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More About Verifiable Credentials

A Credential is a qualification, achievement, quality, or piece of information about something or someone, like a name, government ID, payment provider, home address, or university degree.

A Verifiable Credential is a tamper-evident data-object that contains a specific Claim and that is cryptographically secure, privacy respecting, and machine-verifiable.

In this ever-increasing digital world, Trust and Privacy are amongst our biggest concerns, both as private persons, as well as organizations. From fraud to theft, from gossip to slander, from misinformation to lies, this digital world is a dangerous place.

Verifiable Credentials is one of the most important technologies that will help us to make in more secure and trustworthy.

A Verifiable Credential is a tamper-evident credential that has authorship that can be cryptographically verified. One or several Verifiable Credentials can be used to build Verifiable Presentations, which can also be cryptographically verified. The claims in a credential can be about different subjects.
(W3C Verifiable Claims working group)

How do we create trust currently?

Currently, we are trusting central authorities. We have the state issue driver licenses, passports, identity cards, visa, social security numbers. Tax authorities providing income and tax data both for natural persons as well as businesses.
We have the Chamber of Commerce providing incorporation data about businesses and people associated with it. Employers providing proofs about employment and wages, to name a few.

If you are lucky this data is provided in some digital form as well, but most of the times it is not. Even if it is provided in a digital form it rarely is interchangeable. We are stuck with information scattered across paper most of the time.
What happens when you want to get a mortgage? You go through this whole Know Your Customer (KYC) process, where they gather all kinds of information about yourself and your potential partner. Information is being scanned, archived, duplicated into backend systems. That is after you have gathered everything and handed it over to the mortgage provider.

Trusted? Safe? Secure?

Have you ever wondered why we trust most of that information? Simply because it is printed on official paper and with easy access to the entity that provided the information in the form of phone numbers and e-mail addresses. In a few cases there are security features incorporated in the document(s) itself, f.i. passports are a great example of documents with security features.

But have you ever wondered how many times that document and data has been copied and shared? Or how many entities still have that data on file somewhere? How many people have accessed this information? How is that secured? Has it been hacked?

What are Verifiable Credentials?

A Verifiable Credential is a tamper-evident data-object that contains a specific Claim and that is cryptographically secure, privacy respecting, and machine-verifiable.

That Claim can be about anything about something or someone. Anything really.

  • a certification of origin, like for coffee, steel or timber
  • the value or providence of a diamond, piece of art or (antique) car
  • your qualification or achievement, like a diploma, degree, certificate or competency
  • personal information, like your birthday, home address, bank account

What makes a Claim Verifiable is that it is digitally signed by an Issuer, like the government, school, employer, and that this can be independently verified by you and others. These Issuers are sometimes also called Trusted Parties or as Oracles.

Trust is derived from the fact that the Verifiable Credential is signed by one or multiple parties that you (or the third party) trusts. The more Trusted Parties confirm and sign it, the higher the level of trust.

Whats next?

We have published several posts about our vision around Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs), Verifiable Credentials (VCs), Zero Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs), Tokenizations, etc. and how they fit together.

Let us know what you think.

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