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ssi digital wallets

SSI Digital Wallets & Internationalizing SSI Products with Adrian Doerk [Podcast]

Click to Listen to this Episode about SSI Digital Wallets on Spotify

Transcription:

Mathieu Glaude: Okay. We are live. Thank you, Adrian, for doing this with me today.

Adrian Doerk: Hello, Mathieu – it’s a pleasure!

INTRO

Mathieu Glaude: Adrian – would you mind just giving a brief introduction and speak about how you got into self-sovereign identity?

Adrian Doerk: Yeah, sure. I’m Adrian. I’m 27, and I’m originally from Germany.

I have a technical background and a business degree, but I first heard about self-sovereign identity as an intern at HTC Exodus in Taiwan, where I did my internship. While I was there, I met Phil Chen, who told me about the emerging concepts of self-sovereign identity and surveillance capitalism.

I was fascinated by both topics, and then, roughly two years ago, I specialized more deeply on the subject of self-sovereign identity. Since then, quite a lot has happened. I converted my YouTube channel (my personal educational platform) from a rather crypto-wallet-focused track to focusing solely on the topic of self-sovereign identity. That’s how the SSI Ambassador channel was born, more or less. Now, I’m also doing public relations and taking the lead on communication topics at ID union. I’m also involved in marketing and sales at Lissi.

Mathieu Glaude: Awesome. The topic of surveillance capitalism is one reason why many of the folks in our communities got into decentralized technologies, whether it’s crypto-wallets or even simply decentralized identity. When you first got into the SSI space, did you spend time on specific projects before getting into Lissi and ID union? I believe you also spent some time at Sovrin. Is that true?

Adrian Doerk: Yeah, that’s correct. Back then, it was probably the easiest way to get your hands dirty on the topic. I joined the ‘Business of SSI’ working group at Sovrin, and I was fascinated with all the different developments going on. I very much felt included by the Sovrin community. It was a fantastic starting point to get familiar with all the topics and to take a role contributing to some papers and other activities.

Mathieu Glaude: While you were doing that, were you part of the Main Incubator at that time? Does that cross a similar timeline?

Adrian Doerk: No. Back then, the Main Incubator was already researching the topic, but they were not necessarily speaking publicly about it. That was when I was still working in Taiwan, so I didn’t actually know that the Main Incubator team was engaged in their research at that time.

Mathieu Glaude: Got it. When you got into the Main Incubator, was it more from a blockchain or crypto standpoint?

Adrian Doerk: They approached me directly on the topic of SSI. I’d like to say a couple of words about the Main Incubator here. Essentially, the Main Incubator GmbH is the Research and Development unit of Commerzbank. We are a 100% subsidiary. We do venture capital for small companies in the finance sector that could be integrated into Commerzbank. We also do prototyping, which encompasses the work at Lissi and the whole topic of decentralized identity. There are community activities, such as our “Quantum Circle” or “Between the Towers.” We look into a lot of different topics. The whole issue of digital identity was one topic that was explored roughly three to four years ago. The ongoing developments were introduced and reviewed at the blockchain summit at Deutsche Bahn, which is the largest German railway company.

Obviously, I was super interested and immediately booked my ticket to go to Frankfurt and listen. Then, I wrote an article about Lissi without being a part of the team because I was just interested in the topic as part of the work I did as SSI Ambassador. The conversation continued, and at one point, we decided it would make sense to collaborate and push the topic forward together.

LISSI

Mathieu Glaude: That’s great. For folks that aren’t familiar with Lissi, Lissi is an output of the Main Incubator. Do you mind just explaining a little more about what Lissi is?

Adrian Doerk: At Main Incubator, we took a more in-depth look into how to jumpstart the whole topic of self-sovereign identity. We decided to take a look first at what frameworks exist. Hyperledger Indy and Hyperledger Aries, which we currently build on, is just one example out of many. Back then, there were several other different frameworks out there, such as Ethereum or ERC 725, which nobody is talking about at the moment. They had done the research and a deep dive on that. Then they reached out to collaborate with players who had selected the same technological frameworks. Since we have the same research approach and the same topic we need experience in, why not collaborate?

