The most significant data breach in United States history just occurred with the Equifax hack, exposing 143 Million Social Security Numbers and credit files.
Former Department of Homeland Security staffer Paul Rosenzweig highlighted, “If all of our personal information is now widely available, many of our current methods of authenticating identity, if not all of them, are suspect.”
Equifax is one of the “Big 3” credit reporting bureaus in the United States and will surely suffer substantial financial damages from the hack. Many experts believe they are on shaky ground, citing the blockchain as the clear future.
Jerry Cuomo, IBM Fellow and VP of blockchain technologies, highlighted that the blockchain is already having a big impact as people demand more control of their identities.
Blockchain credit is not an alternative. It is the future.
Blockchain-based credit offers a number of substantial improvements. The days of data leaks, scores influenced by governments, lobbying, lack of cross-border scoring, and identity fraud will be a thing of the past.
Let’s take a look at three of the leading Ethereum projects defining this future.
#1 Bloom Protocol
The Bloom Protocol creates a global federated identity and credit score on the blockchain making access to credit services more secure and more inclusive.
Launched in early September, Bloom has received strong support from both the community and press. In less than a week, more that 1000 people joined their Slack community, it was featured in mainstream press, and Bloom is the #1 upvoted project on Reddit’s r/Ethereum community for the month.
The core Bloom team combines Stanford researchers, Thiel fellows, and seasoned entrepreneurs.
Ron Lieber of The New York Times reported, “You didn’t ask Equifax to vacuum up data about you, and then resell it to marketers and loan sellers. And it isn’t your fault that the company couldn’t keep that data safe.”
This is one of the many issues Bloom solves.
Bloom is not a lender offering credit. Instead, Bloom allows both new and existing lenders around the globe to offer loans using Bloom's open technology. You can think of Bloom as a replacement for the big credit bureaus.
Bloom securely brings your current identity and credit data to the blockchain, while vastly improving the status quo.
Here is how: Bloom Protocol implements a global standard ID (BloomID), a credit reporting system (BloomIQ) and a risk assessment system (BloomScore). Personal information exchange is securely authorized by you, the user, so your data is not subject to an Equifax-style breach. You do not need years of credit history to get a loan. And, perhaps best of all, the scores are not controlled by any central bureaus.
Bloom's protocol reduces the amount of sensitive information being exchanged and, unlike Equifax, the end user controls who has access.
uPort highlights that “the centralized servers of identity providers like Google and Facebook are honeypots of data, so they’re economically valuable for hackers to attempt to crack.”
uPort is a self-sovereign ID enabling you to collect verifications, login without passwords, digitally sign transactions, and interact with Ethereum applications.
Brazil’s Ministry of Planning is developing protocols for blockchain-based governance of identification and signature verification after a successful pilot with uPort. The pilot demonstrated that the use of the identity application can provide public agencies with access to a streamlined system for approvals and signature.
How it is used: uPort has many applications. With uPort enterprises can establish a corporate identity, easily onboard new customers and employees, establish an improved and transitive KYC process, and reduce liability by not holding sensitive customer information.
If anything was clear from the Equifax breach, is that identity is flawed.
In the United States, your SSN is the key to your life. We are told to never share it, and yet we must divulge it every time we start a job, open an account, or apply for credit. It’s a broken system, and the latest Equifax breached showed the world just how broken this system really is.
How Civic Fixes This: Civic introduces a solution to this. Their model allows for on-demand, secure and lower cost access to identity verification via the blockchain.
After over a decade of experience in e-commerce, the Civic founders realized that no-one had a universal solution to tackle identity fraud for consumers. In a vote of confidence from the community, Civic recently completed a $33M crowdfunding round.
Is the Future Here?
It’s certainly looking like it. Bloom changes the way personal information verification checks are ran. With Civic, a background check will no longer need to be undertaken from the ground up every time a new institution or application requires one. Civic already has a live product and won Best New Startup award at the K(NO)W Identity Conference 2017.
While no one protocol holds the final answer just yet, combined these protocols paint a very positive outlook. For example, Bloom’s protocol is extendable by other providers. This means that current providers of identity can tie into Bloom to reinforce and protect the system. Even new blockchain companies can link into Bloom and expand the offering. Services like uPort establish the future of identity, and projects like Civic are proving that these projects are able to work in a live environment. The beauty of this ecosystem lies in the fact that companies in the space don’t necessarily need to compete — rather they can collaborate to foster innovation and move the line of progress forward together.
Advancements in the Ethereum protocol have opened the door for more experimentation in decentralized organizational structures. Companies like district0x are working on a platform that enables non-technical users to create and administrate their own organizations. This effectively lowers the bar for further advancement in creating more decentralized protocols and business models.
As new ideas and business models continue to be built, it’s hard to say what the future holds. Perhaps it is no longer wishful but pragmatic to assume the world is headed in a direction where transparency, collaboration, and customer input take priority over corporate interests and control — making the mantra “power to the people” more realistic now than ever.