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article imageMicrosoft to use blockchain to build decentralised identities

By James Walker     Feb 14, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft has announced plans to develop a decentralised blockchain-based identity system. In a blog post, the company supported the idea of using blockchain as a "foundation" to store and distribute user IDs. It will add support to its Authenticator app.
Blockchain's open ledger could transform the way in which digital identities are stored and maintained. By adding user information to the blockchain, decentralised environments would be able to instantaneously verify a user's identity and obtain their details. Because the blockchain's immutable and tamper-proof, security is enforced at the data storage layer.
Microsoft's now added its support to the idea. In a blog post this week, it revealed it has been considering ways to develop blockchain-based identity solutions over the past year. The company said the technology could be the key to developing digital identities that individuals can own and control. It will enable the removal of centralised storage repositories that are opaque to users and may be targeted by attackers.
"We believe it is essential for individuals to own and control all elements of their digital identity," said Microsoft. "Rather than grant broad consent to countless apps and services, and have their identity data spread across numerous providers, individuals need a secure encrypted digital hub where they can store their identity data and easily control access to it."
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Microsoft said that models for the concept system can be found in existing public blockchains. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and others have all demonstrated the feasibility of the open ledger format. The company is now working out the details of applying blockchain technology to decentralised digital identities, aiming to build an open and interoperable solution to overhaul digital IDs.
Microsoft recognised that challenges lie ahead. One of the biggest issues will be in scaling the technology so the authentication system is simultaneously available to millions of users across the world. Current public blockchain networks are limited by their block capacity, an issue that will need to be resolved before a global authentication system could be devised.
Microsoft said it's working with the Decentralized Identity Foundation to begin developing ways of tackling the "massive challenge." While it starts the work on building a blockchain-based ID network, the company's preparing to release an early experiment in the near future.
The company's Authenticator app will be updated to include support for Decentralized Identities, allowing you to store and manage ID info and cryptographic keys. Apps and services will then be able to obtain your identity by interacting with the service and requesting your consent. It's expected to release later this year.
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