An Interview on Self-sovereign Identity with Kaliya Young: The Identity Women

Understanding the future of the Internet and the flows of identity & personal information


I enjoyed interviewing Kaliya Young, The Identity Women, last week, during an Identity Praxis Experts Corner Interview on November 13, 2020.

About Kaliya and Her Purpose


Kaliya, “The Identity Women,” is a preeminent expert in all things identity and personal information management standards, protocols, resources, and relationships.

If you listen to our interview, you’ll hear about her purpose and passion, how she is living it, and how she helps guide the world down a path toward self-sovereignty. At the end of this path is the promise that one day people—you, me…everyone—will have control, i.e., self-determination and agency, over their identity and personal information.

Kaliya’s purpose is to answer this profound question: “How do we own, control, manage, and represent ourselves in the digital world, independently of the BigTech companies (Facebook, Google, etc.)?”

For the last 15+ years, Kaliya has been at the center of the self-sovereign identity (SSI) movement.

The SSI movement is all about creating open standards and technologies that change how identity and personal information are collected, managed, and exchanged throughout society. In other words, SSI is about getting our identity out of the grip of BigTech and into the hands of the individual, the data subject. But, SSI is so much more; it is also about evolving the Internet, making it more efficient and secure, and creating new opportunities for businesses to innovate and to forge new and lasting relationships with the people they serve.

The Opportunities form SSI.

In our interview, Kaliya highlights several opportunities that SSI can make possible, including:

  • The availability of new protocols will make it possible to securely and efficiently move data across the Internet without it being centralized in a few players’ hands.
  • The possibility for people to have control over their identity and data is created and moved, rather than it being in control of BigTech like Facebook and Google (see Kaliya’s Jan. 2020 interview in Wired, where she discusses making Facebook obsolete).
  • The chance for businesses to build a new kind of trusted, secure, and transparent relationship with their customers, and to do so while saving time, money, and reducing risk (Kaliya recommends that you check out DIDComm Messaging, an emerging protocol that is promised to bring this opportunity to light).

SSI Use Cases

It is still early days for SSI, but people worldwide are working diligently to create the foundation of SSI so that a wealth of privacy and people-centric services can come to light.

Following my interview with Kaliya, I took a look at the W3C Verifiable Credentials Working Group (VCWG), as recommended by Kaliya. The W3C VCWG is a team diligently working on adding a new, secure identity management layer to the Internet. Among other efforts that they are working on, I found that, in Sept. 2020, they released a list of use cases and technical requirements for self-sovereign identity, see the Use Cases and Requirements for Decentralized Identifiers draft spec.

Here is a list of high-lighted use cases,

  • The online shopper is assured that the product they’re buying is authentic.
  • Owners of manufactured goods, e.g., a car, can track the product’s ownership history and the provenance of every part (original and replaced) while preserving players’ anonymity up and down the supply chain for the life of the product.
  • Support for data vaults, aka personal data stores; people can securely store their data in the cloud and be confident that they and only they have access to it and that they can offer fine-grained access to their data when they want to. For example, they can securely share their age in a way that someone else can verify and trust without needing the person’s actual birth date or any additional information.
  • Track verifiable credentials back to their issuer; people or organizations looking to verify someone’s data will be able to track a verifiable credential or piece of data back to a trusted source, like a chamber of commerce, bank, or DMV.
  • New and improved data exchange consent management, not just for data exchange but to manage online tracking to power personalization and analytics
  • Power secure and anonymous payments
  • Secure physical and digital identity cards or licensing credentials that allow for fine-grained control of exactly what data is shared when the proof of identity or licensee rights need to be verified

The Challenges for SSI

According to Kaliya, the most significant challenges that we must overcome to make SSI a reality include,

  • Counteract the inertia of the status-quo; people don’t like change; they are used to existing knowledge-based authentication practices, processes, and systems.
  • People’s awareness generation and adoption of new SSI empowered services.
  • Education for everyone: developers, users, executives, customers, clients, investors, regulators, and so much more.
  • The new market model, i.e., we now face a three-sided market, and all the business models and systems operations must evolve to accommodate the new use cases.

Kaliya: A wealth of resources and knowledge 

Kaliya is a wealth of knowledge.

She knows the SSI industry structure. She knows the leading players. She can point you to the right resources to introduce you to people that can help you understand, plan, and execute SSI solutions and services.

To put a fine point on it, working with Kaliya can save you months, if not years, of stumbling around in the dark as you look to figure out what SSI can do for you and your business.

Here are just a few of the people and resources that Kaliya high-lighted and alluded to in our interview:

  • Decentralized Identity Foundation, a leading industry group spearheading SSI standards.
  • W3C Credentials community group, a leading industry group spearheading SSI standards.
  • Trust over IP Foundation, a leading industry group spearheading SSI standards and governance models.
  • Kim Cameron and the 7 Laws of Identity, a godfather and visionary in all things identity
  • DIDComm Messaging Protocol, a protocol for trusted data exchange
  • Internet Identity Workshop, a bi-annual incoherence where all things SSI are discussed
  • Domains of Identity, a book she wrote on identity.
  • Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity, a book she wrote on self-sovereign identity.

That’s it for now. Enjoy. We’ll be sure to bring Kaliya back soon.

Managing Partner at Identity Praxis, Inc. | Website | + posts

Michael Becker is an intentionally recognized identity & personal information management solutions strategic advisor, speaker, entrepreneur, and academic. He advises companies on personal information economy business strategy, product development, business development, and sales & marketing strategies. He also represents them at leading trade groups, including the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. Michael is an advisor to Assurant, Predii, Privowny, and Phoji. He is the co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies and a number of other books and articles related to mobile marketing, identity, and personal information management. He is on the faculty of marketing of the Association of National Advertisers and National University. A serial entrepreneur, Michael founded Identity Praxis, co-founded mCordis and The Connected Marketer Institute, was a founding member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and was on the MMA board of directors for ten years and was MMA’s North American Managing Director for three years. In 2004, Michael co-founded iLoop Mobile, a leading messaging solutions provider. In 2014, Michael was awarded the 2014 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Education Leadership Award for his commitment to marketing education.

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