On the subject of digital identity, it makes sense to step out of your own silo and actually approach other players. There were some big-name players who were active in the field at that time, such as the Federal Printing Office of Germany (the Bundesdruckerei) and Bosch, and esatus AG, and other players. That’s how the first research initiative was jumpstarted. We were looking for a name, and we chose the acronym “Let’s Initiate Self-Sovereign Identity” — in short, LISSI. So that’s how Lissi was born.

In a stroke of luck, the innovation competition of the German government came up at the same time. The competition is called “Showcase Programme for Secure Digital Identities” or “Schaufenster Sichere Digitale Identitäten” in German. Basically, the government said, “Hey, we have a problem.” Or rather, we need a solution for digital identities, which works with international standards, is interoperable, and which will enable people to control their own identity without being exposed to all the surveillance going on.

We applied to the competition with our concepts, and we said, “Lissi is more a software project, where we actually developed software together. We need an ecosystem that Lissi can live within.” And this ecosystem enables Lissi to then build on it. The ecosystem we applied to was IDunion.

We were part of the first phase of the innovation competition. Now, we’ve applied for a second phase, and we hope that everything goes smoothly so that we can begin in three weeks, which is April 2021. With the second phase, we would be able to start for free with a full year of funding, with 30 players from the public and private sector in IDunion.

So things have moved pretty fast and gotten pretty big. We’re really looking forward to that. It’s amazing what’s going on right now.

INTERNATIONALIZATION CHALLENGES

Mathieu Glaude: Yeah. I had Andre from esatus AG on the podcast a couple of episodes ago. Honestly, from my perspective here in Canada looking at what’s happening within the German ecosystem overall, it’s incredible to see the traction coming from both the private sector and the public sector in Germany. In particular, I’m looking at the investment that is going into strong digital identities and decentralized identities.

I’ll get back to IDunion in a minute, but I wanted to touch on one of the things you hadn’t mentioned within Lissi. One of the objectives of Lissi is all-around usability, right? When we talk about the internationalization of SSI digital wallets, I’d like to hear from someone who has spent more time thinking about the challenge of internationalization. It’s one thing to simply label your wallet and the buttons in the wallet and different static content in the wallet, all in a specific language. Lissi supports 12 languages, which is incredible. But, how do you look at internationalization beyond just flipping content?

It seems that content is one issue. But, when you actually get down into exchanging credentials in the different protocols, you need to deal with credential schemas, attributes, and much more. What are your thoughts on drilling internationalization all the way down to these levels?

Adrian Doerk: Okay. First, I want to give more context around the products we have or the solutions we offer at Lissi. We have one product, the Lissi wallet for end-consumers, which they can use on their smartphone as an app to store digital credentials and to interact with third parties. The other software we offer is for big institutions, so it’s an on-premise solution. It can be hosted in their own environment in order to establish connections, send credentials, or ask for them. Concerning the internationalization of all the products, it’s obviously not easy when talking about digital identity because it highly depends on the context at hand. As an example, we are familiar with green buttons on a touch-screen. Green is associated with something that works or that is supposed to “go.” On the other hand, red signals danger or “stop.” However, that’s all solely from a western perspective, which can be completely different for other cultures. This is just one out of many examples.

Colour is one example, and this continues with the use of gender in text, left-to-right or right-to-left writing direction. We face other issues around the information density of languages, the use of tenses, and so on. By translating our wallet into 12 different languages, we’ve already faced a number of these challenges.

We’re presently engaged in discussion with the Decentralized Identity Foundation, or DIF. Periodically, we have a product manager call, which I’m one of two to co-organize. In the calls, we discuss all these different challenges that we face as product managers. Specifically, we talk about how do we design the user experience? How can we make sure that the information lives within the credential so that the attributes are fully understandable in other contexts and other languages, as well?

For another example, I could get a good grade at university, marked as a “One,” which is the best grade in Germany. But then, maybe we go to a whole different country, with a different grading system. Nobody there actually knows what “One” means. In other regions, maybe letters are used instead. We know that this is information that needs to be transmittable, and the semantics need to be understandable from one context to another. We see that there are many challenges with that, but I think they are solvable challenges, now that we have the foundation to build on, and we’re able to go deeper into details.

