A Digital Identity Fit For The Metaverse

A Digital Identity Fit For The Metaverse

The coming rise of the Metaverse represents a new frontier for privacy, trust, and identity. A persistent virtual world where communications, finance, and personal profiles coalesce under one interoperable platform.

In the rapidly approaching world of Web 3.0 applications and services that underpin the Metaverse, it’s more important than ever to have a portable and composable digital identity that preserves privacy and provides security. One that won’t just offer proof of who you are and what you can access but also serves as a non-custodial cache for your virtual assets.

A Changing Paradigm

Think about it — in the metaverse you may choose to take on any of an infinite array of possible avatars. It’s not like real life, where your face goes a long way in proving who you are. Instead, you’re going to need a more ineffable means of instantly proving who is behind that outward appearance.

This is important for users and providers alike. The stakes in this new digital world will be even higher than they have been in existing social media spaces. For example, parents want to know that their kids are playing video games with other kids, or at least be aware if they’re repeatedly playing with someone three times their age.

What about buying virtual real estate? How can you be sure you’re not transacting with an illegitimate actor and inadvertently caught up in money laundering? Or even buying NFT art from a counterfeiter? The point is, we need to be sure that these entities are really who they say they are. Moreover, as the metaverse stands to generate even more personal data than ever before, every single user will want to know that their information is safe and belongs to them and them only.

New Technologies, Models Pave the Way

Luckily, this is already possible via Self-Sovereign ID (SSI). SSI is enabled by a system of trusted identifiers linked to real-world verification data, such as biometrics, and it is all made entirely enforceable thanks to an underlying blockchain and the implementation of Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs). Essentially, ZPKs facilitate the ability for one party to verify that the data from another party is accurate without revealing any personal information. This, along with W3C verifiable credentials, decentralized identifiers (DIDs), and encrypted communication standards, can create SSIs that are fully compatible across a multitude of platforms.

Users will still need to transact with the digital economy, whether in the metaverse or the meatspace. Being able to create, buy and sell from pretty much anywhere will be one of the cornerstones of how this new world will work. But with SSIs, you will bring the same consistent, portable identity with you no matter where you are, what you are doing, or what your current avatar looks like.

While Web 2.0 can be neatly summarized as a centralized monopoly of big tech firms harvesting user data, Web 3.0 turns that model on its head. Instead, the next evolution of the internet — and indeed, the Metaverse — is one where participants can tangibly claim ownership to digital assets, inclusive of their personal data and identity.

Within the current Web 2 environment, it's impossible to use your Google identity in an Apple -owned service; the same rings true for numerous other centralized services. Users have to make new accounts on every platform they wish to interact with, and they’re rarely cross-compatible.

Now though, with SSIs utilizing verifiable credentials and encrypted communication standards, these issues can be entirely bypassed by providing a non-custodial and platform-agnostic identity solution. This means users no longer have to input personal information, time and time over, to access different spaces and services. This new paradigm is about any user or business having complete trust in the multiple realms of the coming Metaverse and those who populate them.

What It Looks Like

The possibilities here are many. For example, online games themselves will no longer be closed ecosystems. The item you earned or crafted in one world can be brought with you into any other or even sold off-platform directly or through secondary markets. Purchases can be made through any retailer with one click, but you’ll only have to enter your information the very first time you set up the SSI, and that data can be kept entirely private. You can even do things like trustlessly prove that you hold enough funds for some transaction, like buying land, without revealing your balance.

It’s not just about opportunities either; it’s about a more secure experience. Unavoidably, all of the problems that currently exist on the internet will come to the Metaverse, just with much bigger stakes. Your assets and virtual land can’t be susceptible to being stolen with something as simple as an accidental click on a dangerous link or a SIM swapping attack; people just wouldn’t accept that. The new system needs to be foolproof, so foolproof that you couldn't even confirm the transaction if it isn’t the correct person or service on the other end. Whether that’s because of deception or user error should be irrelevant.

Always With You

The SSI model has an individual’s value — be it crypto, in-game items, or other NFTs — directly tied to their identity. It will be accessible with a simple click for physical services, like an Uber , as well as digital ones, like using a digital asset exchange. It also won’t be connected to a specific physical device, like a phone, that can be lost or stolen. Instead, a user's own biometric data will be able to verify who they are on the blockchain and give them access to their assets by simply being who they are. Any user could use any interface for the same purposes without actually risking one iota of their property or information.

We’re talking about a world where your personal cloud vault is effectively with you wherever you go. It won’t matter if you’re “in” the Metaverse or not; you will be connected to it. There will likely be many more powerful possibilities that can be enabled in the virtual world, but now there will be a tangible “link” between that and where we are now.

Importantly, however, for the metaverse, and the potential it offers, to come to fruition, it needs to be built correctly from the beginning — and that’s exactly what SSIs stand to provide this new, digital world.

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