How a (Self Sovereign Identity) SSI system would work in practice (short description in simple language)

Let’s say a company in Cyprus has built and launched a blockchain-enabled Self Sovereign Identity platform or layer. You want to participate and create your Self Sovereign Identity because you liked and agree with the idea of having full ownership and control of your identity and associated data. You go on the platform and what you do is taking certain steps after accepting the platform’s terms and conditions and following the platform’s instructions to generate your ID number. Sounds wired ah? Yes, you alone follow the steps to generate your id number on the platform.

At the same time, following the instructions again, you download a digital identity wallet – a kind of an APP- on your smartphone. You will need this APP on the smartphone (of course you can have it on any device) for storing your id number and all associated data and information which relate to your identity. Your digital identity wallet would start empty, you do not have anything in there yet, you just started, remember? You have only generated your ID number following the instructions of the platform, in fact, you self-generated that number which of course derived from certain mathematical equations automatically made by the technology empowering the platform and your public and corresponding private key. Cryptography is involved of course here, yes? At this stage, no one else in the world knows about this identification number of yours. Only you. It is yours. You created it yourself. It is self-sovereign.

Don’t confuse this with your physical ID number or passport number or any other number ok? This new self-generated identification number will represent your digital identity in the digital world. And this number will be used by you, with the help of your public and private key to connect all your relevant to your identity data and information. The system, the platform, and the empowering technology, blockchain in this case, ensures that no one else will generate the same identification number as you. So, what you do next? You then use this identification number along with your identity claims and get attestations from relevant authorities that issue documents related to your identity, such as the government authority which issues identities and passports for us, the authority responsible for our driving licenses issuance, the police department, hospital, etc. Let me simplify further here; what you do exactly? You use that unique identification number which you self-generated on the platform together with an identity claim. What is an identity claim? I am Christiana Aristidou constitutes an identity claim. So, what do I do? I use the identification number which I have generated, and I make my first identity claim to the governmental authority which knows my name because that governmental authority has issued my physical identity card. I send my identity claim I am Christiana to that authority together with a digital copy of my physical identity card. In other words, this first time, 3 things will be sent together to the relevant authority, my unique identification number which I self-generated on the platform, my proof which proves I am Christiana, and my claim, my identity claim. I sent this claim because I need a reply from the relevant authority, I need to get an attestation from the authority that issued my ID that I am indeed Christiana in order to connect my name to my unique digital identification number which I self-generated on the platform. I will receive the attestation from the governmental authority in the form of a sequence of numbers and letters which I will store in my digital identity wallet APP on my smartphone.

As soon as I will have to show that I am Christiana, I will use the APP on my phone, my public/private keys and will share this attestation which now is a piece of my identity with a third party. I will share that sequence of numbers and letters which is the attestation I received from the authority which in fact represents the following: I am Christiana. The third-party can verify the authenticity of that sequence of numbers and letters which I shared with them because they wanted to know my name, they can verify directly with the authority or the relevant party depending on the data used. In the same way as just described one can make as many identity claims as he/she wants and receive the relevant attestations which will later use as needed with third parties.

Christiana Aristidou