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Can blockchain create secure worldwide digital IDs?

The current state of identification verification produces two types of problems. On the one hand, accurate and accessible records are necessary for people so that the old-school problem of misplacing a simple card never creates an issue. At the same time, a giant challenge exists in crafting a system that can do this while minimizing fraud, theft and other such issues. Bridging this gap is where many security technologies are currently focused, with a future in digital records seen for things such as government IDs, medical records and other critical documents. This would expand the way personal information can be protected and transmitted, crafting a more efficient system.

Without the proper security measures, though, data is left vulnerable to all types of nefarious exploitation. For example, minorities can benefit from proper representation if this type of data becomes secure and accurate. However, if exposed to the wrong hands, it can also lead to targeted threats and discrimination. In developing countries, exposing identification records to security risks means that falsified records lead to issues such as human trafficking.

Clearly the need is there to find a digital solution, one that is permanent, accessible and accurate — all while creating the necessary security. Such a system needs to create a safe space for accessing basic services, such as health care and education, while protecting identity and defending against discrimination. Blockchain technology has been identified as a possible way to meet these needs, and while there’s still work to be done on making the technology functional and scalable, it provides the traits necessary to be a foundation for such a revolution in identification technology.

In emerging countries, governments are looking at new technology as a means to accomplish more with fewer resources. The country of Estonia recently launched an initiative to use blockchain technology to authenticate e-voting in conjunction with its advanced electronic ID program. Estonia’s ID cards include electronic tokens that enable two-factor authentication in conjunction with a PIN number. For a recent corporate shareholder election, blockchain tech was used to authenticate and record data as part of a pilot e-voting program. With the pilot successfully completed, the group behind the initiative (NASDAQ) is looking to push the boundaries of digital ID capabilities. Everything from voting to smart contracts could be accomplished faster, easier and, most importantly, more accurately with a permanent and transparent solution acting as the backbone.

Remaining issues

Using blockchain as the foundation for legal data transactions in the internet of things age makes sense in many ways. However, there are still many steps to go, with the biggest one being the relative immaturity of the technology. Blockchain has only existed for less than a decade, and while pundits across industries hailed 2017 as the year of the blockchain, that doesn’t fix all of its issues overnight. Organizations have already been built around the idea of making the blockchain accessible to all types of industries — not just digital currency, but any industry requiring permanent and secure records.

In the grand scheme of things, these initiatives are still in relatively early stages. Security flaws are still being tracked and no unified standards exist, which limits the ability to integrate universally. Along the same lines, scalability is a concern. Blockchain developers are examining this issue and recognize that it is the key to widespread acceptance around the globe.

As with any emerging tech, questions about scalability and security provide hurdles to mass adoption and implementation. The good news, though, is that the core traits of the blockchain fulfill the requirements for any type of secure transaction, be it currency, identification or medical records. With that foundation, proponents know where the path is taking them.

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