“…But can it actually work at scale?” It’s a question we find ourselves asking with each new wallet or platform that emerges, promising to reshape the identity landscape. That conversation around taking identity solutions from principle to practice is relevant for stakeholders across the public and private sectors. Since Toronto is home to one of the world’s foremost privacy experts and one of the only production-grade blockchain-based identity platforms deployed today, we seized the opportunity to take KNOW Identity Forums international.
On September 12, we hosted a group of privacy wonks, blockchain architects, and identity nerds in downtown Toronto to talk about how interoperable digital identity applications can safeguard both user privacy and the digital economy. The event featured a welcome from our partners at Uniken, a live (and lively!) State of Identity podcast recording with Dr. Ann Cavoukian, and an expert panel with members of the Verified.Me ecosystem, followed by a continued debate, discussion, and networking.
If you weren’t able to join us in Toronto, know that we missed you and we don’t want you to be out of the loop. Here are a few key takeaways that emerged from the event:
“Zero-sum is the lazy man’s way out”: Security and Privacy Shouldn’t be a Trade-off
Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Executive Director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design Centre and former Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, made a passionate case that privacy, security, and innovation are mutually reinforcing concepts. In a live State of Identity recording with host Cameron D’Ambrosi, Dr. Cavoukian outlined the principles of Privacy by Design and discussed how she frames the benefits of the approach for skeptical corporate boards.
“If you just treat privacy as a function of regulatory compliance,” she said, “you’ll do the bare minimum. Businesses need to think of privacy as a competitive advantage.”
Consumers still care about privacy, she argued, even when complicated opt-out structures and policy disclosures have stacked the deck against the average user. Fundamentally, privacy is a function of control, not secrecy. Companies that innovate around user-centricity, transparency, and data control are better positioned to succeed in the evolving digital economy. She emphasized that decentralized structures may be the key to more privacy-preserving processes in the future.
“It’s not something that can be easily dabbled in”: Getting identity right takes time and collaboration
The launch of SecureKey’s Verified.Me platform in Canada is one of the most high-profile examples of translating these key identity principles – privacy, user-centricity, and decentralization – into a scaled deployment. OWI’s Kaelyn Lowmaster was joined on stage by three leaders of this ecosystem from different industry backgrounds: Greg Wolfond, SecureKey CEO, Fatema Pirone, CIBC’s Senior Director for Enterprise Innovation, and Almis Ledas, COO of EnStream.
Pirone and Ledas underscored the critical role that financial institutions and telecommunications players play in identity as stewards of unique personal information on users.
“We as Canadian financial institutions are actually custodians of data, and are responsible for helping our customers minimize the risks they face on platforms external to the banking system,” Pirone said.
In terms of the architecture of the Verified.Me platform itself, the use of blockchain emerged as a means to achieve the core value of privacy. By leveraging a distributed ledger, the platform can achieve what Wolfond called “triple-blind” privacy, in which neither the data provider, the relying party, or the Verified.Me network itself can see where data is traveling.
All three panelists agreed that a robust digital identity ecosystem should be a fundamental infrastructural component for businesses and that businesses should approach identity development with a long-term strategy in mind, rather than short-term monetary return. Wolfond emphasized that SecureKey could have built a solution much more quickly working alone, but that consultation and participation from financial institutions, telcos, government institutions, and the growing universe of standards bodies is the only effective approach to achieve a sustainable system with the potential for broad user adoption.
What’s coming next
Many thanks to the speakers and attendees who participated in the Toronto KNOW Identity Forum! We’re looking forward to continuing conversations like these at our next Forum in San Francisco on September 17 and at upcoming events in Mexico City, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and more. The KNOW roadshow culminates in the annual KNOW Identity Conference in April 2020. We hope to see you there!