Blockchain ID Schemes Could Kill the Data Breach, But How Soon?

Awareness of the serious drawbacks of centralized identity services is growing.

Spurred by the Equifax breach earlier this year, the problem isn’t relegated to the U.S. credit scoring company alone. In mid-October, a database leaked the personal information of more than 30 million South Africans (more than half the population). Further, searching “data breach” in Google news turns up a significant recent data breaches globally.

Yet, a new breed of entrepreneurs believes that by updating the underlying technology used by such services, consumer data can be better protected.

“This move to the cloud and greater digitization of government services has led to greater centralization,” said Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger.

And if something isn’t done to distribute that data, the lead developer of one of the largest blockchain consortiums, one boasting membership from IBM, Baidu, Intel and more, believes breaches will continue.

This is the main reason Behlendorf believes stakeholders are more interested in exploring self-sovereign identity – a means of decentralizing identifying information so that the individual has control over their own data. The concept of a self-sovereign ID has “been percolating for awhile,” he said, but it wasn’t until the advent of distributed ledger technology that the notion started to feel somewhat attainable.

Behlendorf told CoinDesk:

“You’re using [distributed ledgers] simply to store addresses, pointers and hashes to data that is stored off-chain elsewhere. Recognition of that basic model is starting to become clear to the different organizations in [the identity] space.”

While it’s still early days, several stakeholders have taken the lead, with governments seeming most interested in utilizing blockchain technology to shape the future of identity management.

Governmental momentum

And that’s what’s perhaps most notable. Governments aren’t typically recognized as first movers, but some are proving responsive to a solution that might allow them to offload some of the risk of storing large silos of citizens’ data…

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