This document is meant to describe an example to explain how Verifiable Credentials can be used in a practical example and for the reader to get a better understanding on how Verifiable Credentials work and why they are so important to create inherent trust in (business) transactions.
International Travel with a Minor
Malathi is traveling internationally with her 8-month-old son, Anand, to visit her mother. Anand’s father, Rajesh, has to work and is staying home.
This use case is very common and may seem easy enough. However, because of several reasons, can be a real headache (besides the challenge of travelling with a toddler in itself!).
In most countries a passport does not establish explicit relationship between every parent and their child. Also in most countries, the minor is either registered into the passport of one parent or has its own passport. In either case, the other parent is required to grant permission for the trip.
Today, there is a lot of (paper) work involved with such a seemingly simple case. First, Malathi needs to get a passport for Anand or make sure that he is registered in her or Rajesh’s passport. Second, she must obtain a written permission from Rajesh that she has guardianship and has permission for travel from Rajesh. This involves things like certified copies of Rajesh’s passport, a legalized signature, Anand’s Birth certificate, officially notarized translations.
Besides this paper tiger eating up a lot of time, fraud is not that difficult and in custody cases unfortunately quite common.
Enter a new digital world, where the W3C-based Digital Identity system replaces the role of the notary and makes this travel story much easier and safer.
In this world Malathi, Rajesh and little Anand already have a Digital Identity based on a W3C-DID. Those DIDs have, at some time in the past dealings with an official agency, already been anchored by a government issued credential and are part of their “Web of Trust” (1).
As an Issuer, Rajesh issues a Verifiable Credential – Permission to travel – to Malathi. She receives that VC and holds in in her W3C-compliant digital wallet of choice. She now can share this VC with companies or official agencies that want to verify this permission. The travel agency when she books her fights. Check-in agents at check-in. TSA-agents and Passport Control when leaves the country and when she arrives, etc.
When requested, she can also create and share a so-called Verifiable Presentation (VP) that contains multiple VCs, such as Malathi, Rajesh and Anand’s passports, Rajesh’s permission, Anand’s birth certificate, Malathi’s mother residen card, airline tickets, frequent flyer card, etc.
These companies and agencies, the so-called Verifiers, can automatically verify Malathi’s shared Verifiable Credentials. They can use any W3C-based software, which will first check the cryptographic proofs of the VC itself to determine that the VC is authentic and has not been tampered with and then authenticate Rajesh’s DID used to sign the Verifiable Credential. Linked through the Web of Trust they can also see that Rajesh’s DID has been anchored by one or more official agencies that act as Trusted Parties.
As you can clearly see, a common but otherwise complex case could easily be accommodated by a simple Verifiable Credential self-issued by Rajesh without the need of notary or officials and a lot of time-consuming paperwork. All, because Rajesh’s Digital Identity and Verifiable Credentials are secured with linked crypto-graphical proofs.
Anand is still a toddler and does not have his own digital wallet to hold his Verifiable Credentials. That is not a problem in the W3C Digital Identities system, as it accommodates the concept of Guardianship for minors or incapacitated individuals.
The W3C Digital Identities model offers several safeguards for threats such as stolen keys, impersonation, loss, exposure of private information, temporary or revoked validity of credentials. The original W3C Verifiable Credentials Use Cases document contains more details.