Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is an approach to digital identity that gives individuals control of their digital identities.
SSI addresses the difficulty of establishing trust in an interaction. In order to be trusted, one party in an interaction will present credentials to the other parties, and those relying parties can verify that the credentials came from an issuer that they trust. In this way, the verifier’s trust in the issuer is transferred to the credential holder. This basic structure of SSI with three participants is sometimes called “the trust triangle”.
It is generally recognized that for an identity system to be self-sovereign, users control the verifiable credentials that they hold and their consent is required to use those credentials. This reduces the unintended sharing of users’ personal data. This is contrasted with the centralized identity paradigm where identity is provided by some outside entity.
In an SSI system, holders generate and control unique identifiers called decentralized identifiers. Most SSI systems are decentralized, where the credentials are managed using crypto wallets and verified using public-key cryptography anchored on a distributed ledger. The credentials may contain data from an issuer’s database, a social media account, a history of transactions on an e-commerce site, or attestation from friends or colleagues.
There is no consensus on an exact definition of self-sovereign identity, but here are the guiding principles of SSI:
- Existence — Users must have an independent existence.
- Control — Users must control their identities.
- Access — Users must have access to their own data
- Transparency — Systems and algorithms must be transparent.
- Persistence — Identities must be long-lived.
- Portability — Information and services about identity must be transportable
- Interoperability — Identities should be as widely usable as possible.
- Consent — Users must agree to the use of their identity.
- Minimization — Disclosure of claims must be minimized
- Protection — The rights of users must be protected
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