Spruce Partners with Etheruem & ENS to Improve Online Identity Verification

Spruce Partners with Etheruem & ENS to Improve Online Identity Verification

Applications for blockchain technology remain diverse, with different companies coming up with impressive ideas on integrating the technology.

One novel approach comes from Spruce – a decentralized identity software firm. The company is now working on improving identity verification, and it recently got backing from the Ethereum Foundation.

Work to Begin in Earnest

Earlier this week, Spruce confirmed in a press release that it had secured a partnership with the Ethereum Foundation to help build its decentralized identity verification system. The company would work with the Ethereum Foundation (EF) and Ethereum Name Service (ENS) to develop a secure sign-in module built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Spruce’s network had been selected after the EF and ENS submitted requests for proposals in July. The companies had sought developers who would build a secure sign-in package using Open Authorization (OAuth) – an open standard for access delegation that is frequently used to grant websites or applications access to Intenet users’ data.

As Spruce explained, it will focus on giving users more control of their data. This way, they hope to offer an alternative to big tech companies and platforms, which are notorious for data harvesting. The company added that the EF is the perfect partner, thanks to its user base that runs into the millions. Ethereum is also the largest community of developers in the crypto space, so Spruce has many resources at its disposal with this backing.

Spruce added that it would work closely with the ENS and EF to ensure that its solution is compatible with the Ethereum blockchain’s standards. Success with their project will empower millions of Ethereum users to control their digital identities and seamlessly access the web.

The first step will be user research and building specifications drafts. Core development work is expected to begin shortly.

More Use Cases for Ethereum

Identity management has become a significant focus for the blockchain space. Allowing people to seamlessly access the web while controlling their data could be one of the biggest ways that the industry disrupts traditional tech, and Ethereum has had a major role to play in that.

In July, Numio – a layer-two scaling solution, raised $1.25 million in funding to push into decentralized finance (DeFi). As part of the company’s expansion, Numio will also be building on its identity management system. The system uses zkProofs to let users verify their identities on third-party platforms without sending any identity documentation.

Numio’s authentication solution uses public-key cryptography, which is heralded as more secure than the Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) used by platforms like Authy and Google Authenticator.

Operations like these are some of the reasons why the Etheruem blockchain remains an incredibly important part of the crypto ecosystem. Ethereum’s profile has risen significantly over the last year, and there has been a lot of talk about its token – Ether – flipping Bitcoin to become the most valuable cryptocurrency.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

BWM, Ford & Honda Led Group, MOBI, to Track Vehicle Identities Using Blockchain

BMW and Ford are some of the main participants in launching the Vehicle Identity Standard’s second installment in collaboration with the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI).

The days of incorrect mileage, false maintenance, and damage histories when buying vehicles could soon end after some of the largest automakers in collaboration with transportation and blockchain leaders joined forces in developing a blockchain-based platform that will help in tracking and protect vehicle identity.

The group has released the second version of the Vehicle Identity (VID) blockchain platform. Dubbed VID II, the new platform is a continuation of VID I, which was touted as a vehicle birth certificate. The new standard focuses on vehicle registration as well as maintenance traceability.

The new standard will enable vehicle registration between states and nations to connect easily via a secure, shareable, and trustworthy ledger. The maintenance traceability will also offer a tamper-proof history to insurance firms, government agencies, and buyers, eliminating vehicle information asymmetry. Andre Luckow, the Emerging Technologies head at BMW, said,

“At BMW, we strive to create seamless digital solutions. The reference architecture in the VID II standard is a crucial building block in transforming the frictionless and trusted mobility ecosystem.”

VID II was authored by different worldwide mobility leaders and renowned tech firms to enhance multi-stakeholder interoperability.

BMW and Ford are the VID II co-chairs with support from IBM, Honda, Accenture, Car IQ, Bosch, DMX, Denso, Quantstamp, Luxoft, and AWS.

Apart from offering a secure vehicle identity standard, VID II will also be used in the supply chain, electric vehicle charging, and autos financing, among others.

According to Cynthia Flanigan from Ford’s research and advanced engineering department, VID II would be a building block that will offer enhanced transparent, safer, and efficient registrations and maintenance of a vehicle. The standard will provide the seller and the buyer with reliable data and information to help them make informed decisions.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Microsoft’s Blockchain-Based Identity System, ION, Launches Amidst Data Privacy Concerns

Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), a non-profit organization aiming at building a digital identity ecosystem, announced the launch of the beta version of Microsoft’s Identity Overlay Network, a Bitcoin-based identity platform.

At the mainnet launch, Microsoft’s ION will enable over 1.1 billion people who lack a legal ID to acquire one and also help in identifying and contact tracing COVID-19 patients.