Mathieu Glaude: Got it. A lot of the contextualization you’re talking about has to do with UX flows, in general, to be supported not only by different languages but also by different cultures.

Here in Canada, we have two national languages: English and French, and we see some similar challenges. However, when we take a step back to a broader view, beyond talking about specific cultures, I do understand that in terms of contextualization, there’s a lot more that goes into it. At the Decentralized Identity Foundation, you’re focused on UX flows.

Do you give similar considerations to other issues, such as creating backup mechanisms or similar requirements? Would you mind talking a little more about the work that’s going on there?

Adrian Doerk: It’s funny that you mentioned the backup mechanism because that’s exactly what we’re talking about right now. We have a call every second Wednesday, and we recently discussed all the different backup mechanisms. For example, the classic approach with mnemonic seeds. That is, we use 12 words, which you write down — that’s probably the method that most people familiar with if you have been in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. That option can obviously be used for SSI as well. However, we all know that this isn’t the most user-friendly approach, and there are significant drawbacks to that solution. So, we have to think about other ways; for example, social key recovery, or device-based recovery. All of these other mechanisms have certain advantages but also certain drawbacks.

Let’s take a deeper look into what the drawbacks are: How can we integrate them? What are the best solutions for companies or end consumers? Even then, for the end consumer, what is the best solution for my grandmother or my mother, who might not be too comfortable around digital devices?

We have to find solutions that work for everyone. They have to work well in a range of situations. The highly decentralized ‘maximalism’ crowd wants to store all their data on their devices with everything under their control, but the solutions have to be easy to use. There might even be a third party who is acting as a guardian in order to restore all the information. I think that in the end, we won’t have one single solution or backup solution. We have to make sure that we have different solutions available for different target audiences. We must consider the needs of any given group and then find a suitable solution for it.

Mathieu Glaude: Yeah. A lot of the problems apply directly to crypto as well, right? When you have that self-sovereignty, whether it’s over your identity data, your digital credentials, your digital native assets, or over different crypto assets, you have all the power in the world. It all comes down to effectively managing your keys.

There are a lot of similarities between the two worlds there, for sure. Jumping back now, we talked about Lissi and some of these announcements that LISSI is helping contribute to. That is, we spoke about terms of contextualization and internationalization, backups and mechanisms, and other topics regarding the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

Am I correct to say that Lissi is more of an international play, whereas IDunion is more specific to the German market, or potentially the EU?

Adrian Doerk: Yes. With Lissi, we want to make sure that this is a product that institutions from all around the world can use.

So, Lissi has a quite international focus. With respect to IDunion, we’re very German-driven for now and have German funding. We have a clear European focus, so we see that there needs to be a European solution. I’m not saying that IDunion will be the solution. It is only one way of doing things. We’ll see how things develop with the European blockchain service infrastructure, and other European SSI initiatives from other member States.

However, the final solution we go to, we say, “Okay, in the end, it’s all about governance.” Who controls it? Who can say how? What are the rules? And so on… There shouldn’t be a single entity that dictates the rules. We need to find a form of governance that can be influenced by all of the stakeholders involved – a very democratic approach.

So, we formed a European co-operative. That’s what we were planning when we founded that legal entity as the governance body to control the network. In that way, we can represent the interests of the sum of all members.

We took a long time to get deep into the nitty-gritty details of all the different aspects, which you need to consider when signing a governance framework. We spoke with lawyers and all the various stakeholders involved to make sure that we have a solid framework.

We’re at the stage of finalizing the legal documents. We’re looking forward to making the information and activity accessible to a broader audience. Then, we can found the European co-operative to ensure that we have a network that can run in a productive state.

Mathieu Glaude: Got it. In my opinion, we’re seeing a trend where different public identity utilities are popping up throughout the world, and they’re taking more consideration about localization, and better alignment to different data privacy laws. In the discussions before starting IDunion, were those things considered? Europe’s data privacy laws are world-leading and innovative. With the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in place, are these major considerations for public identity utilities (or just blockchain projects in general) in Germany?

