Do You Trust Your Government with Your Digital Identity? Why Decentralized Identifiers Might Be the Answer!


Have you heard about Web3 also known as Web 3.0? The Web3 movement is gaining momentum as it strives to establish a decentralized and more equitable Internet, where users have ownership of their data, privacy is safeguarded, and the digital economy is accessible to all.

At the heart of this movement lies the concept of your identity, which consists of  two fundamental components: identifiers and credentials. In the physical world, your identifiers include your face, fingerprint, and other unique traits. Your credentials serve as evidence supporting a claim associated with your identifier, such as a diploma, passport, or government-issued identification.

However, when it comes to using credentials to establish your identity, how much privacy can you truly expect? For example, when you present your passport to a club bouncer to verify your age, the government usually remains oblivious to your night out. Yet, the dominance of Web2 digital monopolies has disrupted this privacy paradigm by seizing control of your digital identities. They collect vast amounts of your personal information, linking it to your identity, and storing it within their corporate databases, giving them unrestricted control over its usage. This is what services like KILT are trying to change.

KILT is a blockchain protocol that enables identity management via a decentralized identifier (DID). It empowers individuals and organizations to assert, control, and utilize their digital identity in a securely and privately, liberating them from reliance on centralized entities like governments or corporations. In the realm of the KILT blockchain, a digital identifier takes the form of a unique fingerprint starting with “did:kilt:” and is followed by a distinctive combination of letters. Credentials are proof of a claim made about the identifier, such as an email address, or a Twitter handle. These credentials are created by any trusted attestor. There is already a service called SocialKYC that allows a KILT decentralized identifier (DID) holders to affirm their ownership of specific email addresses, social media handles, YouTube channels, and various other digital assets.

Another notable service that leverages the capabilities of KILT is DIDSign. This service enables you to digitally sign any diverse digital document format such as PDFs, MS Word files, images, and more. Subsequently, it enables others to authenticate that the document they received from you bears your genuine signature, validated by your KILT decentralized identifier while ensuring it remains unaltered during the interim period.

If you know me, you know that I couldn’t resist having my own digital identity! So I took the plunge and I installed the Sporran wallet Chrome browser extension, enabling me to establish my first digital identifier (don’t’ worry, you’re free to create as many as you please). To utilize this effectively, you must store this newly created DID on the KILT blockchain. This process involves depositing 2 $KILT tokens for the transaction. If you ever decide to erase your identifier from the blockchain, you'll get those tokens back - and remember, only you can delete it. And here's some great news - there's no need to juggle funds and tokens on a crypto exchange anymore! With a new Checkout Service, you can conveniently foot the bill via PayPal. So, merely minutes later, I found myself in possession of my fresh DID, proudly hosted on the KILT blockchain.

Highlighted in this snapshot, you'll see I've employed SocialKYC to link my KILT DID to my Twitter handle, @KurtSemba. It's surprisingly effortless: they supply you with a designated tweet to post from the Twitter account you're staking claim to. When that tweet hits the Twitter-verse, they affirm your claim, and your credentials get securely saved in your Sporran wallet.

SocialKYC to link my KILT DID to my Twitter handle, @KurtSemba

You might be wondering, will everyone create their own DID specifically on the KILT blockchain in the future? The answer is no. The KILT blockchain is just one implementation of the underlying concepts. There will undoubtedly be additional platforms joining the bandwagon in due course. A quick visit to the Decentralized Identity Foundation's website reveals an impressive lineup of companies, including KILT and Microsoft, all fervently working towards building a new innovative identity ecosystem.

One essential point to grasp is that the method we're discussing empowers you to be the creator and exclusive proprietor of your digital identity. This identity isn’t bestowed upon you by your government. Why is this important you ask? Well, consider this, governments are subject to change every few years whether it's via elections or through other shifts in power. You might trust your current government with the control of your DID, but even Chat-GPT cannot predict what future administrations might do with such great power!

You might be wondering about the environmental implications of blockchain technology. At Extreme Networks, we fully recognize these concerns. However, there's a silver lining in the form of parachains, a unique concept introduced by the Polkadot network. This multi-chain platform encourages secure and scalable interactions among various blockchains.

One of these parachains is KILT, with its specific focus on identity. These specialized blockchains are part of a diverse, adaptable ecosystem designed to work in harmony. This setup enhances security, scalability, interoperability, and governance, which are all crucial benefits enjoyed by KILT. Furthermore, KILT, as part of the Polkadot ecosystem, stands out for its efficiency and notably minimal environmental impact, as underscored in this Bloomberg article.

While delving into the current capabilities of KILT, I started thinking about other potential use cases. intriguing possibility is incorporating this concept within the realm of Zero Trust networks. Presently, a user's identity - a cornerstone of Zero Trust solutions – with corporate entities like Microsoft Azure AD or Google Identity. However, imagine a future where networks permit login using your own digital identity from a public blockchain. After the login, these secure networks could authorize your access based on any credential that is linked to your DID. The beauty of this approach is that it would allow you to seamlessly transition between different networks using a consistent identity, since all network providers could validate your DID and credentials against the same public blockchain. Moreover, varying network providers might assign you different levels of access within their networks, depending on your credentials and their respective access policies.

Here's a tangible illustration for you: imagine you've linked your DID to your mobile phone’s SIM card. This setup enables you to log into your 4G/5G network using your DID. Now, let's say you find yourself in a massive stadium where your regular cellular coverage doesn't quite cut it. Your phone must switch to Wi-Fi to keep you connected. Your phone can effortlessly use the same DID to gain access to the stadium's Wi-Fi, without requiring any additional steps from you. Here we have different networks tapping into the same identity, and the best part is, you're the only one in control of that identity.

Now, you might be thinking - that's wonderful for user access, but what about the billions of IoT devices that require secure network access too? Don't worry, the innovative minds at KILT have anticipated this need, introducing a solution known as AssetDID. Let's envision this: an IoT device manufacturer, already having their DID on the blockchain, generates an individual AssetDID for each device produced, linking it directly to the physical device. They could achieve this in a straightforward way by imprinting a barcode on the device. Alternatively, for heightened security, they could embed the AssetDID within a chip inside the device. This unique AssetDID could theoretically be used for network login and authorization

The journey of transparency doesn't stop there. Suppose the manufacturer creates a claim on the blockchain (credential) asserting its production of the device. Then, upon selling the device to a customer, another claim is created, transferring ownership of the device to the customer (assuming the customer also possesses a DID on the blockchain). This ensures end-to-end clarity on the production and ownership of virtually any physical asset. So, don't be too shocked if your next Louis Vuitton bag comes with an NFT sporting its own AssetDID for authenticity verification!

As we edge closer to the era of Web3, we're witnessing the potential of a future where our digital identities are no longer controlled by centralized entities but are ours to assert and manage. With platforms like KILT at the forefront, we're looking at a digital landscape where identifiers and credentials will pave the way for improved privacy, security, and transparency. But this is only the beginning, and the conversation needs to continue. What are your thoughts about this decentralized future? Can you envisage additional use-cases for digital identities? Please contact the Office of the CTO at Extreme Networks and share your views.

About the Author
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Kurt Semba
Principal Architect, Office of the CTO

Principal Architect, Office of the CTO

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