The accelerating progress in government partnerships to develop decentralized digital ID systems, however, is facing resistance from several experts who believe it may lead to privacy concerns, hacks, and breaches of personal information.

Microsoft’s ION Partnership With Casa Wallet

The spread of COVID-19 has seen multiple digital identity and contact tracing apps come up in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic. Microsoft’s ION will partner with Casa, a startup known for its Casa HODL Bitcoin wallet, to improve the “authentication, privacy and security” of users’ digital identities on the platform. ION’s project lead, David Buchner said:

“We are thrilled to have Casa collaborating on ION with us, which showcases the potential of building real-world applications that leverage the strong foundation Bitcoin provides.”

The ION project employs a tagging system, whereby instead of including all the data on a specific transaction on the platform, the info is given a reference number. The number is then added to the ledger, and is easy to retrieve the transaction at any time from the ION nodes.

Several other initiatives, including ConsenSys, backed the project, Uport, form the DIF, and this will allow the interoperability of the systems across the DIF platform. DIF leader Rouven Heck said:

“Everybody wants to move fast and has a high interest in demonstrating this technology can be very powerful.”

The miners on the BTC network validate and verify the reference numbers for a small fee.

A Race to Form Partnerships With Governments

Competition across the blockchain digital identity industry is spiking as governments continue to show interest in citizens’ medical and financial records. The targeted blockchain contact tracing on COVID-19 platforms has seen adoption by several governments and corporations.

In compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) credentials, over sixty corporations around the world formed the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) to develop digital identity passports. Late last year, eleven South Korean startups announced plans to launch the blockchain-based digital identification service within the government’s regulatory sandbox.

However, some analysts remain skeptical of the actual safety and security of the personal data collected on these platforms.

‘Data Collected is Extremely Hard to Protect.’

On the subject of contact tracing and data collection by these decentralized identifiers, Blockchain Commons founder Christopher Allen said the project would have a hard time upholding user privacy as the data such as the location of the patient is “incredibly hard to protect.”

Microsoft and IBM, who have been at the forefront of funding and developing digital identifiers, have faced much criticism, Harry Halpin, CEO of privacy-tech startup Nym, the latest industry player branding these systems “feel-good rhetoric.” Harry sarcastically said:

“Governments need to establish identities of who owns these keys, so they say, ‘OK, we’ll have an open standard, call it decentralized, and make it mandatory.’”

As the digital id systems grow, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released guidance for government regulation on financial institutions that use these systems.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Bloom Partners with Top Credit Agency, Transunion to Put Consumer Credit Data on Blockchain

Bloom, a blockchain startup aims to use decentralization to create a blockchain-based identity for consumers, giving users complete control over the flow of their information.

Bloom has partnered with US-based credit reporting agency TransUnion to launch its second mobile application. Bloom hopes that this initiative provides a tiny step towards educating the larger population on the importance of data security.

The first Bloom app notified users if their data was leaked anywhere on the internet. Bloom’s data monitoring tool scans the internet including the dark web to ensure that the consumer data has not been breached. If the application detects any such breach it notifies the consumer along with several steps on how to contain the leak of the information.

The second Bloom mobile application offers a robust credit monitoring service for consumers while ensuring high security for their personal data. The app is currently only available in the United States where a consumer would be able to monitor their credit scores, current loans, credit cards, and monthly payments.

Dao Boyle, senior vice president of Business Development at TransUnion Consumer Interactive commented on the new partnership with Bloom, expressing excitement about working with the blockchain firm to ensure enhanced data protection for consumers.

“A critical part of TransUnion’s mission is to empower consumers to better understand and manage their data and shape their financial lives,” Boyle said in a press release.

“This partnership supports that mission, and we look forward to continuing working with Bloom to deliver innovative and impactful solutions to consumers.”

Data is the Oil of 21st Century

Data is the new oil of the 21st century, but a majority of the population does not understand its importance. This is why they don’t bother to check or read terms and conditions before installing any app or service on their devices. A majority of which takes user’s permission to use their data whichever way they want without the consumer actually knowing what they have signed up for.

The issue is not just with these service providers, however. But with the centralization of data management which often leads to breaches in their security and theft of sensitive and personal information.

Blockchain and decentralization have emerged as a solution for ensuring the security of consumer data when big private firms are misusing it on the pretext of offering a few of their services for free.

The best example of a data breach and misuse which lead to manipulating user behavior was the infamous Cambridge Analytica episode involving Facebook.

Facebook’s user profile data was misused by Cambridge Analytica, a political PR agency, to create targetted region-based advertisements to influence the user’s vote.

