The GiD Report — World Bank on ID, Tech’s trust gap, Brave wins, Sovrin’s token, ID+payments is everything

GlobaliD
GlobaliD
Mar 3, 2020 · 9 min read

Welcome to The GiD Report, a weekly newsletter that covers GlobaliD team and partner news, market perspectives, and industry analysis.

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The World Bank’s annual identity report

1. I’ve only just had a chance to look over the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) report overviewing the last year. It’s worth a skim. There’s nothing too surprising in here if you’ve been following along but plenty of further validation for the needs and challenges of smarter approaches to identity.

Possession of an ID is highly linked to socioeconomics — for instance, lower income people, those who live in rural areas, or women are all less likely to have one:

And those without an ID are less likely to have access to basic services:

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It’s a problem the World Bank takes seriously, with $1.2 billion so far in lending toward ID projects, whether active or still in the pipeline. And they’ve received 170+ novel solutions implementing so-called “privacy by design” — as privacy and user control remains at the heart of the initiative.

And in general, their focus moving forward are principles easy to align with:

  • Addressing exclusion risks and improving understanding around the limitations of technology
  • Closing the gender gap and improving women’s access to IDs
  • Engagement with civil society
  • ID in humanitarian contexts
  • Authentication for high levels of assurance without connectivity
  • Adoption of open source and open standards
  • Continental approach to digital ID in Africa
  • PPPs, outsourcing and procurement
  • Alternatives to biometrics for establishing uniqueness
  • Peer-to-peer network and capacity building
  • Scale up support for the development of laws and regulations on data protection and privacy and non-discrimination
  • Enhance privacy by design
  • Strengthen cybersecurity

But for all the great work the World Bank is doing along with their support in terms of thought leadership and financing, it’s always tough for such organizations to transition from the conceptual to the practical.

So it’s important to acknowledge that much of the real work around digital identity will be happening elsewhere — including by many of the people receiving this newsletter.

Check out the World Bank’s full report.

Relevant:

2. The need for new frameworks underpinning the way we interact and transact comes at a time of receding confidence in our institutions — particularly when it comes to big tech companies. And according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, the trust gap is only widening:

In 2012, the tech sector was rated trustworthy by 77% of respondents, compared to 47% for business in general, a 30-point gap. This year, that gap is just 18 percentage points, as trust in overall business has risen and that in the tech industry has fallen.

“The trend of eroding trust in the technology sector continues,” said Sanjay Nair, global technology chair of Edelman. “The trust decline may be small, but it is reflective of consistent concerns that technology companies are not adequately preparing society for the impact of their products.”

And people are worried:

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And why shouldn’t they be when they keep seeing headlines like:

The thing is, people have wisened up. And that initial compulsive outrage has developed into a sustained and fundamental shift in terms of how they perceive tech companies and their potentially negative impact on society. Now, consumers are looking for change.

(If you’re looking for a headier take on the growing techlash, this might be worth your while — Progress, Postmodernism and the Tech Backlash)

Relevant Harris data poll:

Last year, only 17% of Americans said companies were making a positive impact on data privacy. Today, 64% of Americans say presidential candidates should address online privacy & security and that companies should be held accountable.

Indeed, such factors are now becoming a driving impetus for users to change platforms. For instance:

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Smart leaders, aware that their moats aren’t resistant as they once were, will adapt with shifting sentiment and expectations:

While new upstarts realize that our connections are becoming more private, more personal, and more encrypted:

3. Speaking of consumers switching platforms due to privacy concerns, academic researchers have crowned Brave as “by far the most private” web browser:

Prof. Leith says that in their “out of the box” states, Brave is by far the most private browser, sending back the fewest amount of information.

“We did not find any use of identifiers allowing tracking of IP address overtime, and no sharing of the details of web pages visited with backend servers,” he said.

On the other hand, the professor found evidence that Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all tagged telemetry data with identifiers that were linked to each browser instance. These identifiers allowed Google, Mozilla, and Apple to track users across browser restarts, but also across browser reinstalls.

In addition, Prof. Leith also found that all three browsers also shared details with their respective backends about the web pages a user visited.

The primary criticism of privacy outrage is typically around the idea that consumers will say one thing, but will they actually do anything about it? The continued success of Brave not only shows that they will but that we’ve entered into a new era of the internet.

