When Bitcoin was released, people started to talk about (and eventually enjoy) the decentralization of money. Today, big companies have dedicated resources to Blockchain labs and research groups, each exploring a particular use case.
But money isn’t everything, as we have seen. Blockchain technology has many applications and the folks at uPort are looking into the identity problem. What’s wrong with it? Is it really an inconvenience for internet users?
The truth is that our online presence, reputation, and identity, depend on the services we use. Our data is stored on private servers, controlled by the companies ‘servicing us’. Customer information is managed by those companies, which effectively means that they can profit from it. Hence, customers are actually servicing the company by providing it with their precious data.
For example, if we are an amazing, well-reputed seller on eBay, there’s no way that our information–completed transactions, customer ratings, history, etc.–can be carried over to another website. In other words, if an asteroid crashed upon eBay’s datacenter, your hard-earned reputation as a seller would be destroyed forever. Sellers would then have to migrate to another platform like Amazon and start all over again.
Can we solve this problem? Can our information be stored in a secure location, accessible only to those we really want to share it with?
OpenID and OAuth were attempting to separate our passwords from the websites we use, but they failed to gather enough attention. These platforms don’t provide a decentralized infrastructure, nor do they store that data in a distributed network comprised of thousands of nodes secured by the power of cryptography, exactly what uPort wants to provide. The startup describes itself as:
A mobile, self-sovereign identity and key management system built on the Ethereum blockchain. Our flexible technology was built with both developers and users in mind. It consists of an easy-to-use mobile app, Ethereum smart contracts, and open-source libraries. We use standards built in collaboration with other large leading organizations, such as Microsoft, and support disruptive technologies like IPFS and Ethereum.
The company’s goal is to address several issues such as institutional reliance (over 1.5 billion people do not have a government ID) the previously discussed problem of fragmented digital identity, and the centralization of servers and infrastructure.
Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen, but undoubtedly, the internet needs a blockchain for identity.