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Re: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)

From: Daniel Burnett <daniel.burnett@entethalliance.org>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2021 15:10:04 +0000
To: Adrian Gropper <agropper@healthurl.com>, Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
CC: W3C Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
Message-ID: <BN7PR15MB235447FCBEBA7E20F0EACEE8E2659@BN7PR15MB2354.namprd15.prod.outlook.com>
One of the ways I have explained VCs (and DIDs) since 2014 is as technologies that "attempt to solve the problems people claim they need identity for, but without explicitly defining identity".  We have been very particular in our specifications to avoid use of the word 'identity' wherever possible.

Dan Burnett
(and for those who don't know, co-editor of VC spec, Co-chair of DID WG and original VC WG)

From: Adrian Gropper <agropper@healthurl.com>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2021 10:41 AM
To: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Cc: W3C Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
Subject: Re: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)

+1 Manu, no sense in tormenting the beast. But, as with COVID vaccines, there's something new here. So we're seeing folks use, "Distributed Identity" or worse, spread fear about "Digital Identity". VCs and DIDs, as names, do not address identity.

I guess your suggestion is to avoid defining identity in any particular way. That could work.


On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:31 AM Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com<mailto:msporny@digitalbazaar.com>> wrote:
On 3/21/21 11:57 PM, Adrian Gropper wrote:
> Are we, as a community, being shy in using self-sovereign to describe our
> perspective?

My response below is for people that feel like the question above has an easy
answer. I expect the following to be misconstrued or quoted out of context,
which is sad, but here goes; everything below is said without any value

Remember that not all nations and people of the world view "self-sovereign" as
a purely positive thing. I'm not shy about using it, just very careful, and
tend to avoid it as it tends to distract focused conversations.

To speak to at least three overly-broad categories, self-sovereign is not
viewed as an entirely positive thing among:

1. Authoritarian-leaning groups.
2. Non-authoritarian sovereign governments.
3. Non-western societies where the importance of the
   individual is not placed above the importance
   of the community.

I don't think that anyone is here to support #1 above. #2 and #3 are why I
tend to be careful about using the word "self-sovereign". It's useful when
speaking to others that understand the nuance. It can be thoroughly confusing
or shut down conversations with those that don't... and even when educated
about the nuances, the message doesn't land well with the latter two groups.

I end up doing far more damage control when the word "self-sovereign" is
included than if I just stick to "verifiable credentials and decentralized

-- manu

Manu Sporny - https://www.linkedin.com/in/manusporny/
Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Veres One Decentralized Identifier Blockchain Launches
Received on Monday, 22 March 2021 15:10:20 UTC

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