"Is 'acceptably non-dystopian' self-sovereign identity even possible?"
An essay about self-sovereign identity, decentralized identity, verifiable credentials, soulbound tokens, and all those other terms that have been flying around lately.
@Sandra @molly0xfff I've been toying with the idea of verifiable credentials myself, for a good decade and a half, actually, and I genuinely think there is potential there. There are a couple of things the blockchain world gets very wrong, though, the first of which is that it needs to involve any kind of blockchain/record.
But the far more worrying thing is that they all seem to want to enforce things computationally about people. That's the dystopian bit.
@Sandra @molly0xfff Privacy and centralization is really more of a question of which data you reveal to whom. Let's say you do want to receive money to your bank account. As Swiss numbered bank accounts show, you really just need to provide an opaque identifier of sorts to achieve that.
You want to verify that it's at a particular bank? Have that bank sign it. You want to verify that it's owned by some person? Have the bank sign a hash over the person's id...
The problem I see in most approaches is that they're inflexible; they try to prove some global truth, and in order to capture enough use cases, they include and leak more data than is necessary for each individual use case.
Implementors should focus a lot more on how the offline world already operates.
As another example, in...
@Sandra Of course it is. That's the whole point.
You don't need to prove identity in the vast majority of use cases, you just need to prove that such proof exists. You need to be able to trust that proof-of-proof, which means you need to trust someone else to issue trustworthy proof-of-proofs.
In the banking case, the obvious issuer is the bank; they have a vested interest in it after all. In other use cases, less centralisation may be better.
@Sandra The bank may wish to be a root of proof, or request a proof from the state. In either case, since the whole thing eventually ties back to the real world, it'll involve some real world ritual. Once per root. And only that root needs to know anything at all about you, the person.
This isn't even centralization in a lot of senses, because proofs can be issued such that the root doesn't have to be consulted, or any intermediary. It centralizes identity proving, yes.
@Sandra But equally, it's perfectly fine to have non-overlapping proof roots. It's the use case that needs to determine which root or roots are acceptable.
Voting may need a state operated root. You show your ID at the voting booth, after all.
Shopping does not, as a rule. I don't tend to show my ID at the checkout.
The big issue I see with most proposals is that they treat all identification issues as the same, and as the initial root proof.
@Sandra OK, but... that's different in every legislation and has nothing at all to do with verifiable credentials. That's entirely in meat space.
Hereabouts it goes back to birth certificates. Your community registers each birth, and issues birth certificates from the data it registers. If you want an ID, birth certificate is the proof that you should get one.
You could bootstrap the digital ID by presenting one and a public key, and receive a signature over the pubkey.
@Sandra OK, so meatspace identities have problems, true. Why should we expect digital identities to be *less* problematic? If they're bootstrapped off meatspace identities, they're "good enough" pretty much by definition. Yes that does kick the can down the road to meatspace, but doing anything else seems to ask too much, so I'm content with that.
The trilemma Molly presents relates to self-sovereign identities. In order *not* to bootstrap off meatspace, you have to...
@Sandra ... include enough data in an identifier to be verifiable as belonging to an individual by anyone, which means it's essentially public information (even if you do not share it with the world on a blockchain). And that is how centralization preserves privacy by bootstrapping (doesn't have to be meatspace).
@Sandra Well, that's where the proposals to include retinal scans, etc come into play.
Honestly, I find the whole self-sovereign identity thing dumb.
What got me to rant is that they all seem to take a *single* identity for granted. I find it much more reasonable to make the system in such a way that anyone can be a root, but it's the use case that determines which roots to trust.
That way, you don't need self-sovereignty. If you introduce me to someone you know as Bob,...
@Sandra ... they'll be "Sandra knows them as Bob" to me. This pet names system also works for identity proofs for a lot of use cases.
There is no need for self-sovereignty here, IMHO.
@Sandra I'd be happy to phrase it differently, but I'm not sure what you're asking, then. Because the original proving of identity, the root I am referring to, is a solved problem. We've been doing variations of it long before the digital realm got involved.
@Sandra @molly0xfff ... order to gain entrance to an adult-only event, maybe an identifier needs to include something the person can show as proof they're the subject, and a birth date. Actually, you don't need a birth date, you just need a boolean flag and a signing date. If the flag was true at the date of signing, it'll be true later.
The system really needs to be focused on providing just the bare minimum for a use case is my point.
@jens @Sandra @molly0xfff I agree, that's the creepy part. Like, what would happen if a criminal record was mistakenly delivered to my address? What if someone acquired the key that a PD uses to issue such records? What if your university mistypes your address when sending out your degree? Normally you could solve this type of errors, but kind of the whole point of blockchains is that you can't. Users need flexibility, you can't blame them if a system fails, no matter how brilliant it is.
A private instance for the Finkhäuser family.