Building Ledge, a Self Sovereign Data Storage Platform

Zachary Wolff
Jun 21, 2018 · 4 min read

A couple hours ago I got an email that my domain, would be expiring in 14 days. I had initially purchased the domain in 2015 for a project that I had been scheming on since early 2013.

The initial idea stemmed from a very simple premise: I wanted a secure, self sovereign way to log my personal data. An example I like to start with focuses around what books I had read.

A very basic MVP would allow me to add a book to Ledge so that I could easily retrieve it later on. Technically speaking, one key requirement that separates this from something like Goodreads is that I wanted to have full control of my data.

At the most grand level, I wanted Ledge to allow me to leave a cryptographically sound record of my personal data to my family when I was gone. Permission/segment based of course. There are no doubt a few books that I might not want going out to the whole family :)

Another reason that Goodreads wasn’t an option was that I wanted Ledge function as more of a protocol or platform going far beyond books. The next personal data point I went after was location data.

As an initial test, I modified an open source Android app to post my GPS coordinates to Ledge. For just over a year I collected and logged all my location data to a hella-beta version of Ledge.

At this point it was early 2014 and things were quite a bit different in the blockchain space. While I schemed on ways to embed Merkel trees of my location data into the BTC blockchain I eventually came to the conclusion that I was probably just a little to excited about blockchain and was trying to fit square peg into a round hole. Oh, and those fees.

Either way, because this was a side project things didn’t move as quickly as I would have liked. I got rid of my Android phone and wasn’t able to easily obtain my location data from my new iphone. While I didn’t stop thinking about Ledge, it sat on the back burner to my day job in infosec.

In early 2017 I came across an article by Tim Berners Lee that reignited my passion for a self sovereign data storage platform. The problem I was solving for was very real. I again dug into my old Ledge code but this time around the world of blockchain and the decentralized web was much different. I discovered UPORT, an Ethereum based application that intends to return ownership of identity to the individual.

In theory, an extremely important part of Ledge could be handled by UPORT or something like it. I quickly made connections to the team and interviewed with them for a job in order to learn more.

Around the same time I discovered IPFS and IPDB(rip). It quickly became clear that another piece of the Ledge puzzle might already be being built. Let’s say I wanted to add a book to Ledge, rather than store the relevant metadata in personal data silo, I could simply store a signed reference to the book and it’s versioned metadata on IPFS!

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This wave of excitement lasted a couple months as I pushed forward on the Ledge whitepaper and added more to the code base. From the early days of the idea I had reasoned that the core protocol would have to be open source and based on an individual or entity securely storing their data to Ledge.

From there, other applications could request access to user data as desired. For example, a user could potentially share their recent book/location/web browsing data in a way such that it didn’t reveal their identity but would allow them to connect with others. I could grant access to my reading history to Goodreads and let them handle the networking and/or social layer!

Clearly, there are a still a lot of gaps and complexities that have to be worked out and at this point I suspect that there are probably others already working on a similar idea.

While I opted to move forward on my long standing dream to put on a tech conference and have once again found myself unable to devote the amount of time and attention to this project that it needs I’m hoping that someone out there might be interested in Ledge.

Because of the recent explosion of interest in distributed ledger technology i’ve started to get requests and offers for the domain It kills me to sit on a nice domain that could be potentially put to good use.

That said, if there is someone out there with interest in helping me move forward on this (or even knows of another project doing something similar) please let me know.

The idea of leaving behind a series of keys that unlock of lifetimes worth of personal data for my family long after i’m gone is an idea I simply can’t let go!

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