IMPACT OF PRIVACY REGULATION

Adrian Doerk: I would say that there are two regulations in particular, which are very important. One, which you already mentioned, is the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, and the other one is the eIDAs, or the electronic Identification and Authorization trust services regulation. Both regulations are really having a big impact, not only on the European Union but also on a broader regulatory landscape in an international context.

Obviously, it’s very important to make sure that whatever you’re building is fully compliant with the regulations at hand. This was a big part of the decision to have a European governance infrastructure. Another reason we decided to go for a European co-operative is that we wanted to have a level playing field for all different companies or public stakeholders in the European Union. We want them to be comfortable that this is not a German foundation that is really close to German law, which might create an entry barrier for them to participate. That’s the primary reason why we went for this quite specialized European co-operative.

I believe there are 35 which exist, so this is not something common. It’s something that is relatively new and hasn’t been explored or leveraged yet.

Mathieu Glaude: You wrote about that in a document that you contributed to the Trust over IP’s utility foundry working groups. There’s more information in there if folks are interested in learning about that. I know you’re active on social media about this topic as well.

Let’s switch gears. You did an interview with Tim Bouma last year. Tim is a thought leader, not only in the Canadian market (he’s part of the Canadian federal government) but internationally as well. There was a research question that you asked him concerning the growth factors of SSI solutions in Europe. The way Tim explained that was quite similar to the way that we’ve approached decentralized technology, crypto and blockchain. In general, end-users don’t really understand the plumbing. They probably shouldn’t fully understand it either. The growth is going to come from the plumbing; it’s going to come from the standards; it’s going to come from technology. It’s not stuff that the users need to be aware of. So, you have a Twitter account as SSI Ambassador and a presence online where you’re strongly pushing education for the adoption of self-sovereign identity.

What made you get into doing this type of promotion through SSI Ambassador, and what topics are you preaching that are gaining a lot of traction?

SSI AMBASSADOR & COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Adrian Doerk: That was a lot of different questions. Maybe I’ll begin with the SSI Ambassador.

I’m actually not too sure what the future plan is, in general. For now, the activity I’m doing is mainly providing content on Twitter, which is primarily educational. I can point to or share from people who wrote or have an opinion about SSI. I’ll quote them and say, “Hey, that’s what he or she is saying.” I want to give everybody a voice within their community without trying to be biased, which can be relatively tricky. I’m trying to make sure that you have one point of contact that you can follow and get different (and maybe critical) perspectives on SSI. So, you don’t have to follow two or three or 400 different people to get a sneak peek and insight into what’s going on. There’s no business model behind it; it’s a private endeavour for me.

I also write articles. I try to summarize different information about what’s going on in the community. I’ll quote people and point to resources and sources that are available. That was part of that interview with Tim Bouma because they developed the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework.

It’s pretty impressive! They took it quite far in terms of how to approach the subject from a technology-agnostic perspective. I think we can all learn a lot from the Canadian approach. In the end, we have so many different aspects we need to consider that it’s really difficult to follow everything that’s going on. I hope I can make it a little bit easier for people to find relevant resources.

Mathieu Glaude: I would say that you definitely do. You make it very easy. For someone who’s just getting into the space, it’s a little tough at times; there’s so much stuff going on. Even for those of us who are in this space, seeing all the different initiatives, and working groups, and standards, and all the different things that are being worked on. It’s crazy; there’s so much stuff that is happening. There’s so much action, there’s so much momentum, but just keeping up with the activity is a challenge on its own. For someone just getting into this space or getting into the crypto space, you realize: “Oh, what have I gotten into here?”

How would you, for example, explain decentralized identifiers to a beginner without going into too much detail about any technology or standards?

Adrian Doerk: Basically, an identifier is something that connects you to a specific system. My classic identifier is a telephone number, or an email address, or anything that might be unique and associated with you as a person. For many systems, this identifier is given to you or at least managed by a central authority, as is the case for emails or telephone numbers.

The idea for a decentralized identifier is that you can create your own identifier, give it to somebody and say, “Hey, if you want to talk to me, just use this identifier, and you’re sure that you will end up in my wallet. And then we can talk.

Mathieu Glaude: Right. The other part is that once we have that secure, private, direct two-way connection between two entities, we can now exchange verifiable information. That’s where the verifiable credential conversation comes in.