4. It’s not all about privacy and security, though. It’s also about innovation — much needed in the area of identity and payments. And it’s so core to human society that Amazon is using it as the foundation of their next big expansion — amalgamating digital identity, seamless payments, machine vision, and facial recognition to deliver a totally frictionless cashier experience:

Now, Amazon has figured out how to scale its cashier-less technology to work in a new Seattle location that — at over 10,000 square feet — is five times the size of a typical Go store.

  • The stores will help Amazon get even further ahead of its competitors on speedy delivery, as they can serve as warehouses for fresh food.
  • The bigger, tech-infused stores will also be data collection machines for Amazon, feeding the tech giant information on how different neighborhoods shop and what they eat.
  • And Amazon has already said it will work on packaging and selling its cashier-less tech to other stores.

The bottom line: We shop for food more often than anything else, and grocery stores are essential in every city. Walmart’s ubiquitousness in American life is thanks to the relationship it has built with its shoppers through groceries — and now Amazon may begin to shake that dominance.

In other words, digital identity and payments, done right, is super marketable to consumers. And that innovation is quickly expanding beyond the digital realm and into our physical lives. We’re officially in Minority Report territory.

5. One organization helping to pave the way for digital identity innovation, of course, is the Sovrin Foundation, which just launched a test token for its Decentralized Identity Network:

The Sovrin Foundation, the nonprofit organization responsible for implementing the open source governance, operations, community engagement, and widespread adoption of the Sovrin Network, today made a Sovrin Token available for public testing. The Sovrin Token provides an independent payment option for the Sovrin Network, a decentralized, global network that establishes a new data model — called self-sovereign identity (SSI) — where people, businesses, and organizations retain unprecedented control over their data and how they share it. Testers may access test tokens at Selfserve.sovrin.org.

“While this is expressly not an ICO, we’re thrilled to open up the self-serve portal and welcome support from the crypto community in helping us test how tokens work on a decentralized network for identity. ,” said Heather C. Dahl, CEO of the Sovrin Foundation. “As data regulations such as GDPR and CCPA mature and evolve, we see SSI as the most regulatory compliant model for internet-scale digital identity, one that moves us past our present, failed system of centralized and unsafe ‘identity providers.’ We’re making the Sovrin Token free for public testing because a sustainable global network for identity needs a system for transaction payments that doesn’t require people to rely on fiat money — as fiat money requires third party payment processing and a return to the broken system of identity verification that decentralized networks seek to fix.”

Cool.

6. And finally, the NYTimes concluded their Privacy Project newsletter, and shared some lessons learned (TL;DR — privacy is one of the fundamental issues of our times):

The biggest lesson I learned is that privacy is the skeleton key to almost all the issues that plague tech right now. It’s actually even bigger than just tech. Data brokers are at the heart of our social platforms, the financial industry, the media and advertising industries and even in politics.

The collection and distribution of personal information powers all of modern society, and there’s a serious imbalance between those that provide it and those that collect it. That imbalance is at the heart of everything from fake news and election interference to fraud to surveillance of vulnerable populations. I started thinking this was something of a niche concern and have grown to believe that it’s the fundamental issue of our connected time.

And while there’s still plenty of work to do, a shift is happening (despite historical patterns of behavior):

This gets to a core frustration I experienced during the project. Time and again I’d meet an individual who had been taken advantage of by a service or piece of technology. Their information had been exposed or their terms of service breached and they seemed just so … resigned. Overall, they enjoyed the tech that had wronged them. And they didn’t think they had any recourse, so they just told me something along the lines of “I’m frustrated but I guess that’s just how things work.

But I’ve seen a change. Partly in response to this project but also a broader reckoning around technology and privacy. People are beginning to see how the things that happen online are trickling down into their lives. The consequences feel more real now than they used to and I think that’s only going to continue. Privacy is a difficult topic if you’re trying to draw eyeballs. As a word, it’s just vague and scary enough that people tune out. There’s plenty I wrote that didn’t connect with readers. But the broader goal of the project was to signal the importance of the issue with a steady drumbeat of stories. If people got used to seeing privacy stories front and center every day, maybe it would shape how they see those issues in their own lives. I get a sense that we made a small dent there.

7. Stuff happens:

Have a great week!

GlobaliD

Your identity, your data

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