What is Self-Sovereign Identity, and How Can it Revolutionize Data Collection and Targeting?

Self-Sovereign Identity has the potential to revolutionize data collection and targeting by giving individuals control over their digital identities, enhancing security, and reshaping the advertising industry.

In an era where the digital realm permeates every facet of our lives, from online banking to social media interactions, preserving audiences’ digital identities has become paramount. 

In today’s interconnected world, a digital identity encompasses any piece of information existing online that can be linked back to an individual or organization. This can range from the obvious, such as usernames and passwords, to more intricate data, like bank accounts and even consumers’ social media photos. Their digital identity is the digital representation of who they are in the virtual realm.

From the publisher perspective, with increased scrutiny on privacy regulations, the relationship between the publisher and the consumer is changing. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about fraud threats from bad actors and how brands are utilizing their data. For example, Apple released a commercial last year, where a woman walked into an auction where attendees bid on her online consumer data. Even Netflix’s Black Mirror aired an episode titled, “Joan is Awful,” that highlighted streaming services predatory data collection practices. 

With these ideas in the public consciousness, traditional methods of identity verification, once considered reliable, have proven insufficient in safeguarding consumers’ personal information against data breaches. As their digital footprints expand, so does the urgency of addressing the vulnerabilities of outdated identity management systems. As we delve into the Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) concept, we will examine how it offers a transformative solution to the challenges plaguing conventional identity management and can help ease data aggregation in the ad tech supply chain.  

What Is Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI)?

Imagine a digital realm where you, and only you, hold the keys to your identity kingdom. Self-sovereign identity makes this a reality. At its core, SSI is a revolutionary model that grants individuals complete ownership and authority over their digital identities without intermediaries. Unlike traditional centralized identity systems that rely on third-party providers, SSI puts consumers in the driver’s seat, allowing them to determine who can access their personal data and when and how that access is granted or revoked.

SSI technology represents a significant departure from the conventional approach to digital identity. It liberates individuals from dependence on third-party entities to store and manage their personal data. SSI and decentralized identity have become synonymous, highlighting the shift towards a user-centric approach.

The Trust Triangle: Holder, Issuer, and Verifier

At the heart of the Self-Sovereign Identity system lies a dynamic trio: the Holder, the Issuer, and the Verifier. This interaction between these three key participants is often called “the trust triangle.” It is the linchpin of SSI’s functionality. Here’s a brief breakdown of their roles:

Holder: The Holder is the individual who takes the reins of their digital identity. They create their decentralized identifier using a digital wallet app and are responsible for receiving Verifiable Credentials, which are akin to digital certificates proving specific attributes. 

Issuer: The Issuer is a party vested with the authority to issue these Verifiable Credentials. Depending on the context, this could be an organization, institution, or even the government.

Verifier: The Verifier is the entity seeking to verify the authenticity of a credential. This could be a service provider, an employer, or any party requiring certain information.

In this trust triangle, the Holder maintains complete control over their data. Each time a Verifier requests access to specific information, the Holder has the ultimate say in granting or denying that access. The process ensures that your digital identity remains firmly under your jurisdiction, instilling a newfound sense of security and autonomy in the digital realm.

The Three Pillars of Self-Sovereign Identity

At the heart of SSI’s transformative potential are its three foundational pillars:

Blockchain: SSI’s bedrock is blockchain technology, a decentralized and tamper-resistant database that underpins the security and integrity of digital identities. Leveraging the power of blockchain, SSI systems ensure that data remains inviolable and resistant to tampering, thereby providing an unassailable foundation for the protection of digital identities.

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs): DIDs enable individuals to forge their online identities independently, free from reliance on centralized entities. These unique codes, securely stored on a blockchain, give users unprecedented control over their personal information and data accessibility. With DIDs, the reins of digital identity are firmly in the hands of the individual, ensuring a robust defense against unauthorized access.

Verifiable Credentials (VCs): Verifiable Credentials (VCs) are the digital counterparts of conventional credentials like certificates and licenses. Individuals can present cryptographically secured VCs to verifiers as indisputable proof of their qualifications or identity. This cryptographic assurance ensures credentials’ authenticity, safeguarding against fraudulent claims and misrepresentations.

The SSI Publisher Effect 

Unlike traditional methods that rely on extensive data collection and matching, SSI allows consumers to self-resolve, carrying their information. This shift streamlines the process and ensures more accurate data, resulting in better ad performance. Advertisers can now target their audience with pinpoint accuracy, leading to increased ad effectiveness. 

From a publisher’s perspective, the advantages of SSI are clear. First and foremost, it offers the opportunity to eliminate the middleman and reduce the burden of ad tax-related expenses. This means revenue can flow back directly to publishers, enhancing their profitability. Additionally, the increased accuracy of user data results in more targeted ads, leading to happier partners who are more inclined to invest further in advertising campaigns.

Looking beyond the immediate benefits, SSI also significantly impacts traditional data collection practices and targeting methods in the ad tech industry. SSI eliminates the need for entities to collect and store vast amounts of user data, addressing concerns related to privacy regulations and legal issues. As the regulatory environment becomes more complex, SSI simplifies the landscape and reduces the risk associated with data collection.

In conclusion, adopting Self-Sovereign Identity is poised to revolutionize the digital advertising industry. It enhances efficiency and promotes accuracy, transparency, and compliance with evolving privacy regulations. If publishers embrace this technology, they stand to benefit from increased revenue and more satisfied advertising partners.