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Identity has become a very complex concept in recent years. Our society has evolved from the primitive idea that your identity is your physical body, to incorporating vital components that follow you through time and space: your social security number, birth certificate, passport and driver’s license. In addition, as technology has progressed, we have been able to link your digital footprint, online presence, work history and credit information; all these items together create a unique identity that is only yours. But while all of these pieces are yours, you currently have no control over your identity.
Instead, we are in a transition period. People know that too much of their identities are unsecured across the vast expanses of the internet, but taking control of that data is a daunting task. Anyway, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Until recently, people relied on a physical safe in their home to protect their most sensitive personal data, but that’s not practical in a digital world. However, a solution is coming soon: the digital identity wallet, which gives each person unprecedented control over every bit of digital data associated with their identity. This technology will you back in the driver’s seat of your identity.
Related: Protecting your identity. It is your birthright.
Why people don’t always own their identity
To understand where we are going, we must first know where we are. Each of us has dozens, if not hundreds, of places online where we’ve shared bits and pieces of our digital identity. To create a simple social media account, you often need to enter at least a phone number, email address, and date of birth. Applying for a home loan or proving your identity for a government benefit requires more sensitive data. By themselves, each of these pieces is not your identity, but when taken together, they expose us all to significant risk – just ask the millions who are victims of identity theft every year.
The fact is that too much of our data is under the control of entities other than ourselves. There is not one place to store all your data. Instead, you have a separate login for each of your online accounts, and once you’ve given a company access to your data, you can’t take it back (often with disastrous consequences). For convenience, we make our passwords easy to remember, reuse them across sites, and store credit card information in our accounts. It’s understandable, but thieves don’t hesitate to steal our data.
Related: Blockchain, NFTs, and the New Standard of Identity and Security
Is there a solution?
Fortunately, companies and government agencies are working to correct this fatal flaw in current practices. The solution is a decentralized identity wallet that stores all your information using blockchain technology. When these wallets are protected by strong encryption, the result is a highly secure way to store and manage personal data. Instead of entering your details on a website, open your identity wallet app on your phone and authorize them to fetch only the necessary pieces for the transaction. You can then review the permissions at any time and revoke that permission whenever you want. As quantum computing and encryption become more mainstream, the result will be an unbreakable “vault” for your digital identity – and only you will have the key.
The future is here
The technology now exists to enable this identity management. Decentralized blockchain technology can make your information secure and immutable, and biometrics means only you can access your data. The digital format is simple and easy to send to anyone who needs it for your daily work. Still, blockchain technology means companies or governments don’t necessarily store your data — they just have access to it. Even the company that made the app can’t access your information unless you give it permission. Digital identity wallets also make your data recoverable: you can revoke access from any third party whenever you want. With your biometrics, you don’t have to remember another password to access your own data.
Related: Proof of ID in an increasingly virtualized world
We have reached a point where identity theft can be prevented. Many entrepreneurial companies are working hard to make digital identity wallets an accessible and practical application for general use. It’s time to take back control. You can regain control of your identity without going off-the-grid. And we can do it in a way that is almost completely secure.