Author:
Jeremy Wilson, co-chairman of Whitechapel Think Tank


Proving who we are is a regular experience in the digital economy – whether we are a business or individual. But how we prove our identity in some cases – including in the financial services industry – is the subject of much legislation and regulation.

The standard of proof required to prove your identity varies depending on what we are trying to do – from opening a bank account, signing up for a utility or creating a social media account. We use various sources of data to show who we are- passports, driving licences and utility bills are typical proofs.

Whilst the digital economy promises more efficient ways of transacting, it must be supported by a robust system for establishing and validating identities. For that reason, there is a wide-ranging debate about digital identity, public and commercial identity solutions and innovation in both the public sector and commercial market.

The Whitechapel Think Tank (WTT) was set up as an open and inclusive network of industry, regulators, academics and UK government representatives to consider the application of advanced technology and, in particular, distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the financial services industry. This new report published today, titled ‘un-blocking identity in a digital world’ explores how DLT could provide a solution to the “identity problem” – where current methods are costly to the industry and the source of customer friction.

So how could DLT help? It enables a decentralised approach not only to sharing sources of data that are used to undertake a proof of identity, but also to fostering a market for the identity proofs that are created as a result. DLT – implemented in the right way can leave the individual or business in control of their data, allows proof of identity to be decentralised rather than maintained in a central authority, and unlocks commercial opportunities for firms that must establish and validate identities. This paper suggests looking at the technology to solve the identity problem, which I believe is an important contribution to this debate.

Facing the identity problem