Bloom’s Long Term Initiative

Bloom’s first version of the app, where it monitored the breach of consumer’s data, was not a big success as it failed to convey the importance of data protection to consumers and why they need a blockchain-based identity.

Bloom’s identity system works on top of the Ethereum blockchain and the firm generates its monetary income by partnering with various financial institutions as well as government agencies.

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Author: Rebecca Asseh

60 Organizations Collaborate To Build Blockchain-based COVID-19 Immunity Passports

Blockchain self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologists are working together to develop COVID-19 immunity passports that don’t compromise the users’ privacy.

Having some sort of immunity credentials would allow people to return to normal life, so the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) is trying to develop a digital certificate that’s complying with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard of Verifiable Credentials.

Proving the Recovery from the Coronavirus

The certificate allows individuals to prove and to ask others for proof that they have recovered from the coronavirus, that they’re positive for antibodies or have been vaccinated, after a vaccine becomes available, of course. More than 60 SSI organizations are involved in the project, including Streetcred, TNO, esatus, Georgetown University, and others like TrustNet from Pakistan, DIDx from South Africa, Northern Block from Canada and Consulcesi from Italy.

Health Care Institutions to Issue the Certificates

The digital certificates would have to be issued by health care institutions. However, they would be controlled and shared by users in a peer-to-peer (P2P) manner. There’s an agreement in the tech world that some sort of digital certificates should exist. Even Microsoft’s former CEO and founder, Bill Gates, said at a Reddit AMA from last month that:

“Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”

Why Blockchain?

Using blockchain protocols like Hyperledger Aries and Hyperledger Indy, the CCI solution is related to the Linux Foundation. With the SSI and Verifiable Credentials, it gets to instill a higher level of trust between the credential’s issuer, the credential’s holder and the verifier. The holder would be in the center of the system, not to mention no longer required to go back-and-forth between the issuer and the verifier. Holders would also have the power of choosing what to share and with whom to share it.

At its core, the certificate would have a decentralized (DLT) architecture that doesn’t run too much data on blockchains. Here’s what the chief trust officer at Evernym, Drummond Reed, had to say about the it:

“It’s a very thin-layer usage of blockchain just for cryptographic infrastructure. All the credentials are exchanged off-chain, peer-to-peer. The role of blockchain is super-important, but it’s thin.”

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Author: Oana Ularu

Bitfury Makes Strategic Investment In Shyft Network’s FATF Travel Rule Compliance System

Bitfury has recently acquired Shyft Network, a company that is working on decentralized identity solutions that would help the firms develop a data transfer product. Specifically, Bitfury is going to be investing in the travel rule solution that complies with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and its legal framework.

Bitfury Invests In Shyft Network

According to the information released in a press release on December 5, the company will be working on solutions that would make it easier for exchanges to share information. Cryptocurrency exchanges must be compliant with the current rules imposed by the FATF in which they have to provide information about users trading on their platforms.

During this year, the Shyft Network has been working in order to build its network of partners and work on its team that included former FATF executives. There are already several companies working closely to Shyft and that want to participate in the testing of these solutions.

The new partnership and acquisition will include Bitfury’s subsidiaries called Exonum and Crystal. These are two blockchain-related firms that offer solutions to companies and organizations.

According to Joseph Weinberg, the co-founder of Shyft, crypto exchanges are working on a product that could be launched in early 2020. Furthermore, they are currently working with several countries in different regions to adopt an identity platform.

Regulations in the cryptocurrency market have always been a difficult topic. The current decision of Bitfury Group to acquire the Shyft Network could be related to the fact that Bitfury wants to be close to the development and implementation of systems that would help companies be compliant with FATF requirements.

Several jurisdictions have been creating clear legal frameworks for cryptocurrencies and crypto-related companies. This is expected to improve the relationship between companies and governments while protecting investors from scams and other fraudulent firms.

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Author: Carl T

As Digital ID Systems Expand, FATF Releases Guidance for Financial Institutions

  • The FATF organization released a 77-page guidance in digital identity for financial institutions, specifically regarding cryptocurrency and the use of DLT.
  • The guidance focuses on certain “areas of focus” like the way that digital identity impacts policies for AML/CFT.

Cryptocurrency is in a constant state of innovation lately, and the whole of the financial world needs to be prepared. The Financial Action Task Force (The Financial Action Task Force is preparing financial institutions and governments on the expansion of digital identification systems by sharing its latest AML and CFT guidelines.) has already prepared for the way that digital identification systems are evolving, and they’ve recently published draft guidance on this exact topic to help financial institutions be ready as well.

