IBM Blockchain, on how to solve the blockchain identity crisis

“People assume that blockchain technology provides an ideal platform for the storing of Personally Identifiable Information [PII],” writes Dan Gisolfi, the CTO for Trusted Identity at IBM. If a technology can address a particular issue, that does not necessarily mean it is the right tool for handling the issue.

The placing of PPI on an immutable ledger is a bad idea, says Gisolfi. The problem includes GDPR compliance, the cost to read/write transactions, reversible hashes and correlation for a tiny set of locations, means not a lot of hashes can be generated for this particular set. The PII needs to be secure, yet some part of it needs to be public since it is on a public blockchain, the argument goes.

One of the aims of blockchain technology is to do away with the traditional chains of trust – where intermediaries like banks certify documents. This is a centralized trust model. Distributed ledger technology must be transparent and immutable, and allow verifying and auditing authenticity.

In centralized, traditional models of trust, a ‘trusted server’ also called ‘certificate authority’, issues digital certificates to establish a chain of trust.

In decentralized ledger technology, the need for a centralized authorizing entity is done away with. Here is how Gisolfi puts it:

“As participants in a global identity network, Alice and Bob create their unique DIDs [decentralized identifiers], attach their public keys and write them to the public ledger. Now any person or organization that can discover these DIDs will be able to acquire access to the associated public keys for verification purposes.”

Yet, the encryption models in place still face some issues for the discovery and sharing of public keys (the public key being shared is central to the blockchain’s working.)

Adam C Migues, on an online debate, says:

“and look what’s happening to the internet today i.e. net neutrality. Also look at what’s happening with Bitcoin. If there is mass adoption it won’t stay independent nor will it’s participants be assured “sovereignty,” it’ll be die or co-opted eventually, I’m afraid.”

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