[DG-BSC] blockchain for identity

j stollman stollman.j at gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 11:36:09 CST 2017

I am seeking some insight from this group on the viability of blockchain
for identity.

The notion of a user-controlled, distributed identity mechanism strikes me
as the holy grail in identity.  But, like the holy grail, I am finding it
difficult to believe that it is real.

In particular, I don't see what the blockchain can add to identity.

Yes, I recognize that blockchain does offer distributed consensus.  And I
while I am not persuaded that proof-of-work and/or proof-of-stake are as
bulletproof as most people accept, I am not focused on these concerns.

My concerns stem from what value add the blockchain provides to the
inscrutable problem of identity.  We can use blockchain to confirm that a
particular transaction too place at a particular point in time.  For
example, we can use it to confirm that Alice paid Bob the $1000 he owed her
within the terms of their agreement.  This verification may be valuable in
a subsequent credit transaction.  And we can use blockchain to confirm that
someone claiming to be Alice passed a background check by Bob at a fixed
point in time where the background check attests to aspects of her health,
home address, financial stability, national loyalty, trustworthiness with
confidential data, or some combination of these.  But even this information
is only useful to someone who believes that Bob is trustworthy and thorough
in his checking.  And since Bob can never be absolutely certain that the
Alice who sat in front of his desk is the Alice she claims to be, Bob's
assessment -- no matter how trustworthy and thorough he is -- is always
subject to some doubt.  And how are we certain that it was really Bob who
is asserting the claim on behalf of Alice and not an impostor Bob?  Do we
believe that merely possessing his private key is sufficient proof to an
organized attempt to create a false Alice?  I don't see anything about the
blockchain that addresses these concerns which are - and always have been -
at the root of identity and trust.

So many people seem excited because blockchain offers a distributed
governance model that uses economic incentives to encourage good behavior
of vetting parties (e.g., miners).  But tracking a single crypto-currency
is a much more simple task that vetting identifies and the vast array of
attributes of interest to relying parties - depending on their business.
And unlike measuring crypto currency transactions which either do or do not
take place, identify attributes are not 0/1 transactions.  They are a
collection of probabilities.  And using blockchain does not change this.

If I have a bad credit rating using one self-managed identity, why don't I
just create a new identity and seek credit for it?  As a newbie, I might
not have a high rating, but it would likely be better than a bad rating.

What am I missing here?

Thank you.


Jeff Stollman
stollman.j at gmail.com
+1 202.683.8699
<stollman.j at gmail.com>

Truth never triumphs — its opponents just die out.
Science advances one funeral at a time.
                                    Max Planck
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