On Friday the 12th, Onename went to Capitol Hill to speak with senior congressional staffers about Bitcoin and blockchain technology.
There seemed to be quite a bit of interest from senior staffers, so I've decided to post an overview of my talking points from the event. Here they are:
Verified Digital Identity
In the physical world we have IDs that can legally identify us when we walk into a bank or a local bar. Isn’t it strange, though, that there is no good equivalent of this in the digital world?
While you can conduct most of your digital transactions with an online identity, you're still required to show up in person to a bank for certain things - imagine walking into your bank with your Facebook ID and expecting the bank to trust that you are who you say you are. People would think you're ridiculous.
My company Onename asks “Why? What is missing here?” and our goal is to make our online identities as trustworthy as our digital identities.
At Onename, we give you a digital verified identity card that we call a Passcard.
Today you can verify your identity across your accounts on social media, and eventually you’ll be able to have it verified by institutions that can legally bind your identity.
With this verified identity, users are able to login to websites and bring their trustworthy identities with them so that businesses can be assured that they have the right person on the other end of the line.
This login process doesn’t require passwords, which makes it more secure. And it doesn't require third parties like Facebook, so it's more privacy-conscious since no single company can track all user web activity.
In the future, Onename aims to work with government organizations to allow these online identities to carry more meaning and have them eventually serve as digital driver’s licenses and digital passports.
State governments could start issuing digitally authenticated and publicly verifiable birth certificates that would be much harder to forge, giving the birthers peace of mind that our President wasn’t born in Kenya.
Now, if you're a federal employee, you're probably fuming that Chinese hackers stole your identity records. Not just you but also millions of other hardworking public servants and we know that this won't be the last time.
Hackers use identity information to break into people's accounts, and according to the Department of Justice, Americans lose $25 billion each year due to identity theft.
Now, what if I told you we can nearly eliminate these losses? Our antiquated identity verification system of social security numbers, birthdates and mother's maiden name as user names and passwords is to blame. If we move to a digitally authenticated identity world - we can significantly reduce the cost of identity theft.
All of this that I've described is possible with our identity system that is built on the Bitcoin blockchain, the technology that makes Bitcoin tick.
Just like email and the Internet, the identity system I've described is built on open protocols, anyone can participate in the network, and no single company or entity is in control. We at Onename are simply a single service provider.
We view our identity system as a platform and expect that as we build it out, new innovations and use-cases will emerge that we haven't even thought of yet. A lot of possibilities can be unlocked when we can bring true verified identity online.
If you're a business, government or open source developer and would like to work with us to make this happen, we'd love to hear from you.
Thanks to Brian Forde, Director of the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative, for helping me think through a few of these ideas.