What is a DID? (3/3)
We saw in the first of this series of articles how DIDs could be used to secure user identity data on the Internet and ensure their immutability thanks to the decentralization of the blockchain. In the previous article we discussed the technical resources that allowed them to solve such problems. Based on this new knowledge, we will discuss in the last article of this series how this technology will enable us to fight against the dispersion of DID user data and how DIDs will be able to constitute a strong counter-power against the Internet giants.
Fight against the dispersion of identity data
When a service requires knowledge of certain identity information of a DID subject, a new type of Verifiable Credential, also called Verifiable Presentation, will be issued. This new type of Verifiable Credential will be constituted from one or more data extracted from one or more Verifiable Credentials that may have been issued by one or more issuers. It will be cryptographically signed as well and only this document will be shared with a verifier who requires information about a DID subject.
The DID subject will remain fully in control of the information shared since he/she is the only one who will choose which of his/her data he/she wishes to share. Also, it will be possible for the DID subject not to share any of his/her identity information while having it verified that it meets the requirements of the service requesting verification. These new Verifiable Credentials or Verifiable Presentations can thus be “Zero Knowledge Proofs” that can, for example, from Verifiable Credentials containing date of birth information, combine new information indicating that the DID subject’s date of birth is before or after a certain date, without containing the date of birth itself.
DIDs as a counter-power
Decentralized credentials will also reduce the power of Internet giants such as Facebook and Google, with whom it is possible to identify and connect to many third-party services. This gives these companies a great deal of control over the activities of their users on the Internet, their data and their privacy, which they then exploit for profit or political purposes. Such a concentration of centralized personal data is necessarily incompatible with privacy and presents the danger of Google or Facebook having control over all aspects of our lives. Third party services that offer identification by these means are also likely to collect data from these centralized accounts without the users’ knowledge and put them at risk of hacking into their services’ databases, much more so than in the case of web giants that are better armed against these types of attacks.
These centralized connection accounts thus expose users to the double risk of data theft by hackers and an overwhelming increase in the political power of the entities entrusted with this data. DIDs, thanks to their decentralization and the sovereignty its users have over their identity, choosing exactly how their identity is used, is a very important counter-power against these giants. They combine the practicality of a single identifier enabling users to connect to all services with the security of all user identity data.
As the use of DIDs becomes more and more important in society, our identity on the Internet will become increasingly secure. XSL Labs’ SDI will be usable in the same way as other existing DIDs and will be interoperable with them. Eventually, when decentralized identifiers are used by a sufficient number of people, it will perhaps no longer be possible to request access to information about the user of a DID without owning a DID yourself, thus reducing the risk of fraud and data theft to almost nothing.
We hope that this series of articles has been useful to you in order to better understand the solutions provided by DIDs and the technologies that enable it.
For more information about XSL Labs’ SDI, you can explore www.xsl-labs.org where you will find a series of videos and texts presenting the ecosystem developed by XSL Labs as well as the project’s White Paper.