Adrian Doerk: Yes. Once you’ve established an encrypted, private peer-to-peer connection through the decentralized identifier, you can use this communication channel to exchange all sorts of information. It doesn’t need to be a verified source of information like a verified credential but can also be self-attested. It can also be a check or PDF document. The possibilities are quite endless.

Mathieu Glaude: For sure. One of the reasons that led me personally into the self-sovereign identity space is the need to have verifiable data while maintaining the privacy-by-design and consent-driven interactions. We need to have this verifiable data in a decentralized manner that supports the centralized system. So, if I’m building a decentralized supply chain system, for example, I need to meet certain compliance requirements. I need to meet certain access and rule provisioning requirements if I’m going to onboard someone to this ecosystem solution for the supply chain.

It’s one thing to say, “Yeah, this is a very interesting model. Through this type of solution, we could create tons of transparency and traceability in a certain supply chain, that ultimately will benefit the end-user in many different ways.” But, to actually make that work, potentially in the world of government, you need to adhere to certain rules and regulations.

That’s what I got quite excited about: “Hey, look at this model with decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials.” Now, all of a sudden, this looks very complementary to these decentralized systems, whether it’s the supply chain or whether it’s crypto, whether it’s a decentralized browser like Brave.

You have been on both sides of the fence. Do you see that marriage between both being quite exciting?

DECENTRALIZED IDENTITY AND CRYPTO

Adrian Doerk: I think it’s really the connection between both, as you said. On one side, you have the whole decentralization crowd with Bitcoin maximalists and so on. On the other, higher, side you have the institutions, which are quite conservative; they don’t want to actually commit to things they aren’t sure about. They’re rather risk-averse, and to bring them together is the challenge we have here. We have some very strong base layers: the infrastructure, the standardization formats for our credentials, and the IDs, but also protocols with Bitcoin, for example. We can bring the players together to say, “Okay, this is common infrastructure, which we have standardized at an international level, and now we can use it to do whatever we need.”

Looking at use cases, we have almost no limit in terms of what we can do with it. Whether it’s a natural person, a legal entity, or an IOT (Internet Of Things) device — you can use it for all of that. In the end, it comes down to getting the rubber on the road and merely starting with it.

Right now, it’s the time to explore and make different pilots possible, reflecting the interests of all the different public and private stakeholders. It’s amazing to see that they are willing to commit resources, not only financially but also to re-contribute to the open-source repository, for example.

We see that they clearly have the need and the vision to make it possible to have decentralized identities and the variables to enable their use for different use cases.

Mathieu Glaude: I love that. As you said, on the one side, you have the maximalists. I laughed at one of your tweets recently where you said people were basically tweeting about the price of (I quote) “insert any cryptocurrency here.”

It doesn’t provide any value. There are these people on one side that are just maximalist, maximalist, maximalist, or just people trying to pump and not really adding value. But on the other side, there’s valid interest in crypto. There’s real interest in government-issued currencies. There’s real interest in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) that we see now, where there’s a lot of pumping happening there too. I really like how you look at it, where you have the common infrastructure that’s able to bring both sides together.

If all these projects happening are successful, if they’re NFTs or whatever we’re talking about, do you think these will gain adoption at the same time as SSI is gaining adoption? It seems as though there’s an opportunity for them to fuel each other.

Adrian Doerk: Yeah, I would say so as well. They’re complementary, but it strongly depends on what you want to use them for. For example, if you want to use NFT to really solve digital identity, then let’s be honest. It’s not going to happen because NFTs are not built for privacy from the design aspects.

We saw that with a lot of people who put their Ethereum name system tag up on Twitter, for example. Anyone can see what they’re doing, what transactions they’re making, what NFTs they bought, and so on. That’s not a desirable call, right?

That’s not something we want. People tend to start using it, and then, in the end, they say, “Oh, damn it. Now everybody in the world can see what transactions I make, when I bought a certain object and so on.” That’s obviously not something we want, so it depends on what you’re going to use it for.

There is a niche or a demand for certain use cases when the time comes to jump to NFTs, or other cryptocurrency applications which combine with digital identity. But, it’s difficult to say now where that use case will be, because I’m not so deep into the whole NFT topic as I used to be.

