Self-Sovereign Identity: What You Can/Can’t Do With SSI?

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) gives you complete control over your data. Let’s drill down to understand what you can and can’t do with SSI.
Nov 15, 2021

Given the many hacking and identity theft incidents that have happened in the last few years, all of us are concerned about our online privacy and the safety of our Personally Identifiable Information.

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) is emerging as a solution for these apprehensions as it gives complete control and ownership of data to the individual entities as they can decide what data to share and with whom.

Beyond this encompassing vision, let’s drill down into the specifics to understand what you can and can’t do with SSI.

What You Can Do With SSI?

What are the things you can do and the benefits you derive from using SSI? Let’s explore.

Protect your Data from Centralized Storage Systems

With SSI, you have control over where your information is stored and shared. This means you can choose to move your information from centralized storage owned by companies to an identity wallet that only you can access.

Monetize your Data

In the currently popular Federated Identity Management system, companies like Google and Facebook monetize your data through ads. With SSI, you can monetize your data and even choose which companies you want to share it with for money.

A possible way for data monetization is through a VC marketplace that is akin to an online eCommerce platform like eBay or Airbnb where buyers and sellers come together to buy/sell data.

Safeguard your PII

Security is probably the most important benefit you get as you know who has your data and what it is being used for. Unauthorized users can’t access your data and use it for the wrong purposes.

Also, since your data doesn’t sit in a centralized database, there’s little incentive for a hacker to spend time and resources to steal a single person’s data.

All these are sure to keep your data safe from cybercriminals.

More ROI for Businesses

If you’re a small business owner, you can earn more returns from your business because you no longer have to spend resources on protecting customer data and complying with data regulations.

What You Can’t Do with SSI?

SSI is undoubtedly one of the most revolutionary technologies that can change the way you think about your data and handle it. But it is not without pitfalls either. Instead of turning a blind eye to these pitfalls, understanding and navigating through them will help you to better leverage the SSI benefits.

So, what are some of the things you can’t do with SSI?

Pass on the Responsibility

With SSI, you can no longer pass on the responsibility of protecting your data to large companies. Remember, companies invest millions of dollars each year to protect the data stored in their systems and still get hacked. So, it can be a huge responsibility for you!

While the architecture of SSI makes it difficult to hack your data, still the responsibility to safeguard it is all yours. This means you will have to know the security policies of the entity using your data and the onus of picking a secure vendor lies completely on your shoulders.

For example, let’s say you’ve stored your identity details in a digital wallet that’s protected by a public-private key pair. Here, it’s your responsibility to remember the private keys, as no one can recover it for you.

A possible workaround can be to use a custodial wallet like the one offered by Affinidi, but then you lose some level of decentralization.

Seamless Transfer

The SSI space is highly fragmented now with each company developing its applications and possibly even ecosystems. As a user, this translates to a lack of interoperability between different applications or ecosystems. You may have to change the format of data each time you send it to a different user.

This is undoubtedly inconvenient now, but it could change as the technology matures and eventually leads to the creation of a marketplace where companies can offer their services and you can pick a service provider and send your data for validation and for using the services offered.

Since the marketplace can have a common format, your data can be interoperable across the applications of companies who participate in this marketplace. Until then, you’ll have to make changes to your data’s format.

Cannot Avoid Middlemen

The heading can sound counterintuitive. After all, SSI and decentralized identity are all about removing companies, centralized storage, and middlemen, right?

Well, yes, but you can’t avoid middlemen in all situations. The idea of a marketplace we talked about earlier is a middleman of some sort.

Likewise, we saw that you can monetize your data if you chose to. Most likely, you’ll need a common marketplace or some other way through which you can inform companies about your willingness to sell your data. This entails a middleman as well.

So, you can’t avoid middlemen altogether, though their roles can change.

Verdict: Should You Go with SSI?

Absolutely YES, because the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Also, remember SSI is a relatively new technology and it could take some time for people to jump on its bandwagon.

Nevertheless, SSI is likely to stay, as is evident from the many proactive steps that the EU and other countries are taking in this direction. It may not be long before other governments follow suit, so SSI is undoubtedly a part of the future.

Affinidi provides building blocks for an open and interoperable Self-Sovereign Identity ecosystem.

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