Self-Sovereign Identity Principle #4: Transparency
The fourth guiding principle of Christopher Allen’s Ten Self-sovereign Identity (SSI) Principles is transparency. In tandem with the previous principle of access, transparency also ensures that users can monitor any potential mishandling of claims, credentials, or associations pertaining to one’s identity. Within the greater context of self-sovereign identity, transparency also complements fairness and support for a balanced identity system. A balanced identity system, according to Allen, will result in more comprehensive protection of the individual.
Transparency will enable individuals and users to examine how their information is being stored and used. The systems and algorithms used to operate a network must be open, not only in how they function, but also how they are managed and updated. By doing so, any user will be able to examine how the networks work and how their information is being managed (or mismanaged).
How does transparency fit into the bigger picture of SSI?
Similar to the third guiding principle of access, transparency is crucial for individuals to ensure the safeguarding of their personal information. Institutions (public or private) with non-transparent systems and algorithms may inhibit users from checking unwanted modifications to their identity associations as well as halting unauthorized distribution of personal data. Additionally, transparency provides a more streamlined user-experience of not only individuals looking to verify their identities, but also for other entities or individuals who may attest the identities of others.
Elizabeth Renieres notes how transparency within an SSI platform can empower GDPR compliance. According to Articles 13 and 14 of the GDPR, individuals possess the right to be informed about the collection and distribution of their personal data. An SSI platform would help enable individuals to participate in a network that provides transparency in line with domestic and international law.
As personal information and data pertaining to one’s identity is collected, transparency is crucial to protect an individual’s identity and prevent the misuse of any personal information. Systems and algorithms must operate in an intelligible and easily accessible format, using “clear and plain language,” according to Renieres. Only then will users be able to better control how their information is being used.