I have some crypto Pokémons; I forget the name of which ones. I experimented with that a couple of years ago. But, I haven’t been able to deep dive on the topic recently due to all the different activities going on.

Mathieu Glaude: I’m with you on that, too. I was deep in the crypto world a few years ago and still have excellent visibility. But then the whole yield-farming stuff was happening last year, and now just the craziness that’s taking place around NFTs. You understand what’s going on, but it’s just pure craziness. That’s the type of thing that happens with these subjects. Every year, there seems to be a new hyped-up thing within the whole crypto world.

Adrian Doerk: One more statement about these kinds of crypto projects: I see some projects working to solve this kind of digital identity issue, and they use a token. Having a token is not the problem. Rather, having a token which you can invest and speculate on and which is connected to your identity, that’s a problem. We don’t want to have an ecosystem where people have a financial incentive to comment below. They may have a stake of some kind, a portfolio investment, or they’re short-selling the token.

When it comes to digital identity, I personally try hard to avoid any project which has a speculative token.

Mathieu Glaude: If you think about Ethereum, there are a lot of different digital identity projects happening around Ethereum. Uport is one of the ones you mentioned earlier. There are many different ERC standards (Ethereum Request for Comments), such as the 725 one that’s used for digital identity smart contracts.

Do you look at that the same way? If you use something like Ethereum as a public utility for your identity, does that mean there’s speculation happening on Ethereum?

Adrian Doerk: That’s something different again because Ethereum is obviously not built to solve digital identity. It’s so much more, and digital identity is just a small part of it.

We see the Ceramic network, and they’re trying to solve the whole topic of digital identity, but I think it’s more about the issue of reputation instead of digital identity. There’s always this line that you need to draw. When do you say if a particular project does something positive or negative, because you’ve invested in it? At a certain point, it’s really difficult to draw that line. I’m not quite sure where to draw the line with Ethereum.

I’ve recently seen that with other digital identity projects using a token. I don’t think that makes any sense because you can have a situation where bots are simply spamming comments on Twitter, using the hashtag of the token. That doesn’t get us anywhere; it makes things worse.

Mathieu Glaude: I think a lot of the time, people come from the wrong side of things. They’re coming from the solution standpoint rather than from the problem side. It drives an approach to say, “Hey, we have the solution to everything. It’s decentralization, and let’s try to fit in everything to that model.” That’s a common problem we see over and over again.

But you touched upon reputation there. I’m curious to know – what are your thoughts on reputation for identity overall?

REPUTATION

Adrian Doerk: Trust is something that you build over time. Essentially, that’s the same thing as reputation. Ultimately, you have a new partner that you want to do business with, and you want to know, can I trust this person? The question is does this person or business have a reputation that gives me a reason to trust them, and actually engage in business activity.

You can build this reputation over time, through records. Ethereum might be a good solution for that. For example, if I can prove it through three years of constant updates to a contract with me as a business. It’s also possible that we could do audits, as well.

We can say that all these separate points accumulate to build my reputation on the system. And then you can use this reputation to engage in other conversations. It would be very valuable to have something like that. I think we still need to talk about that more as an SSI topic because we don’t talk about that so much at this time.

We talk about verified credentials, and active disclosure and so on. Reputation is a track record that you can show, which then might be embedded in all your credentials. In my opinion, this is an area that needs to be explored as a community.

Mathieu Glaude: Potentially, it doesn’t necessarily need to be all decentralized solutions either, right? We have the core of owning and managing your own data and all that. If it’s consented to, and you’re following the right principles, you could potentially use a centralized reputational system; if it gives you the benefits that you want, and you have transparency into what’s happening.

Adrian Doerk: Yes, it will be naive to think that we’ll have a full decentralized ecosystem in the end. It will be a combination of centralized components and decentralized components and obviously something in between — a hybrid.

We need to make both worlds able to co-exist simultaneously and to build bridges that connect them. Then, as an individual, as a company, or as a public stakeholder, you can choose to use whatever solution suits your needs best.

