The synergy of Web 3.0 and Blockchain technology is a wholesome concept that transcends finances and entertainment; it seeks to touch all aspects of human lives, including identity management via Decentralized identifiers (DIDs).
Without identifiable information, many humans cannot access essential services which are important to life. For example, without a valid means of government-issued identification, you will be denied access to some financial services; hence, to use their services, you will be required to upload your driver’s license or international passport, which is stored in their database, which if breached, millions of people’s sensitive information will be out in public, putting them in jeopardy.
Of course, custodians of centralized databases will always argue about strengthening their cybersecurity departments; however, the truth is that there is always a chance of breaching the integrity of any security system, which puts centralized systems at risk of data insecurity.
Today, hackers going after databases is the order of the day, and quite regularly, there is news of how platforms considering user data are breached; quite recently, popular social media with over a billion active users, TikTok, was reportedly breached, providing an unknown hacker the personal details of over a billion people. It gets worse, Microsoft 365 Defender Research Team released a vulnerability report on TikTok, saying that accounts could be hijacked with a single click. This epitomizes the great risk centralized databases expose users to, and Web 3 Technology seeks to right the wrongs with DIDs.
Simply put, DIDs seek to help you verify your information with services that require authentication without making you upload your entire information to their database; hence, you can maintain the fidelity of your information without being denied access to important services.
To properly understand how Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) work, it is important to understand the concept of Self-sovereign Identities (SSIs)
What Are Self-sovereign Identities (SSIs)?
The SSI concept is borne from the idea of ensuring the fidelity of personal data by decentralizing the management, storage, and control of personal information; hence, users can decide what information they want to share as data is collected and managed without a centralized third party.
To access different services, several personal information, even more than biodata, is stored on centralized servers, including usernames and passwords. SSIs aims to improve security by allowing users to control the information with platforms; hence, users can provide only the information that is needed to be verified at a time. For example, if you need to access a service that requires that you are 18 years or older, the SSI system will ensure that the service can verify your age without the need to upload your government-issued ID; hence, security is improved, giving you, the data owner, more control over the information you share.
What Are Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)?
A DID is any entity that enables verifiable decentralized digital identity for self-sovereignty; although other parties can be important in the generation of information (e.g., your international passport will still be generated by your country’s government), Decentralized identifiers allow you to manage and control the use of this information, without requesting any permission from any third party.
How Do DIDs work?
Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) function optimally using the Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). DLT infrastructures utilize cryptography to securely store decentralized data on a network spread over several locations, as it is with blockchain nodes. Beyond securing decentralized data, DLT allows the simultaneous validation and access of this data, such that only authorized parties can access the data. Of course, the Blockchain is a public ledger; hence, there is a permanent, immutable record of everyone who accesses any data, ensuring data security.
Utilizing Decentralized identities in the future will rely on cryptography and blockchain technology, as users will manage their personal information on identity wallets, which are protected similarly to non-custodial wallets; if you are familiar with non-custodial wallets, then you know that these wallets are encrypted with private keys that keep accounts secure even if a password is breached; without knowing the decrypted version of a user’s private keys (the seed phrase), no one can break into an identity wallet; hence, only the user can manage who gets access to their information.
Services that need access to verify the authenticity of information via the identity wallet will need to have a decentralized application (dApp), where the user can temporarily connect their wallet for the DID to verify the needed information; hence, in this case, instead of providing your full details, the requester can verify only the needed information. After complete verification, the user may revoke access if they want.
To prove to the requesting party that they are getting valid information, the identity information is signed by multiple parties; e.g., if a requesting party is looking to verify your real name, they can be sure of the validation gotten via DIDs, since the information can be double-checked from your passport, bank details, or university certificate.
Benefits and Concerns of Decentralized Identity Management Systems
- Users can control information shared with third parties.
- Better data security, as the risks of hacks of data on centralized databases, is heavily mitigated.
- The Blockchain’s immutable ledger makes it easy to keep track of services that have access to your data, so users can revoke access when necessary.
- Decentralized Identities alleviate the need for heavy data collection; hence, users are protected from services that sell user data.
The primary concern of this technology is adoption; how governments and other institutions with the capacity to generate new data will key into blockchain technology to help validate data. However, it is expected that within the next ten years, the rise of Web 3.0 will help popularize the idea
The use of Web 3.0 technology in real-life situations such as this is an open debate; indeed, the decentralization of identity management massively improves the existing system, and with the internet, innovations know no bounds. However, the adoption rate remains a massive question; hence, blockchain proponents and visionaries are tasked with establishing working systems that can break into the traditional world and even establish new procedures.
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