The guidance came out on Thursday regarding digital identity, which is meant to support regulated entities, governments, and other stakeholders. The guidance elaborates on the enforcement of regulations concerning anti-money laundering and counter financing terrorism. This organization, which functions across multiple governments, hopes to focus on the issues that continue to arise for security and transparency, especially as financial transactions start becoming more digital.

According to the website, FATF has offered several questions that are meant to be “areas of focus.” By November 29th, 2019, private stakeholders are meant to offer feedback via email. The areas specifically include risks that may be threatening to the ability to enforce AML and CFT regulations, as well as the way to improve transaction monitoring and the possibility of impacting requirements for keeping records for FATF.

One of the tools named as a way to improve digital ID network growth is blockchain technology, or distributed ledger technology.

Authorities have been urged by FATF to:

“develop clear guidelines or regulations allowing the appropriate, risk-based use of reliable, independent digital ID systems by entities regulated for AML/CFT purposes.”

Crypto exchanges and other regulated institutions need to:

“take an informed risk-based approach to relying on digital ID systems for Customer Due Diligence.”

The guidance, which takes up 77 pages, discusses many issues that digital ID systems may face, like the way to use them for due diligence regarding customers. Along with helping financial institutions, the guidance is also supposed to be part of the efforts to reduce the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, correlating with additional stablecoins being launched in the market. FATF highlighted the necessity for digital identity involving payment systems, helping to identify the stakeholders involved in stablecoin-related transactions.

The blockchain industry has seen a lot of activity from FATF this year, as the organization published new guidance over the summer involving cryptocurrency exchanges and other VASPs. This guidance pushed for countries to implement strict KYC protocols, managing the risks involved with digital asset transfers.

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Author: Krystle M

New Crypto Anonymity-Identity Wallet to be Launched by Civic and BitGo by Q4

New Crypto Anonymity-Identity Wallet to be Launched by Civic and BitGo by Q4

According to a recent press release, decentralized identity firm, Civic, and a blockchain security firm, BitGo, have announced plans to release a new wallet sometime in the last quarter of 2019.

The new “Civic Wallet” will make use of Multisignature Technology from BitGo and will also support cryptocurrency as well as identity data while ensuring compatibility with mobile gadgets.

The Civic Wallet

Developed in conjunction with Identity.com and Civic Pay, the wallet will only hold very little data from users which will be used strictly to fulfill Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements or for account recovery.

Using multisig security technology from BitGo, the wallet boasts of significant privacy and security levels as whatever information being held will only be used for the above, ensuring that BitGo has no access to it. This is to give consumers more control of their private data.

“Once they have a Civic Wallet, users are able to selectively share parts of their verified identity with third parties, for example, purchasing age-restricted products anonymously.”

The importance of this technology was also highlighted by BitGo Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Belshe. Belshe explains that it’s now easy for users to recover their accounts in the event that they lose the mobile device that holds the private key for the wallet.

The Civic Wallet has a backup protocol that can aid the user in the quick restoration of all their data and digital funds without losing anything. Belshe iterates that this was not very common before now.

At the moment, access to the Civic Wallet is somewhat controlled and can only be accessed when a person is referred by someone else in the consumer’s network or also through a pre-registration process.

The CEO and co-founder of Civic, Vinny Lingham, has said that the team is “building a new financial and identity ecosystem” also explaining that with efforts like this, more people have further seamless ways to enter the blockchain industry and with more access as well.

According to an unnamed member of the Civic team, the wallet will be launched with at least the minimum required features including support for “a handful of currencies familiar to the digital community”. Expectedly, it will also allow users to do handle crypto as usual, supporting sending, receiving and storage.

Furthermore, the team expects that the wallet will be reasonably appealing even for people who aren’t exactly versed in the crypto world. This will be ensured through its ease of use and also the fact that there will be some interesting features just like people have with their traditional financial institutions. Some of these features include account recovery – as earlier stated – and also others like privacy controls and specific daily transaction limits. This is expected to also work as a security measure in the case of a breach or outright theft.

All identities will also be verified using blockchain technology. This will be done using a feature from Identity.com, a startup which is now a part of Civic after it was acquired in July 2018 from former owners, Inflection.

Non-Crypto Blockchain Wallets

The possibility of deploying blockchain wallets for other uses has been highlighted in the auto industry by Daimler AG.

The German multinational corporation based in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, has entered an official partnership with Riddle & Code – a European provider for blockchain interface solutions – for the creation of a car hardware wallet.

These blockchain car wallets will be used for many scenarios in the auto industry including sharing of secure traffic data, care-sharing, self-driving vehicles, e.t.c.

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Author: Tolu