We exist in two formats. In today’s developed world there is our physical self and our digital self and each needs the other to survive.
To some this may sound a little dystopian but it’s essentially a situation we have imposed in order to make our lives easier. Your physical self – the one that sleeps, eats, has body odour and can’t find its keys – would struggle to get by without its digital self standing by to help out from time to time.
This digital self is you as a username, an online ID, a name on an account, certificate or licence. And, just as you hopefully take care of your physical self, so your digital self needs you to watch its back now and then as well.
We are asked to prove who we are on a daily basis, whether it’s to board a flight, buy something online or access our bank account. The details and data we use to do so – in the form of usernames, passwords and all manner of other data – is as important as the keys and cards we carry around in our pockets.
Recent events have shown that data security remains one of the most pressing issues surrounding the internet and how we use it. Our personal data is out there and, by extension, a large part of ourselves are out there too.
Now, as we seek to better protect ourselves online, the impetus is gathering behind the use of blockchain technology to revolutionise the way our digital identities are managed and protected.
Blockchain first came to public prominence in 2009 as the operating system for Bitcoin and is still most closely associated with cryptocurrencies and their significant impact on global finance. But beyond this, the technology is starting to make its presence felt across a diverse range of fields and its potential is getting lots of people very excited.
When applied to the field of digital identities, blockchain software promises to hand back control of our personal data to us, the users. Because it operates free of a centralised hub and can be seen and accessed by all those who have permission to do so, it can allow our personal information to remain secure and uncorrupted by third parties or malware.
By using blockchains to store our data, we will be able to verify who we are, without having to hand over further information to corroborate this. The unnecessary leaking out of other personal information can be scaled back or prevented altogether.
Our digital identities are comprised of any number of usernames and passwords across a vast network of apps and websites and this spread of information is incredibly vulnerable. But by storing this data on a blockchain, it becomes immutable and easily verifiable, meaning that the era of multiple logins, forgotten passwords and worse could soon be a thing of the past.
And that’s just the start. For, whilst so many of us take our digital identities for granted and happily use them to access the vast resources of the internet, across the world there are still millions of people who do not yet enjoy this privilege. By simplifying, streamlining and safeguarding the way we store and use our data, blockchain also promises to open up the digital world to those who have so far found themselves locked out.
The potential is enormous, both for making the internet a safer place for those who currently use it and for enabling those without access to get online and stay protected as well. As the list of companies looking to capitalise on the potential of blockchain increases, the momentum is gathering for a safer and more inclusive digital world.
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