Microsoft’s dream of decentralized credentials enters the real world


For years, technology companies have touted blockchain technology as a way to develop secure identity systems and decentralized. The goal is to build a platform that could store information about official data without holding the actual documents or the details themselves. Instead of just storing a scan of your birth certificate, for example, a decentralized ID platform can store a validated token that confirms the information it contains. Then when you are patented in a bar or need proof of citizenship, you can share those pre-verified credentials instead of the actual document or data. Microsoft was one of the leaders of this pack—And now details tangible progress towards its vision of decentralized digital ID.

At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced that it will launch a public preview of its “Azure Active Directory verifiable credentials” this spring. Think of the platform as a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, but for credentials rather than credit cards. Microsoft starts with things like college transcripts, diplomas, and work credentials, letting you add them to its Microsoft Authenticator app with two-factor codes. He is already testing the platform at Keio University in Tokyo, with the Flemish government in Belgium and with the National Health Service in the UK.

“If you have a decentralized ID, I can check, for example, where you went to school and I don’t need you to send me all the information,” says Joy Chik, vice president of the school. Microsoft’s Cloud and Corporate Identity division. “All I need is to get these digital credentials and since they’ve already been verified I can trust them.”

Microsoft will be releasing a SDK in the coming weeks that organizations can use to start building apps that issue and request credentials. And in the long term, the company hopes the system can be used worldwide for everything from renting an apartment to establishing the identity of struggling undocumented refugees.a dream of virtually all decentralized identification efforts.

In the NHS pilot, for example, healthcare providers can request access to professional certifications from existing NHS healthcare workers, who in turn may choose to authorize this access, streamlining a transfer process. to another establishment that previously required a much more involved and forward return. As part of Microsoft’s setup, you can also revoke access to your credentials if the recipient no longer needs access.

“In the NHS system, in every hospital that health workers go to, it took months of effort to verify their credentials before they could practice,” Chik says. “Now it literally takes five minutes to get registered at the hospital and start treating patients. “

Interoperability is a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of a decentralized identification system. Having 10 competing executives wouldn’t make it any easier for anyone. Currently, there are potential competitors, such as an offer by Mastercard it is still in test. Microsoft’s omnipresence potentially makes it a good candidate for rallying a critical mass of users. With this in mind, the company developed Azure Active Directory verifiable credentials from open authentication standards, such as the World Wide Web Consortium. WebAuthn. This should make it easier for customers to adopt the platform and other tech giants to support its use in their products as well. Currently, Microsoft is working with digital identity partners Socure, Lexis Nexis, and Onfido to drive the platform, and Chik says the goal is to quickly grow that list over time.

“We believe that to do this well, we need the participation of the whole community, no organization can do it,” said Vasu Jakkal, vice president of security, compliance and identity at Microsoft. “One step at a time, we are moving towards that vision.”

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