Self-Sovereign Identity Principle #1: Existence
The first guiding principle of Christopher Allen’s Ten Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) Principles is existence. This principle is based on the concept of “I,” a core component belonging to the heart of identity. The principle of “I” implies that individuals have an independent existence which can never fully exist in digital form.
Identity is a concept that is instinctively easy to comprehend. It’s something inherently connected to the [human] self-consciousness. However, nowadays with the rising complexity of society, identity is combined into state-issued credentials like driver’s licenses and social security cards which suggests that a person can lose one’s identity if a state revokes their credentials. While it’s true that someone could take our driver’s license or passport, it is also true that we are still the sovereign owner of our deeply rooted identities.
A self-sovereign identity must, therefore, be the core of self. By respecting the diversity and originality of the “I”s, thus allowing individuals to exist and thrive in a world where they are recognized and autonomous in defining the pieces of who they are.
What about in digital form?
Today, digital identity is just as important as the one in physical form. However, parts of digital selves are scattered across myriad internet domains. The risk associated with this scattering is exacerbated due to centralized entities controlling identity information. Beyond this lack of control of individual data, users are required to constantly prove their identity online repeatedly through means of username and password. The result is numerous usernames and passwords that need to be memorized and changed for ongoing security. In the physical world, simply walking around work or school is enough verification to be recognized by peers with whom relationships are already established. This age-old method upholds personal identity and requires no proof to show we are who we say we are.
Identity cannot fully exist in digital form. Information online has a selective nature. For example, on LinkedIn, users put forth amazing accomplishments and credentials for others to access and see. We refrain from exposing our flaws and failures, therefore leaving out a crucial half of our identity necessary for core aspects of life such as trust and community building.
Existence as a guiding principle of self-sovereignty is the vital heartbeat of identity. There is already an innate identity given in being human. Without this independent existence, there would be no identity at all. Technological advances in the digital age allow humanity to exist without borders but bring also the need to then confirm identities where the traditional “physical verifiers” are no longer present. This, therefore, requires the right credentials (such as a username and password), in order to exist digitally. A self-sovereign identity model ensures that only necessary information is public and accessible while leaving intact the private pieces of identity still needed for social and private interaction. Through blockchain, identity information must evolve along with humans, to be securely stored and accredited to our existence.
This article is first in a Self-Sovereign Identity Principles series the Metadium team is putting together for you. If you want to learn more please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!
*Christopher Allen’s The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity blog post was used to write this article.