Identities on the Sovrin blockchain.
On the Sovrin blockchain, an identity of a person is a collection of different identifiers, proofs and other information. While most of the data is stored on the Sovrin blockchain, not all of it is stored on the blockchain. Some of it may be located on separate private ledgers.
One of the issues that the Sovrin blockchain solves is the issue of correlation. Correlation is when a person leaves different bits of personal information in different places. Often, these bits of information become public because these different places to not take sufficient measures to protect them. Their explanation for this is that they are asking for information that is easy to obtain, such as an email address, therefore, they do not have to be extra careful to protect the information.
However, what happens next is that a person enters an email here, the date of birth there, a phone number on the third website, address on the fourth and so on. For instance, in 2012 it was possible to see phone numbers of Facebook users on the website, as described here http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2012/10/10/facebook-lists-user-phone-numbers-for-all-to-see.html. Up until 2018, it was possible to search Facebook by phone numbers as described here http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43656746. Simply speaking, this means that if someone knew your phone number, they could look you up on Facebook and find out your name and possibly birthday because typically your Facebook friends would post birthday wishes on your wall. You would be thinking that someone just knows your phone number when in reality they’d have your phone number, name and birthday. If they were to keep digging, they would be able to find even more information.
When none of the websites do good job at protecting the data they have, identity theft becomes relatively easy.
Sovrin blockchain solves this problem by allowing users to create multiple identifiers every time they need to share their information with someone.
This is similar to how users on the Bitcoin network can create a new address every time they need to participate in a transaction. This way, a blockchain network can add an additional layer of privacy. Because on public transparent networks all transactions become a part of the blockchain, it is possible to search them by address. If a user utilizes the same address for multiple transactions, for example, if an organization uses a Bitcoin address for donations on its website and never updates the address, then anyone at any time would be able to see how many donations have come to the address and when. However, it is also possible to create a new address for each new transaction. This feature is free and the number of addresses is unlimited. If you create a new address each time you need to receive funds in cryptocurrencies, then figuring out what addresses you used would be almost impossible. On a self-sovereign identity blockchain this would mean that a party could verify identity-related information of a different party without anybody knowing on about is going on. For example, an employee looking for a new job with a different employer could have a prospective employer verify identity and employment data on the blockchain without notifying the current employer. An employer could be checking candidates without their current employees knowing what is going on so that the employees could focus on performing at their jobs instead of worrying about job security.
Verification keys and claims on the Sovrin network
John is a customer of a bank. Before John became a customer of the bank, he created a verification key JBVK (John-Bank Verification Key) specifically for the purpose of interacting with the bank. The key JBVK allows the bank to verify John’s identity. The key could also allow other parties to verify any and all interactions and transactions that John and the bank had during their relationship. As explained earlier in this series of articles, third parties could verify the information using cryptography hashes without getting access to the actual information.
In turn, the bank also has a verification key, called BVK (bank verification key) that represents the bank to all kinds of users, entities and third parties from all across the world.
The Sovrin blockchain network would contain both John’s key about his interactions with the bank JBVK and bank’s key BVK. This way, John, the bank and all other parties would know that they are accessing the latest up-to-date secure keys that contain uncompromised information.
In addition to identification information, records on a self-sovereign blockchain such as Sovrin can also contain claims, which are assertions by a party either about itself or about a third party. These assertions can be about names, identities, access information, group, privileges and rights, or capabilities.