Self-Sovereign Identity Principle #7: Interoperability

This article will cover the seventh guiding principle of Christopher Allen’s Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) Principles: interoperability. This principle states that identities should be as widely usable as possible. The current identification infrastructure is flawed in that there isn’t a global standardization for the use of identification. For example, every state in the US has its own state-issued identification which makes it difficult to verify authenticity when traveling cross states. At the same time, this state-issued identification may not be accepted in other countries which brings up the need for interoperability.

Interoperability allows identification to cross international borders without users losing control of what information is shared. Individuals would be able to maintain their identities across platforms and geographical locations.

All of Allen’s guiding principles of Self-Sovereignty are connected in some way. Interoperability overlaps with persistence and portability. Allen states that the importance of portability in identification is that information and services about identity must be transportable. This ties in with interoperability, namely because of having portable identities, we’re more easily available to cross international boundaries. Relying on intermediaries or government-issued identification thus far has created limitations. By having hundreds of different states and countries issuing their own form of identification, it slows down the process of entering countries. Even having identification issued by a different state can delay the process of age-restricted settings, and services for the enforcing officer may need to verify the authenticity of the identification. As for persistence, Allen explains that identities must be long-lived. He further states that interoperability is a product of persistence. An identity that is long-lasting, (at least for as long as the user wishes) is fundamentally important to be able to interact with different identity systems.

Interoperability Across Borders

Identities would have little value if they only worked in limited niches. With self-sovereign identity, it’s possible to create global identities that can be universally accepted across international boundaries. Today’s problem is that we don’t necessarily own our digital identities. They’re created on centralized third-party entities which we’re forced to entrust with sensitive information if we desire to use their application or website. Our sensitive information is then stored in databases where it can be misused, sold, or breached without our knowledge.

Closing Thoughts

Interoperability as a guiding principle is crucial for self-sovereign identity as it is necessary for enabling mass adoption. Think of being able to verify credentials on the blockchain. In our physical lives, we rely on our driver’s license to prove that we’re legally capable to drive or show our college degree to verify that we have indeed graduated college. Having these credentials signed off by verified entities would uphold the integrity of these claims. Having an interoperable infrastructure allows these forms of credentials to become a fluid part of our identity. So when crossing state lines or even cross country, our digital identity can still persist.

This article is seventh 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! Keepin App is now available on the App Store and Google Play.