Hardware and software giant Microsoft today announced their plans to develop an open source, self-sovereign identity system for users via blockchain and distributed ledger technology. Their plan is to create a decentralized identity management platform to better secure users’ digital identities.
Microsoft already has its own identity platform in the Microsoft Authenticator app. Under Microsoft’s new direction, decentralized identities would be supported by the app; the new platform would only root a user’s hashed ID on blockchain. The rest of the users’ identity would be stored on a separate hub that even Microsoft doesn’t have access to and encrypted. Afterwards, third-party apps and services can request granular consent to access users’ data.
According to a blog post by Ankur Patel, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft’s Identity Division: “Each of us needs a digital identity we own, one which securely and privately stores all elements of our digital identity. This self-owned identity must be easy to use and give us complete control over how our identity data is accessed and used.”
Microsoft joined the ID20202 alliance—a global partnership looking to create a blockchain-based digital identity system for people lacking legal documentation—last month, which may speak to their motivation. At time of writing, it is not clear if and how this new blockchain-based identity management platform will be applied to enterprises. The platform seems designed to prevent password reuse hacks and credential theft, both of which are concerns to modern organizations.
Microsoft is not singular in its vision of blockchain as an identity management tool. Estonian security vendor Guardtime—considered the world’s largest blockchain company—already uses the technology as part of their scheme to replace public keys. How Microsoft will bypass the inherently public nature of blockchain in its decentralized identity platform, which is the mechanism that makes it so crucial to cryptocurrencies, will determine their success.