SK Telecom executive: Do we really need to reveal our personal identity to buy beer?

“The blockchain strategy should not be established by a single company or led by [private] projects but on a national level,” said Oh Se-hyeon, SK Telecom’s executive vice president in charge of blockchain business. “Decentralized identity (DID) is aimed at replacing the ID-password system established 20 to 30 years. The question is not about immediate revenue--it’s necessary preparation for the future.” The remarks were Oh’s response to a local reporter’s question: “Why should SK invest in the DID business, which doesn’t generate profits at the moment?” Oh was one of the speakers at D.Fine, a blockchain conference held at the Grand Intercontinental Parnas in Gangnam, Seoul, and made the comments on Sept. 30. Below are excerpts from her speech and interview with local reporters. Q. SK Telecom is a company. The DID project doesn’t seem like it will generate profits. Is it sustainable? "DID is a paradigm shift that overturns the ID-password system that everybody has used for 20 to 30 years. It’s not a question about whether or not it will generate profit in the short term. Profits are not the only key performance indicator. [The company] won’t stop the business just because it doesn’t immediately make money." Q. You’re heading the DID project at the moment. A fundamental question would be what’s wrong with proving one’s identity with ID cards? "Let’s say you buy beer from a convenience store. The staff will surely ask for your ID card because you have to prove you’re not a minor. But the problem is, an ID card contains information—your photo, name, personal ID number, address and the issuing authority. Apart from the fact that I’m a legal adult, I also disclose other crucial personal information. It’s reality that I have to expose all this just to buy beer. Blockchain-based DID services can stop this." Q. But nobody thinks it’s a problem to expose personal information when buying beer at a convenience store. "The public’s perception is changing. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 was passed by the state assembly last year. This law will be effective on Jan. 1, 2020. According to it, any California resident will be entitled to know where personal information is sent or sold to, the purpose of use and who will be granted access. Social awareness of personal information is rising." Q. We can leave the problem to individuals to choose what personal information they want to hand over according to different circumstances. Do we really need to rely on DID to solve this problem? "I want to raise the issue of Siloed Identity. Users have different IDs and passwords for each service, but human memory has limits. People often write them down in memos or save them on the cloud system, but at some point, a problem occurs. These problems can be solved through DID." Q. How can DID offer a solution? "With SK Telecom’s DID service, the phone plays the role of a self-authorized wallet. The ‘issuer’ issues credentials and the ‘holder’ is the one possessing it. A ‘verifier’ confirms those credentials, and in this case, it’s data that proves identity. In this process, DID takes on the role of an identifier that protects personal information and solves the problem of forgeries of digital information. Self-sovereign identity keeping is made possible this way." Q. Give us a brief explanation of SK Telecom’s electronic ID verification service in the making. "The electronic ID verification service is offered for issuing various verification documents and testing authenticity, through a DID-based blockchain network and the SDK platform. SK Telecom devised a structure that offers various credentials. DID and SSI are used to offer ID cards, driver’s licenses, passports, student IDs, certificates, membership and contract documents."

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