Microsoft’s Blockchain-Based Decentralized Identification System Is Here

Microsoft is officially entering the blockchain technology space by launching a decentralized digital identity platform.

Microsoft sees the project as “the future of digital identities.” In a blog post, the company also explained that they’ve been exploring blockchain applications for the past 12 months, including how blockchain could be used to create new digital identities.

That digital identity system will emphasize “personal privacy, security and control,” explains Microsoft. It also aims to cater to the 1/6th of the world’s population that lacks any type of identity documentation.

In a separate blog post from January 2018, Microsoft explained that billions of people worldwide are unable to access modern services because they lack identity documentation:

“…nearly one in six people worldwide – the majority of them being women, children and refugees – live without [legal proof of identification]. The lack of legal documentation not only strips access to critical services, it puts those trapped in the “identity gap” at risk for larger issues including displacement and child trafficking.”

Microsoft aims to solve this problem with ID2020. It’s a blockchain-based global identity system capable of processing millions of transactions per second. Microsoft, in partnership with an open community around the world, will create the platform with the goal of solving global digital identity problems.

What is ID2020?

In early February 2018, Microsoft announced that they were officially joining ID2020 as a founding member.

Microsoft is donating $1 million to the project. The company also plans to commit their resources and expertise to the initiative as it seeks to “further develop a secure, portable form of digital identity and help implement it across governments and agencies.”

ID2020 will be developed by Microsoft and other partners in the ID2020 Alliance. These groups will work together to create an open source, self-sovereign, blockchain-based identity system that allows people, products, apps, and services to interoperate across blockchains, cloud providers, and organizations.

Microsoft will specifically lend the services of its Identity team to the project. That team will provide guidance as the project scales.

The ultimate goal of ID2020 is to close the identity gap, helping some of the world’s already-marginalized populations – like women and refugees from developing countries – become less marginalized.

ID2020 Features

To accomplish its goal of a reliable digital identity solution, Microsoft will create ID2020 with the following features in mind:

Own and Control Your Identity:

Today, users grant broad consent to countless apps and services. These apps and services are allowed to collect, use, and retain the identity of users. As data breaches and identity theft become more common and sophisticated, users will need to take control of their own identity.

Privacy by Design, Built In from the Ground Up:

Today’s apps and services deliver convenient and predictable experiences depending on control of identity-bound data. ID2020 envisions a secure encrypted digital hub called “ID Hubs” that can interact with user’s data while honoring user privacy and control.

Trust is Earned by Individuals and Built by the Community:

Traditional identity systems are geared mostly towards authentication and access management. As a self-owned identity system, ID2020 will add a renewed focus on authenticity and how communities can establish trust. The decentralized system is based on attestations – claims that other entities endorse. These attestations help prove someone’s identity through ID2020.

Open and Interoperable:

ID2020 is envisioned as a robust, decentralized identity ecosystem available to everyone. Understandably, it’s built as an open and interoperable foundation from the ground up. Microsoft has been participating in the Decentralized Identity Foundation, or DIF, for the past year  with these goals in mind. They’re also specifically developing technologies like Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs), Identity Hubs, a Universal DID Resolver, and Verifiable Credentials.

Globally Scalable:

ID2020 will be prepared to scale worldwide. The company acknowledges that a global identity system would need to support millions of transactions per second. “To overcome these technical barriers,” explains Microsoft in an introductory blog post, “We are collaborating on decentralized Layer 2 protocols that run atop these public blockchains to achieve global scale, while preserving the attributes of a world class DID system.”

ID2020 founding member Microsoft announced the initiative with a blog post on February 12, 2018. The next step is to build that solution with help from Microsoft’s Identity division. To learn more about the project, read the introductory blog post from Alex Simons, Microsoft’s Director of Program Management at the Microsoft Identity Division, here.

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