Before the rising popularity of the internet, most people relied upon only a few forms of offline identity. As more people started to utilise web-based technologies, we saw a rise in the creation of several, disparate digital identities. As a result, end users today are finding it more difficult to manage data across various platforms while also maintaining data privacy. This is all part of the complex history of digital identity.
Let’s look at why this is a major issue, and how blockchain aims to improve the future of identity management and data privacy.
A Growing Number of Digital Identities
If you ask most people how many digital identities (a.k.a. online profiles) they have, the average respondent will likely be able to list several websites. Even then, we are all likely to forget about a few sites that we signed up for but seldom use. The reality is, that the number of digital identities is so vast that it can be difficult to count. One model from 2014 estimated the total number to be anywhere from 50 to 60 billion.
Fast forward a few years later and this number has certainly risen significantly when considering factors like the increasing number of websites and apps available, as well as the overall increase in the number of people utilising digital technologies. Some of the many examples of online profiles include email addresses, social media accounts, financial accounts, healthcare portals and e-commerce site logins.
According to the report from 2014, the average person has around 24 separate accounts that rely upon identification. So why exactly is this a big problem?
Increasing Complexity of Data Management and Data Privacy
One of the reasons why having so many identity systems, is because it makes it difficult to streamline data management processes. This has a negative effect on both consumers and companies. For the consumer, having multiple accounts and passwords across several platforms makes it difficult to keep track of data.
Security details like account passwords are a good example. Unfortunately, many solutions have done more harm than good. For instance, using Facebook as a third-party login system for websites and mobile apps does reduce the amount of digital identities that one user needs. However, in the process, users give up some of their privacy to the organisation.
Meanwhile, even if data isn’t being sold, there are other issues to consider. For example, large-scale data breaches of centralised databases are increasingly common. Hackers can use this information to commit identity fraud or sell data to others in illegal internet markets. As consumers amass more digital identities and put more sensitive data online, the problem worsens. This is because most websites and apps are reliant upon technologies that are insecure and prone to hacks. Thus, the likelihood of being a victim of fraud and other digital crimes increases.
Blockchain’s Role in Promoting Data Privacy
Yes, there are solutions that individuals can use to reduce the potential of security threats. For instance, ensuring that a site is considered secure before entering personal information or making payments is one of many possible security risk prevention strategies that can be implemented by a tech consumer.
However, we continue to see that scenarios like database hacks are a direct result of system security vulnerabilities, and can even happen to companies that supposedly put the greatest emphasis on security. Because such events are difficult for consumers to prevent, these efforts aren’t all that practical.
Therefore, one of the best options is to change which solutions consumers and businesses rely upon. Blockchain offers the technical solution necessary to not only promote data privacy but also streamline access to various digital services and platforms. So why haven’t companies implemented it at scale as of 2018? The best answer is that this technology only became possible with the release of Bitcoin’s blockchain protocol in 2009. For a few years after that, the technology was still rudimentary, and many issues had to be solved.
In 2018, blockchain has come a long way but is still in the infancy of what it can achieve. What we do know is that it does provide an overall better security solution. Since distributed ledger technologies greatly improve how we store and send data, many companies have already tested and implemented decentralised protocols in a variety of real-world applications. This goes beyond just the use of cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology can also be used to create a more connected, universal identity system that empowers users to achieve data privacy in a practical manner.
SingleSource: The Vision of One Digital Identity
The SingleSource project team has developed the SingleSource protocol, which has the potential to make the vision of a singular digital identity system a reality. We are providing a solution that allows both businesses and consumers to better manage personal data.
Personal identifiable data will never be stored on chain, and our protocol’s architecture is far more secure than traditional databases. Our goal is to create a future where data mining and large-scale hacks are issues of the past. If you’re interested in learning more about our project, click here to read our whitepaper.