Self-sovereign identities made possible with blockchain

Wednesday 28 February 2018 10:35 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Interview

The Paypers has interviewed Jed Grant, Founder & CEO of Peer Mountain to find out more about the way blockchain tech underpins self-sovereign identity

Could you share with our readers what is Peer Mountain, the idea that triggered the foundation of the company and the problems in the industry it is striving to solve?

The recent string of high-profile data breaches has highlighted the shortcomings of current data protection and storage methods. In the summer of 2017, cybercriminals breached Equifax’s secure servers and stole the sensitive personal information of 145 million consumers. If that information was to find its way onto the dark web, it would have put the identities and financial security of half the population of the US at risk. Events like these (and tightening regulations such as the impending EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) demand that we make radical and fundamental changes to how we store and guard our identities.

There is a fundamental problem with how companies currently store, guard, and transmit data. Every time a person transacts with a bank, credit agency, government, or online retailer, that organization generates and stores a copy of that person’s information and specifics of the interaction. This results in a world of enormous digital fortresses, each holding a duplicate of the identity of anyone who has ever been a customer. These centralized servers that are holding all the information are rich, obvious targets for cybercriminals. No matter how many digital moats, archers, and catapults the defenders build and deploy, the attackers will keep coming.

Here at Peer Mountain, we realized that by harnessing blockchain technology, we could give individuals back control of their personal information and enable them to store it in a distributed ledger, thus helping effectively mitigate the risk of identity theft. Peer Mountain is a decentralized peer-to-peer trust marketplace that connects self-sovereign identity owners with regulatory-compliant service providers, and opens a new paradigm for how and where individuals and organizations conduct business.

What is self-sovereign identity and could you briefly explain the concept, its relation to service providers and trust providers within the Peer Mountain decentralized peer-to-peer trust marketplace?

We are living in changing times. There is now considerable consumer awareness and pressure to be able to better control access to their own data, and who can blame them. Developers can now harness blockchain technology to give consumers themselves further ownership of their own personal information, and enable them to store that information in a distributed ledger, thus helping effectively mitigate the risk of identity theft.

Self-sovereign identity goes beyond simply providing users with further ownership and control over their cryptographically secure identities, by offering an end-to-end application ecosystem designed to facilitate the commerce and exchange of digital and physical services. It facilitates trust and the secure sharing of information with multiple independent parties across broad networks while preserving traceability and compliance at every end of the transference of data.

How do users achieve security within your P2P trust marketplace and how can the digital identity stored on the blockchain help with meeting KYC and compliance requirements?

We effectively merge customer relationship management (CRM), compliance, and know your customer (KYC) into one platform. It is the ultimate CRM, because your customer manages himself or herself. It’s also the ultimate compliance platform because the customer manages themselves against the service dossier, and it is very easy to see whether the dossier is compliant.

For example, Peer Mountain’s technology can facilitate the full KYC and strong identity reporting to meet the anti-money laundering and counter-terror-financing requirements of a distributed exchange. We can run on the Bitcoin, Ethereum, or public blockchains, and can handle the exchange of Bitcoin to Ethereum and vice-versa when there are buyers and sellers. These apps would therefore be compliant with regulated financial services requirements because the blockchain enables the strong capability of providing identity and record-keeping.

Congratulations on the successful initial token sale! Could you give our readers more insights into further investments and developments of Peer Mountain after this funding?

Thank you! Our over-riding intent is to create a sustainable and long-lasting ecosystem that captures the value of trust in business relationships under regulatory constraints. Whilst we have a few specific goals for the upcoming 12 months, we view the creation of a community-driven and sustainable range of Peer Mountain instances across service sectors with as many consumers as possible as the overarching objective.

Further down the line though, we are planning for later versions of the architecture to be able to support organizations that want to model their structure through persona delegation and attach corporate identity documents to a main corporate persona. Organizations using Peer Mountain can use delegation to demonstrate ownership and control. We can then provide a verifiable record of these facts that can be shared with any organization or individual with a need to know. Specific bodies, such as a commercial registry or a trade authorizing body, can implement attestation engines to validate these facts.

How do you see the digital identity and the idea of trust surrounding this concept evolve in 2018? Moreover, where do you see your company in the next 5 to 10 years?

The need for self-sovereign identity will continue to grow among both individuals and organizations. In particular, we expect the concept to particularly appeal to banks, lawyers, accountants, and corporations involved in daily regulated transactions. We also expect that ecommerce players and those businesses affected by GDPR to be early adopters, as it will cause them to seek cost avoidance. Mobile providers, who have been slowly moving into the financial services sector, may constitute a major audience as well.

There are, also, those industries that have been trying to monetize the value that they carry; we believe that these will generate a very interesting and innovative marketplace for Peer Mountain’s Attestation Engines (PM AEs). For example, telecoms providers are getting into the KYC business by providing information on clients and this would naturally be automated with a PM AE. Similarly, official translation services are often required when businesses work across borders; a federation of PM AE-based translation services could provide legally signed and recognized translations to and from almost any language, allowing legally recognized translation experts to get revenue every time their translation is used to establish trust. Either way, the future is bright.

About Jed Grant, Founder and CEO, Peer Mountain

From California, Jed has designed, developed, implemented, and improved technology and processes that are still in use today. For the last decade, he has focused on practical technology-driven KYC, anti-money laundering (AML), and enhanced due diligence (EDD). Jed sits on the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce.


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Keywords: self sovereign identity, digital identity, blockchain, Jed Grant, Peer Mountain, identity theft, anti money laundering, Ethereum, P2P
Countries: World

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