Blockchain for Identity: too good to be true?


I went to the DMV last week and the visit took place as one would expect: a lot of paper forms and waiting on wooden benches. The place is a technology distortion and maybe it's not a big deal – after all, you have to go there every 5 years if you want to drive a car.

The trouble is that we use our driving license for many other things, from getting on a plane to get into a bar. Our license is a powerful document that tells the world who we are. Still, the custodian of this identity system is a stupid motor vehicle agency that has a fetish for notepads.

That's why the idea of ​​blockchain for identity is so intriguing. In theory, it will soon be possible to store our personal data on the blockchain, using biometrics to grant access only to those requesting permission to view it. This could mean that there will come a day when we no longer need to rely on credit agencies like Equifax to collect and store information about our personal information. More ambitious visions of identities, supported by people like Accenture and Microsoft, provide for the use of blockchain as a way to help refugees and the world's poor get registers of citizenship and immigration. Above all, the security features of the blockchain could mean that hacking and identity theft will become much more difficult.

Everything looks wonderful but horribly complicated. This is because a valid system of identification blockchain would imply a coordination between not only businesses and individuals, but also governments, which still possess the supreme authority to define our official identity. Unfortunately, as my trip to DMV has pointed out, governments are terrible in terms of technology. This means that the dream of "sovereign self-identity" could be very far.

Surprisingly, a person who agrees is Vinny Lingham, who runs the buzzing startup ID blockchain, Civic. In an interview with Fortune, Lingham acknowledged that it may take years before government and industry agree on a common standard of identity blockchain. And while a startup, uPort, signed the Swiss city of Zug to implement a blockchain ID system, states that such examples are anomalous cases in the same way that Estonia is an outlier when it comes to digital governance. It will be much harder for ID blockchain to get large-scale traction.

"We have reviewed the blockchain vote and we have come to realize that it will take a reasonable government to implement it, and we will not see blockchain elections in the United States for at least two more cycles," said Lingham. use of the blockchain to help the world's poor is an admirable idea but mostly out of reach for now.

Lingham says that the adoption of blockchain ID systems will start with more humble projects, such as vending machines and website accesses. After which it will spread to applications such as social media and dating sites, it provides. In the meantime, though, it will be slow.

"It's a grind to be honest.We register dozens of users every week, hopefully soon there will be hundreds or thousands a week," said Lingham, adding that blockchain ID projects need to find daily and weekly use cases. to be feasible.

The bottom line is that blockchain-for-identity is more than a cake vision in the sky but, for the foreseeable future, our driving license will remain our main form of identification.

A version of this article originally appeared in The Ledger, Weekly newsletter of fortune at the intersection of finance and technology. Sign up here.

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