Cyberattacks are increasingly more sophisticated and damaging, which is why digital security has been established as one of the biggest concerns facing both users and businesses.
We have already discussed the need to continue investing in the development of technology in order to create systems that are increasingly more secure and usable. But in this post, the spotlight is on blockchain technology and its two main advantages with regard to digital identity: Security and data control.
Blockchain technology is the most secure system for storing user data and transaction records and also provides users a more proactive control over their information
Personal data is stored and disseminated on numerous sites, such as the bank you use, the company where you work, the apps you subscribe to, Amazon or Netflix, or the supermarket where you do your online shopping. It has been demonstrated time and time again that any of these businesses can suffer a cyberattack or a breach of user data.
However, systems based on blockchain are much more secure, as each registry is saved among billions of others and has to be found and deciphered individually, which would take an incredible amount of time and money to complete. In other words, there is no company or business that stores the data. Instead, the information is decentralized, making it practically, if not entirely, impossible to locate and steal.
On 13 February, Microsoft declared its plan to use blockchain technology in order to give its users more control over their information through the creation of decentralized identities. This project features collaboration from other members and companies from the Decentralized Identity Foundation.
According to Microsoft, blockchain will eliminate the need to give “broad consent” to “infinite apps and services”. User identity would not be replicated and disseminated among a multitude of providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.
These large companies compile information about their users, which forms the base of their services and profits. But these users don’t have control over their data. Instead, they have to trust that the companies that store and use their data do so in a secure way, which is not always the case.
This has led to the creation of projects like Enigma that use blockchain to maintain user privacy when sharing data with third parties. With this system, the user controls the information and can allow or deny access to it.
Blockchain applications invoke a change from systems centred around an application to structures centred around the user, where the user maintains control of his or her digital footprint and can decide who accesses it.
Aadhaar is the largest biometric identification system in the world. The Indian government has implemented it in order to establish a registry of the country’s residents. Put simply, in this system, a person’s demographic and biometric information is associated with a string of 12 digits that allows the person to identify him or herself.
On the one hand, it is a great incentive to give people a unique digital identification. For example, it has allowed users to access services much more quickly—such as passport and driver’s license management, financial services, telecommunications services, etc.—while simultaneously preventing online fraud by avoiding the duplication of identities. Furthermore, it has provided a fast and reliable method of identifying people in areas with a lot of poverty, who may not necessarily have access to identification documents.
However, the system has had its critics and their claims are not entirely unfounded. Beside the possible intrusion of privacy, some are worried about cyberattacks and data breaches and are concerned that the system is not very secure.
Luckily, the roadmap for Aadhar is leading it towards the transition to blockchain-based technology. This will ensure that the system complies with the rights to privacy stipulated by the Indian government, and will allow information to be compiled, stored and used in a secure way with the consent of the corresponding user.
This case is indicative of the Internet's trajectory: Decentralized systems and databases that are more secure and transparent, and data controlled by the user. This is exactly what blockchain has to offer.