How Blockchain Could Change The Management of Identities Part 1

The partnership between Illinois and Evernym.

 

On August 31, 2017, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative announced a partnership with Evernym, the company behind Sovrin distributed identity ledger. The goal of the partnership is to run a pilot project during which babies born in the State of Illinois get a self-sovereign identity in addition to a regular birth certificate.

Evernym is the company behind Sovrin. Sovrin is a non-profit foundation that governs the self-sovereign identity blockchain also called Sovrin. The legal structure behind current blockchain projects can be complex because on the one hand blockchain networks need to be decentralized and independent and on the other hand somebody still needs to be writing the code and getting paid for it. Most legitimate blockchain projects follow the example of Satoshi Nakamoto, who has made the code behind the Bitcoin blockchain open source, meaning that anybody can download the code, inspect it, and use any part of it for whatever reason, personal or commercial. Typically, entities that create blockchain-related software then donate it to a non-profit and the non-profit then determines the direction of the development of the project. This is also the case with Evernym and Sovrin.

While Sovrin was born at Evernym, the two projects are two separate entities.

Once Evernym developed the code, it has donated it to the Sovrin Foundation. Then, the Sovrin Foundation has donated the code to the Linux Foundation. (source: https://forum.sovrin.org/t/relationship-between-sovrin-and-evernym/390/3 )

The Linux Foundation has then created Hyperledger Indy, which is an open-source project that supports blockchains that work on turning the concept of independent identities into reality. Just like the Linux Foundation makes Linux software available to anybody, Hyperledger Indy provides developers with libraries, code, tools and reusable components they can use to build or improve independent identity-related distributed ledgers. (source: https://www.hyperledger.org/blog/2017/05/02/hyperledger-welcomes-project-indy )

 

Why Sovrin blockchain exists: identities today

In the real world, one of the most popular and widely accepted documents in the United States that proves a person’s identity is the driver license issued by a person’s state of residence.

The state issues the license and the license performs a number of functions. It verifies the person’s name, birth date, address, legal status in the country, and the privilege to operate a vehicle. The person can then show the same license to prove age when going to a bar or a nightclub, when opening a bank account or when being stopped by a police officer when driving a car. The person can use the same document in a number of situations for a number of purposes, which is very convenient.

The first problem with driver licenses that only the government agencies with direct access to online government databases can check the validity of a driver’s license.

For example, to know if a driver’s license is valid or not, a police officer needs to take it from a driver, go to his or her police car and then run the license through a database. Currently, this is not something that a private entity such as a bar can do easily, yet allowing private entities to access such databases could them improve security and enforce the laws and rules better.

The second problem with the existing system is that driver licenses are pieces of plastic and it is easy to lose it or damage it. While you can take a picture of a driver license, you can’t use the picture instead of the real document when opening a bank account or performing other activities in the real life where you are required to show your physical driver license.

Most people today have smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices that easily and seamlessly sync with each other, yet there is no way to sync your identity documents or even back them up.

The third problem is that there are a lot of manual processes involved when you need to obtain a driver license. If you lose your license, you either need to go to a department of motor vehicles or apply online and manually enter your information. Whenever people manually enter information into a computer system, there is a possibility of mistakes. In the case of documents that prove identity, there is much less need for manual entry than is currently occurring. The reason why the manual entries do occur is that the current systems in place are outdated. In many cases, they are based on people coming to a physical office, filing paperwork by hand and then having an employee enter the information into the computer. Today, there is no need for any of this.

The fourth problem is connected to the third one. This problem is that a driver license doesn’t exist on the Internet. Instead of using one identity, users are forced to use a patchwork of different solutions and systems.

In many instances today, you can log into a website with your Facebook account, Google account, or LinkedIn account. All of these accounts are separate accounts that ask for the same information that you have to enter manually again and again and again. The same happens when you log into your bank account or investment account. The entities start asking you for the same information that you need to be entering multiple times. Then, when a change happens, such as getting a new driver license when the old one expires, you need to be updating all the profiles on all the websites manually all over again.