Read the articles:
The Promise of Blockchain and Safe Identity Storage for Refugees, by Monique J. Morrow.
The Enlightenment’s Social Contract vs. the Crypto-Identity of Contemporary Cyber Capitalism, by Karl Steinacker.
Connectivity Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain, by MIT Technology Review (Copyright © 2018, All rights reserved MIT Technology Review; www.technologyreview.com)
Excellent , throughly support this technolgy, trust and transparency for the most vulnerable is what it is about. Identity is key to our being human, without it we become lost to ourselves and to our world. Proud to know and be involved with you monique
Monique, you always awe and inspire me. The work you are doing is so important. Thank you for your contributions to the world.
Great blog Monique and very timely also after my visit to Jordan this week. A lot of work is done there by UNHCR of course and your vision will help further that work no doubt.
I continue to be humbled by the extraordinary ecosystem unfolding on what is truly possible with digital identity capabilities and the promise of blockchain.
Danny, Brian and Frances thank you for being part of that journey!
A special “thank you” to UNHCR for stimulating the conversation!
I think some important counterarguments are missing from this discussion.
The permanence of the blockchain is at odds with the transient nature of human identity.
There are many compelling reasons to change or obscure one’s identity. Indeed, refugees are a community very likely to be confronted with those needs as much as they are to verifying a previous identity.
Blockchains are public ledgers. The public nature of the blockchain also makes identity public. In all cases, encryption can only provide temporary security—eventually all encryption can be circumvented (it’s why the NSA stores massive troves of encrypted data just waiting for a time in the future when it can break the encryption). Anything you put on the blockchain will be open to viewing by anyone with the time and resources to access it, eventually.
Storing any personal information in a permanent form and in a public place should be very carefully considered.
Indeed Laurent. There is a polarity between what is meant as “public” and immutable vs what data must be held private by the individual and held sacred per se by the individual. Having said this, there is a loss of trust when data is centralized and hacked [a daily event unfortunately].
There are developments that may be may be interesting to follow, e.g https://www.enigma.com/
Finally, privacy by design e.g GDPR and ethics/governance must be part of the discussion.
It’s true that Blockchains are public ledgers, but that doesn’t mean that personal information needs to be publicly stored.
And even with the advancement of quantum-computing SHA-256 encryption is still far away from being broken.
Very interesting article. Thank you for your insights.
I’m curious about how well an individual is able to protect access to their digital identity against coercion, either by state and non-state armed groups, or even by potential employers, landlords, etc.
I see disturbing potential for the abuse of these blockchain-protected honey-pots of personal data, as exemplified by the United States’ plans to make access to visitor’s social media accounts a requirement for entry,
What, if any, protections can be built into such a system to defend against people being coerced into providing access. And if that access is granted, what protections exist to ensure that the data can’t be copied and stockpiled by agencies with unsavory agendas?
Great point about the opportunity to embed protections against individuals being coerced from state-non-stated entities. We all want to be the rightful owners of our digital identities without the threat of repercussion, breach.
There is not an appetite of experiments in this area like: https://tykn.tech/about/
Somehow, we must find a middle way. Do you believe that this is possible?
Thank you once again!
This is a great question Muhannad!
A potential self-sovereignty ID solution should include that in its core architecture.
Only the owner of the Identity can control what to reveal and who to reveal to.
The world is indeed lucky to have you involved in tackling these issues and keeping humans at the center of the solutions. Self-sovereign IDs enabling multiple personas with varying levels of privacy for different applications and contexts is crucial. Not just for refugees, but for anyone who is participating in our increasingly globally connected world.
Ann, I know you get this space very well. This topic is so very pertinent now than ever before!
Thank you always!
that is indeed the case. Furthermore the idea of “personas” or “shadow IDs” is one that was there as part of the core design. Furthermore, we will not expose data, just answers to protect the individuals and their associated data.
Great Clarity- good work.
Still big gov- India – China will rule the surveillance eco system!.
Humanizing surveillance is impossible…
We certainly do not want to “humanize surveillance!”
The topic of algorithmic decision making and human rights is a major one. There are organizations now tapping into video analysis of YOU doing an interview process to determine whether or not you are the talent that they desire, e.g. https://www.hirevue.com/
Goes to the question: Are YOU in control?
Thanks always David!
Lets start with some housekeeping. This very website (http://www.unhcr.org/blogs/digital-inclusion/) wouldn’t work on my primary browser – Firefox Nightly. This is because I use EFF’s excellent Privacy Badger, which reveals that this UNHCR site includes no fewer than four trackers – googleads.g.doubleclick.net, static.doubleclick.net, http://www.google.com and http://www.youtube.com, along with fonts.googlapis.com and googletagmanager.com and i.ytimg.com
How can anyone confidently commit their identity to third parties when even a respected agency such as UNHCR cannot host a blog page without handing off visitors data to Doubleclick and Google?
So, Are YOU in control, UNHCR?? What do Google and Doubleclick do with the data (my data) you have kindly shared with them?
Recognising the importance of the subject matter, I will make this comment. The power of distributed ledger technologies lies in and depends on the networking of multiple copies of the ledger from which the consensus on validity and integrity may be reached, and the individual confirmation of each transaction/block thus enabled. The autonomy is constrained by the need to network. Since States control the network, there are genuine limits to the ability of individuals to access or host nodes. Inevitably, we rely on trusted third parties to do so on our behalf. A malicious state can harness it’s control over networks to deny access, to manipulate and, potentially, to corrupt a ledger. Lots of work to be done to achieve lightweight (no mining, modest data) solutions that are genuinely universal in their usage, while fully resistant to State control.
The valid and welcome application of distibuted ledger to humanitarian and other development challenges is further hampered by the scurrilous Ponzi-scheme abuses across the whole crypto-currency bubble. Such speculative greed has forced States to intervene. The lessons they learn as they supress/regulate Bitcoin and other crypto-currency schemes will be put to good use if they choose to similarly counter citizen-led distributed ledger initiatives. Global action on updating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to reflect identity, privacy and digital rights is needed.
We also appreciate your observations in regard to the substance of this discussion, and we agree that there are a number of aspects of distributed ledger technologies—including their autonomy—that still need to be fully explored and understood. Additionally, the question of the regulation of new and emerging technologies is very much a live one, and there are certainly risks associated with adoption of such systems before the necessary legal frameworks are in place. Those risks can be even further heightened in refugee contexts. With regard to the broader question of human rights protections, we also share your interest in seeing how the international community may expand the existing international law protections of the right to privacy to reflect the digital age.
I hope the technology will reach Nigeria, please include me
Ronan: ” Lots of work to be done to achieve lightweight (no mining, modest data) solutions that are genuinely universal in their usage, while fully resistant to State control”
Agree – this is an interesting area for to further explore.
I do wish to take this opportunity to thank Karl Steinacker of the UNHCR identity team for stimulating an engaging discussion – which continues ever so prolifically.
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We are commencing the dialogue together and there is so much to do whether in professional certificate credentialing and blockchain and so on. What is very important is that the individual most impacted is part of the journey for his/her dignity.
Thanks for sharing …. Thanks a lot
Good blog share, thanks for sharing.