Can Blockchain be used to allow citizens to control their identities?

When we first come to the world, our arrival is registered in a Civil Registry Office. This crucial moment is the beginning of our long journey through life.

When we first come to the world, our arrival is registered in a Civil Registry Office. This crucial moment is the beginning of our long journey through life. And at this very moment we are provided with our first identity in the world – a birth certificate.

While we on our journey, the most notable events are registered through other important documents. Namely, they are ID and Individual Taxpayer Registry, which unleash our opportunities and permit us to get other documents and certificates to complete our personal data. They are also the main carriers of our identity which we use to enroll to university or college, get medical assistance or open a bank account.

If we want to drive vehicles, we will need a driver’s license which qualifies us as safe drivers of specific types of transport, which is a very responsible thing.

But it is not a full ‘collection’ of documents individual may have. For instance, to travel abroad, we would need a Passport - this important document helps identify us in other countries we’re journeying.

All this high variety of identities people can possess makes companies work hard to develop the most effective identification systems for customers and partners, especially in the finances field, where businesses have to cope with lots of different documents and certificates other parties issue to identify the same person.

It creates a big urgency for replacing traditional and analogical identification model (ineffective, bureaucratic and systemically deficient) by a unique, digital, universal, with high technological advancements and data processing capabilities. Some of the similar advancements have been already used in Digital Economy.

Today it is easy for any of us to send email to any part of the world – you name it – in just few clicks, but it takes hours and sometimes days to obtain a restored ID or driver’s license. Won’t you agree that it is unacceptable in a modern world? We need to find ways to optimize data collection and data accessing techniques and speeds, and also to change data storage and verification methods bringing the right to control the personal information to its real owners – citizens.

Today, there is an actual demand for the unique, digital, independent and universal identification system, which would let the people to decide if they wanted to allow third parties to use their data, like social media or companies. This new system would give citizens a power to choose which data they wanted to provide to other parties and when should those parties receive it. If there were some issues, citizens could cease access to their information at any moment.

Despite there is a huge gap in knowledge on this topic, transition from a traditional model to the digital identification system is already available through blockchain technologies. Although the technology is still on its initial stages of development, like the internet in its early days, blockchain has actually been successfully applied in Estonia, whose 97.9% of citizens already have unique digital IDs.

The named system would only need one registration, after which user obtains direct access and a lot more freedom to work with his own personal records. Thus, the person can decide who else will be able to access his data and choose the specific data which a party may display. The real holder of his personal information would get power to decide how to use it and may be even granted for allowing others to access his data. Furthermore, such system with citizens over the control of their personal information would make it easier to apply the “right to be forgotten” – a new concept in the EU.

To persuade people even more, it’s important to note that blockchain system provides additional safety for its users given by its decentralization, which prevents hackers’ permeation into the network. This would cancel any data tampering by third parties, or completely disable access to the system for the public, like it was in countries under a dictatorial regime, or in situation of civil war.

It is also important to clear out that universal technique would not corrupt privacy, as some people might think. First of all, we need to understand how blockchain system actually works. In fact, blockchain is neither an open platform, nor it’s the unified system which may be changed through one certain point.

There are several types of blockchain, “open” and “closed” among others, depending on the security and threat detection approaches. Also, blockchain can be public or private, permissioned or permissionless, with various governance structures and rules that may be implemented in several existing platforms, which unlocks diverse fields of application for the technology and makes its application possible for different kinds of customers.

Considering the urgent demand in secrecy and safety for data storage, only few types of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) could help in achieving the necessary requirements. This could be an open or closed permissioned blockchain, which only gives permission to work with data to authorized users.

The topic remains to be highly debated, and eventually it will find its resolution through international regulations, creating the first universal and independent blockchain system for personal data storage, which would eliminate abuses from government and companies and provide complete access for citizens to their private information.

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