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Selective Disclosure: Share What You Want

Selective disclosure is one of the pillars of self-sovereign identity as it enables individuals to share just what they want with others.
Nov 15, 2021

What’s a good approach to protecting your online privacy and securing your digital data from unauthorized access?

Undoubtedly, a complex question, right? But the answer can be simpler than you think, and in two words, the solution is Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) — a philosophy that empowers users to control the way their data is stored, accessed, and handled.

One of the driving principles of SSI is a concept called Selective disclosure which enables individuals to share just what they want with others. It empowers the owner of a piece of data to disclose parts of a large data set, so the receiving entity knows just what’s needed.

Let’s understand this with an example. Let’s say, you want to attend a musical show in your city, and due to the COVID pandemic regulations, the authorities have mandated complete vaccination as the entry criteria.

Traditionally, you would carry a physical card or a digital copy of the vaccination certification with you that certifies that you have taken the vaccines. But along with it, the show’s authorities would also get to know your full name, date of birth, the location where you were vaccinated, home address, phone number, and more, which is exposing a lot of information which is private.

Such additional information puts you at risk for data thefts, gender/racial bias, and loss of privacy.

At the same time, how can you just reveal information about your vaccination by hiding other personal information? Selective disclosure removes this conundrum.

What is Selective Disclosure?

Selective Disclosure is a concept that empowers the owner of a piece of data to disclose parts of a large data set, so the receiving entity knows just what’s needed.

As a result, an individual has the freedom to choose what is shared and no longer has to choose between an all-or-none approach. Undoubtedly, selective disclosure enhances an individual’s privacy and level of control over his or her personal information, including deciding who gets to see what data and how this data is used by others.

How to Implement Selective Disclosure?

In the context of SSI, selective disclosure is best implemented through verifiable credentials where the user has separate credentials for each piece of information such as his/her date of birth, full name, vaccination details, address, passport number, etc.

When required, all that the user has to do is create a verifiable presentation that contains just the data needed for verification. In our above example, the user has to create a verifiable presentation with his full name and his vaccination details and send it to the show’s authorities for verification.

Here’s how the VC for this example can look like. This was generated by Affinidi’s VC-Generator App.

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This VC displays only the user’s name, the type of vaccination, the results of the test, and the laboratory where the test was taken.

The obvious advantage is that the user reveals only the necessary information, thereby protecting data from unauthorized view or access and safeguarding the user’s privacy. At the same time, it also ensures that the user decides what information has to be collated into the verifiable presentation and with whom it must be shared.

In all, selective disclosure is a key principle of SSI and one that makes it a central part of web 3.0.

Affinidi provides building blocks for an open and interoperable Self-Sovereign Identity ecosystem. Reach out to us on Discord if you want to build VC-based applications using our tech stack.

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The information materials contained in this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice.

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