The pandemic has prompted an increased rate of digital transformation across just about every industry. With this comes the need for fresh scrutiny over how our personal data it used. With rapid digitisation not set to end any time soon, it is crucial that privacy is kept front of mind. Decentralised technology can play a vital role in supporting sustainable digital identity management solutions, writes Ivar Wiersma, enterprise software firm R3’s Digital Identity lead.
Digital identity solutions are on the rise
The ‘track and trace’ apps that have become ubiquitous across many countries in a bid to control coronavirus raise some valid concerns over personal data. A quick search of ‘track and trace’ introduces a secondary question led by most popular demand: “Can I be traced via track and trace app?”. Clearly, the public is aware of the value of the data they are sharing with the government, and they are questioning its guardianship.
Projects such as track and trace have huge implications for the way in which sensitive personal data about our health and location is shared with governments and private technology companies. While the key consideration for a government must of course be protecting the health of its citizens, there is no reason why, if the appropriate technology is used, we must lose control of our personal data.
The need for digital identity solutions is only set to increase. This was vindicated in a recent framework proposed by the European Commission, for a European Digital Identity. It is vital that the technology upon which these solutions are built offers citizens reassurance over data sovereignty, while also meeting its primary purpose of effective data sharing.
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Introducing decentralised identifiers
With blockchain, users can control which elements of their identity, location and health credentials are shared, and the user can store their data, such as medical records, as they see fit. In fact, it is possible that the user’s data does not even need to be stored on the blockchain, therefore eradicating conflicts with data privacy regulations such as GDPR. Using decentralised identifiers, a blockchain network can verify that the data was issued by a trusted individual or organisation without actually having to store that data, thereby conforming to GDPR standards.
Furthermore, decentralised identifiers can separate data from direct identifiers, so that linkage to a specific individual is not possible without additional information that is held separately. The correlation can only be made by those parties to which the user provides full access, while still allowing anonymised data to be used as necessary.
Decentralised identifiers are just one example of a whole host of exciting new technologies in the field of identity and data management in the blockchain space. These technologies are not hypothetical, they exist today, and in many cases have already been deployed in multiple different industries by institutions across the globe. If developed appropriately, a blockchain-based decentralised ledger can enable individuals to exercise control over their digital footprint in a secure and sustainable way.
Written by Ivar Wiersma, Head of Venture Development at enterprise blockchain firm R3