Whether Self-Sovereign Identity can fix the world
Updated: Oct 16, 2022
In the previous article we discovered what self-sovereign identity (SSI) is and started our consideration about whether it can save the world… or fix? I don’t remember precisely, but you can read about it there.
In this article I wanted to tell you what the ID Karma project is. But at the last moment I decided to tell why in my opinion the world and the Internet needs some fixes and how I ended up evangelizing SSI.
For those who don’t want to jump between articles and want to make maximum sense out of this one, just a kind reminder: Self-Sovereign Identity is a set of principles that will democratize trust management, bringing your personal data back to your devices and reshaping all your paper documents (like IDs and diplomas) to digital form.
ID Karma right now looks like a combination of a mobile social network and a browser extension. It allows to comment and discuss the internet resources right on their pages in your browser.
For sure it’s hard to understand how it relates to self-sovereign identity. Short explanation: it’s implemented on self-sovereign identity principles. And this fact completely changes the game. To understand why, we need to dive deeper into how it works and which features provide. But as I promised, before we discuss ID Karma, let’s take one more step back to SSI and the “saving the world” topic…
Why I work on "saving the world"*crossed out*, ID Karma*crossed out*, SSI solutions
Hello, I’m from Belarus. Since the mid 1990s all Belarus people have been suffering from a despotic political regime which is supported by the russian government. In 2020 the attempt to get rid of the regime failed, in particular because of the support from russia. This failure ended up in hundreds of deaths, thousands of political prisoners, refugees, political immigrants, etc. That was followed by even more harsh events in 2022 — russian chauvinistic and imperialistic tyranny tried to occupy Ukraine.
These events had touched me so deep, that in late 2020 I decided to dedicate my life to finding a way to reduce the probability of similar events in the future. Of course, I had chosen the way that fits best to my knowledge and skills of software generalist. I started to look for some technological solution that would allow to build grassroot democracy from scratch without any center or leaders. I was also looking for some solutions that would block the possibility that any government (or even corporation) can abuse tools of trust management (like elections and other means of democracy). Finally, not without help of like-minded people my research brought me to SSI ideas. Since then SSI has become the core of my further work and the subject of evangelization.
On the one hand, the Self-Sovereign Identity just misleadingly promises (even by its name) that it may help to reduce the influence of governments and corporations. Which is a good subject for another article.
On the other hand, after some research (playing with code and capabilities), I can say that it significantly reduces the problem of trust monopolization and broken privacy. Which constantly suffers from wrong people getting access to your data (despotic or populistic political groups, dirty-handed corporations, or just cyber-criminals).
What are benefits of SSI based solutions:
Reduced digital footprint. When you use SSI based interactions, the verifier (the person you share the documents with) shouldn’t check them with the issuer. So your interaction is private in comparison with the cases when the data is checked via some registry or a direct contact with the issuer. For example, in contrast to the SSI based approach, when you login in some resource with the Google auth, Google knows about it.
Decentralization of trust. Anyone can become an issuer or signer who may issue his or her self-made verifiable documents and claims with no cost. Governments spend millions on the costly trust issuing and verification procedures. Corporations have the same problems but with lesser scale. You just don’t know how much Google pays for your let’s login everywhere;
Verifier is willing to decide which issuers to trust, while the verification is based on cryptography right on the verifier's device. Which is much cheaper and easier (just dumb math) than complicated procedures or costly and vulnerable servers and physical solutions (stamps, watermarks, ink signatures and other nonsense);
All your data is stored on the holder devices. It allows to avoid costly server storage. It allows to stop sharing data with intermediaries and final services while you may keep using them (hello, GDPR out of the box). You even can use online services much faster, because you shouldn’t register or login, while they don’t need to cross authorize different actions via APIs;
The previous point is also a powerful mean of protection against potential data breaches on centralized servers, which are usually a main subject of hacker attacks and private data leaks. Yes, the truth is, that your laptop or phone is usually much harder to crack, if we compare it with some enterprise server. Harsh truth is, that it’s much less cost efficient to steal data from separate devices, rather than a database with thousands and millions of users stored by a single enterprise or a government server.
We tried to connect some dots in this article. First of all we figured out which part SSI can play in fixing the world and the Internet. But this topic is so wide that to cover it all we must touch it in every article of this blog.
This article described the main motivation, social value and technological benefits behind the ID Karma project. From my perspective it’s essential to understand its real value and potential if you hesitate to try it.
In the next article we will make an overview of what ID Karma is and which capabilities it will have.