Mathieu Glaude: Exactly. For the institutions, you’re talking about creating a bridge, or SSI infrastructure could build a bridge between the institution’s needs and their ability to partake in this new digital or decentralized centralized economy at times. There needs to be a proper way to mix both together. For example, for a financial institution to do business, they’re regulated in a way that constrains them to do things in certain ways. Data needs to be stored in specific ways. They need to do certain types of reporting and have access to certain types of things. So, it’s silly to think everything could be dis-intermediated and decentralized, if there are valid other solutions that emerge. The way the world works today is that we have nation-states that are governing the states. We’re simply going to have to find a way to fit it into that environment.

Adrian Doerk: Yes. This co-existence is super important, and also we need to integrate all the different protocols that are still existing, such as Open ID Connect, for example. Obviously, these are the bridges that we need to build in order to connect to the existing world.

Mathieu Glaude: I was curious about another tweet you had made, and I’d like to pick your brain on it. To quote you, you said, “It’s just a matter of time until the decentralized identity technology will be abused by an authoritarian dictatorship. However, this won’t happen with self-sovereign identity because it’s a philosophy and not a technology.”

Would you mind expanding on that tweet?

Adrian Doerk: Yeah, that’s maybe a controversial statement. But, essentially, when we take a look into the technology, it’s just a tool. You can use it however you want. If there exists a government, a party, or a stakeholder, who may not have the best interests for the people around you, then the technology can be abused

We see that with a lot of surveillance going on. Why not use decentralized technology, and tweak it a little bit in your favour? For example, if people cannot choose their own decentralized identifier, but instead, you simply provide them with one, then it’s possible to control many aspects within the system. If it’s implemented in that way, then you can actually assert control instead of providing control.

This is true for all technologies, right? It’s not a unique issue for the stuff we’re building. The same is certainly true for artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or whatever other hyped-up technology you have right now. However, in my opinion, that won’t happen to self-sovereign identity because it’s a way of thinking. It’s not a way of implementing technology; instead, it’s a way of asking the right questions in terms of “how can we protect the individual?” How can we ensure we have trusted relationships between two parties so that as a society, we can work together and have interactions and relationships that are meaningful, without total surveillance and controlling of every aspect of a citizen’s life?

Mathieu Glaude: Yeah, I’m aligned to that. With the right foundational standards and norms and principles, then you’re able to build properly. By using a mindset where no matter what standards, norms, principles, and so forth that you had established, there won’t be an opportunity to bypass those, and you’re really building everything around that concept.

To close up here, Adrian: the last question or topic I wanted to ask you is: what excites you most at the moment? There are tons of activities happening; you’re involved in all sorts of different forums and with various projects. There are tons of use cases coming up that are being built around verified or verifiable people, and around verifiable organizations. There’s the whole IOT space, which is something different. What excites you the most right now about what’s happening in the space?

Adrian Doerk: As you said, there’s so much going on, and I could talk for three hours about all of the amazing projects which are happening right now.

For me, it’s quite a personal perspective, obviously, and I really enjoy seeing the public and private stakeholders come together and collaborate. You can see it here in Germany, with IDunion, and also with a lot of other projects. Not only in Europe, but also worldwide; all the different stakeholders are coming together, and that’s something that’s really good to see, because then we have ready solutions which can be put into production. Then, we’ll have use cases and so on.

Something else that I’m keen to see is that we have the first SSI digital wallets with more than 100,000 users. I think that will be a really big use case coming up, maybe as early as this year. So we have this significant need for a solution that everyone agrees will be the best solution for how to approach the problem. At that point, we’ll see a huge inflow of people who actually use the products and components in a real-life scenario. I think that we’ll see that leap this year.

Mathieu Glaude: Yeah, I think so too. It’s definitely coming, and there’s so much momentum going in that direction. So I’ll end it on that, Adrian.

Thank you very much for doing this with me today. Much appreciated. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Adrian Doerk: Yeah, it was very nice, Mathieu. Thank you for the invite.

Author

Mathieu Glaude

Mathieu is the Chief Executive Officer of Northern Block, a leading global provider of self-sovereign identity, blockchain, verifiable IDs & documents and automated business workflow technology headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Connect with him on LinkedIn here