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Decentralized identity takes center stage at EIC

Counternarratives and thresholds for technical language among challenges for DIDs
Decentralized identity takes center stage at EIC

Significant time at EIC 2024 has been devoted to cracking open the language of digital identity, and decentralized identity (DID) is central to many of those discussions. In several panels, experts explore the dueling narratives underlying decentralized ID, as well as the opportunities it presents for government, financial services and border control.

Les Miserables of the Cyber Frontier: The Dueling Narratives of Decentralized Identities” features a conversation between Nat Sakimura, chairman of the board of the OpenID Foundation, and Markus Sabadello, a digital ID expert who co-edited the Decentralized Identifiers specification at W3C, among other accomplishments.

The two digital identity veterans use the framing of Victor Hugo’s famous novel of the French revolution to discuss how to link identities, and why. While the two disagree on certain aspects of decentralized ID, the takeaway from the talk is something they agree on.

While Sakimura takes a high-level view in arguing that “decentralization is not the goal” of DIDs. “The goal is to make citizens happy, society less miserable.” Sabadello, however, believes “standards are about values and worldviews we are building. The values that we want need to be built into our technology.”

Although “the easiest thing is just to login with Facebook everywhere,” Sabadello insists on code that reflects the values it claims to enshrine.  Analyzing Les Miserables as a tale about disempowered people trying to win their liberty, he says the revolutionary’s structural goals are mirrored in the ambitions of decentralized ID and self-sovereign identity.

In the end, the two converge on the need for decentralized identity that actually prioritizes serving the user, rather than serving as a disguise for another flavor of centralization.

Ping Identity leads talk on how decentralized ID builds reputation

In “DID – Catching the Wave in Government and Financial Services”, Ping Identity’s David Luna leads a discussion on two sectors that have led the wave in adopting decentralized identity.

A panel of speakers mainly representing Ping Identity covers regulatory drivers, internal and external use cases, user experiences and stakeholder benefits of DID.

Jamie Smith of Customer Futures and Ping’s Frank Cardello exchange thoughts on the language of decentralized ID and how to translate its technical aspects into a clear messaging about business value. “We chose the words digital identity for a particular reason,” Cardello says. “What we’re really talking about is establishing identity first, and enabling us to behave in a way online that we can do with our physical IDs today.”

“We have to do identity well,” Cardello says. “Our digital bodies exist in fragmentation. I’m not an individual online; I’m a user. Our systems are designed to manage users, not to manage identities. When I manage an identity it means I can show up and provide who I am in a millisecond in time. We can’t do that today. We have to re-establish trust in every interaction we embark on.”

Cardello, though, says there is hope, and the time for change is now. Verifiable credentials provide the option to re-collect and amalgamate all of the disparate pieces of our digital identity into a coherent whole. “If we’re going to transition online from a world in which we’re managing users to a world in which we’re managing identities, this is by definition a transformation.”

The transformation has already begun in government and global financial services. But there is more change to come. The digital transformation of identity, says Cardello, “will change how value is created in the global financial services industry.” He speaks of value centered in and structured around reputation, and of ways to carry the value of identity forward, making it reusable.

ConnectID chimes in on reusable identity

Multi-Stakeholder Cross-Border Reusable/Decentralized Identity” is the subject of a third panel, in which experts present findings from a case study on the Japan-Australia Cross Border Working Group, which tackled challenges around global interoperability. Participants workshop DID schemes in the context of governance, technical interoperability and commercial compensation for service providers delivering digital ID infrastructure.

Dima Postnikov provides a look at ConnectID’s consent-first identity verification model in Australia, where global travel is common – increasingly to Japan – making the need for a globally interoperable digital ID more pressing. He also touches on mDLs.

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