Governments, nonprofits, and private sector firms across finance, health care, and enterprise software have teamed up with the Linux Foundation to build the Trust over IP (ToIP) Foundation, an independent project to enable trustworthy exchange and verification of data between any two parties on the internet.
The ToIP Foundation aims to establish a common standard for consumers and businesses to ensure data is coming from a trusted source. Digital identity models that leverage interoperable digital wallets and credentials in tandem the new W3C Verifiable Credentials standard will be used to address these challenges and enable consumers, businesses, and governments to better manage risk, improve digital trust, and protect all forms of identity online.
The “Trust over IP Stack” employs a dual-stack approach of technical interoperability and policy interoperability that originated out of the HyperLedger digital identity projects Indy, Aries, and Ursa. The umbrella HyperLedger open source project is focused on business applications of blockchain technology, as opposed to cryptocurrency applications.
“Often in the digital identity space, interoperability is confined to technology,” wrote Alex Andrade-Walz, director of marketing at Evernym, one of the founding 28 member organizations that launched ToIP, in a blog post. “Yet, what’s often missing from these conversations is the importance of policy interoperability. Solutions don’t just have to work with one another; they have to work with the rich tapestry of business, legal, and social requirements of different jurisdictions and industries around the world.”
ToIP: Identification, Please
The foundation to any relationship – be it personal, professional, or even community related – begins with trust. The simple fact is that we live in the era of the internet and our digital lives, much like our physical, also require trust in the relationships that are forged online. To be successful in this digital landscape, businesses must be able to build trusted relationships with their customers beyond the physical spaces represented by storefronts and square footage.
Given the current climate – which is likely to be confined to the parameters of an at-home office – our in-person lives are now almost entirely digital. And despite the convenience of accessibility to endless varieties of goods and services, digital trust is still missing.
According to John Jordan, executive director of British Columbia’s digital transformation arm, there’s a new push to return to the in-person process of verifying credentials where users can become a card carrying member again – that card being anything from a government identity to air miles or a book club. The in-person process of verification provided a means to “understand credentials as we thought that the physical thing in front of us – the money, the card, the contract – to be a legitimate representation of a trusted set of processes governed under a set of governance rules,” explained Jordan.
Passing a library card over the counter to a librarian works just fine in-person, however, the success of that process does not translate over into the digital environment.
In the beginning of computing, the login process was a new ceremony and that ceremony happened within the confines of a physical facility where access was granted using in-person credentials. “But when we got to the point where we technologically could login remotely, we never actually introduced a new ceremony that said a login was occurring by a person that I know and trust through in-person credentials,” Jordan said.
“This is the trust gap that the internet has today,” he added. “We never fixed it, we never came to be in a place that we knew how to, and by the time we got to the point of the internet we had these global scale issues of hundreds of passwords, data breaches, and identity theft.”
Identity grants our access to the digital world and Jordan believes that the ToIP Foundation can fill the trust gap with a decision making framework to reduce uncertainty.
Drummond Reed, chief trust officer at digital identity startup Evernym, said the ToIP Foundation addresses the need to establish one place where the whole world can focus on “completing and hardening the technical stack so that the technology implementation choices for customers anywhere from a government, to an industry, specific business, university, city, or church are clear, and they’re driven by their choices on governance.”
“You can use all the technology in the world but unless people and the organizations that they represent – and the things that they connect to – all have a common governance framework or set of policies for how they’re going to use that technology, you don’t actually produce real world trust, you don’t solve business, social, governmental problems that we need this infrastructure for,” Reed said.