Who Owns your Digital Identity?

Throughout our lives, we are required to show ID (e.g., birth certificate, driver’s license, passport) to identify ourselves—to prove our true identity. We consider those documents valuable—we make sure they are in our possession at all times or stored somewhere safe so nobody else can access/steal them. Why should our digital identity be any different?

In a world where so much data has been digitized, the security of our identity/data should be a priority—we certainly should be the only owner of our identity online and it certainly should be protected.

Digital identity is incredibly problematic. Right now, most of our digital identities are not issued by ourselves, nor are they issued by governments. Private corporations not only issue our digital identities, but they also own and monetize them. This is why a team of Decentralists and I are working hard to make online identities self-sovereign. The only person who should issue, own, and monetize your data is you!

Not only should your identity be self-sovereign, but all the data you create should be as well. You create it, so you should own it. Social media, health records, and financial data is all part of your identity—digital or otherwise. Remember, every time a security breach happens on a website, it’s not just data that’s being stolen—it’s you.

Right now, few people have self-sovereign identities. So, who owns your identity? Facebook owns your social relationships, Google owns every search you’ve ever done, Amazon owns your transactions, and so on. All of this data is part of your digital identity.

Why isn’t this issue being tackled more? Today’s Internet (Web 2.0) is architected to provide services like search, social, and streaming to “users”—not people. In order to provide lots of services faster and cheaper, Internet providers took it upon themselves to take control of our identities. The Internet is not built for digital freedom but instead to use our data and serve us lots of ads.

No one should underestimate this issue. Our data/personal information shouldn’t be at the mercy of private companies. The same way we would feel if someone stole our passport, we should feel about the tech companies having ownership of our information/data.

Self-sovereign identity should be a basic human right—United Nations, are you listening? It is literally the only way we will ever have digital freedom. We need to own and control our digital identity so we can use it to access services on a brand-new, distributed Internet.

Change is coming. The future is self-sovereign.