self-sovereign identity in 2016, which have become a standard in the area. These include the following:

  • Access
  • Consent
  • Control
  • Existence
  • Interoperability
  • Minimalization
  • Persistence
  • Protection
  • Portability
  • Transparency

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is a concept that relates to an identity management system that is designed to operate independently of third-party public or private actors, is built on decentralized technological architectures, and prioritizes user security, privacy, individual autonomy, and self-empowerment. The design and implementation of sustainable solutions for Self-Sovereign Identity offer up a new world of potential and use cases across industries.

 Benefits of Self-Sovereign Identity

Interoperability: By utilizing decentralized technology and portable management units, the adoption of global self-sovereignty identity protocols and standards enables private and public entities to keep information proofs inside the same accessible decentralized networks.

Ownership: Implementing the self-sovereign identity model will help preserve our ownership by using distributed ledger and smart contracts, thereby removing intermediaries, and the trust is now held within the decentralized ledger.

Pseudonymity: Individuals generate their own IDs under the SSI paradigm. Individuals are permitted to develop as many IDs as necessary in order to connect with various services in a manner that prevents these entities from associating the individual with any of their previous identities. 

Layers of Self-Sovereign Identity

In designing robust, scalable, and compliant SSI systems, three complementing layers must be addressed.

  1. The first layer is regulatory; the SSI concept is based on immutable decentralized ledger encryption, electronic signatures for transactions and credentials, and timestamps. Additionally, updated data protection standards are essential to ensure the protection of people's data and information. Regrettably, many nations lack legislation governing electronic signatures and transactions, and an even greater number lack regulations governing data protection and privacy.
  2. The technology layer is the second layer. At the moment, various new developing technologies, ideas, standards, and protocols are required to design and implement SSI solutions. To begin, the SSI identification paradigm necessitates the use of decentralized information ledgers. Second, it necessitates the development of a new set of standards for generating unique identities, verifiable digital credentials, and verified digital presentations.
  3. Thirdly, it requires a new generation of digital repositories that enable individuals to save easily, manage, present, and retrieve personal data.
  4. Finally, but certainly not least, all of these components necessitate the development of new electronic identity, authentication, and authorization methods. Trust frameworks comprise the third tier. A trust framework defines the governance architecture, certificate authority, identity providers, levels of assurance, and communication routes in a digital identity ecosystem, among other things. This enables the development of trust roots, trusted lists, revocation lists, and various other trust-related components required to recognize identities and authorization for access to services and information.

Digital Identity Models

Siloed identity was the first model of digital identity. Each organization provided a user with a digital identity credential that enabled them to access their services. Each user required a unique digital identity credential for each new organization with which he/she interacted. This resulted in a substandard user experience. Recall all the websites for which you were required to register and generate new passwords and login details. The Federated model of digital identity is the second type. Due to the initial model's bad user experience, third parties began issuing digital identity credentials that enable users to access services and other websites. The "Login with Facebook" and "Login with Google" capabilities are the best examples of this. Businesses "outsourced" their identity management to large businesses with a financial incentive to amass such massive databases of personal data. Naturally, this raises worries about privacy and security. Facebook, Google, and others have acted as intermediaries of trust. With the advent of Blockchain technology, Decentralized Identifiers, and Verifiable Credentials, a third form of identity was created: Self-Sovereign Identity.

Characteristics of Self-Sovereign Identity

  • The ID Issuer, ID Owner, and ID Verifier build a secure digital peer-to-peer link. When credentials are shared, neither the source nor the recipient knows what is being exchanged. As a result, credentialing becomes more straightforward and faster.
  • Through the use of encryption, SSI Credentials are tamper-proof.
  • They are private and controlled by you. SSI makes use of a technology called Selective Identity Disclosure. The ID Owner chooses which aspects of their identity to "display" and maintains complete control over their relationship with ID Verifiers (knowing what data is shared).

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