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

RE: "Decentralized identity" is a *better* choice. Others use "self-asserted," I think this has some of the same socio-cultural issues that "Self-sovereign" has.

  1.  QUESTION: Why is there this pervasive (pandemic?) of thinking spreading across so many of our communities (CCG, SF, ToIP, etc.) about giving in to this type of authoritarian, centralizationist thinking?
Why are people giving up on self-sovereignty in such large numbers?

  1.  RE: "Decentralized identity" is a *better* choice.

“Decentralized identity” is not a concept that is equivalent to “self-sovereign identity”.

This implies one is willing to give up one’s right to “exclusively and permanently exert control over the usage of one or more associated Personal Digital Identifiers and, independently, the usage of any associated Personal Identity Data associated with each Personal Digital Identifier” in exchange for simple verifiability by itself.

Perhaps we can universally adopt position statements like:
[XYZ] supports the principles of full, anonymous self-sovereign identity … (and “decentralized identity” where it is not possible to do so).

Best regards,
Michael Herman
Far-left Self-Sovereignist

From: Heather Vescent <>
Sent: March 22, 2021 12:34 PM
To: W3C Credentials CG (Public List) <>
Subject: Re: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)

I know folks on this list love to be precise in their language... ah, gotta love the engineer's mind. But I want to provide a futurist/poet's perspective.

As Manu wrote, and many of us know first-hand, there are socio-cultural issues with the term "self-sovereign." It has baggage specifically from a western individualist libertarian perspective. Some people use "self-sovereign" with these assumptions attached, others fight against those assumptions. The general business consensus is that that term (self-sovereign) is too charged, and the interpretations people bring to it, get in the way of communicating the benefits. (See Microsoft's first whitepaper using Decentralized Identity & aside: I would have changed the title of the Comprehensive Guide to SSI but it was already out there in the world.)

"Decentralized identity" is a *better* choice. Others use "self-asserted," I think this has some of the same socio-cultural issues that "Self-sovereign" has. (I did a survey asking specifically this question about a year ago, but I have not done a detailed data analysis, so these are off the cuff comments.) IMHO, the term that will describe the technology we are creating (SSI/DI/SA/DIDs/VCs) hasn't been coined yet. And even more controversial, I doubt it will be coined by anyone in this community or an early adopter.

Why? Because we are swimming in a world of biases - biases because we are co-creators of the vision and technology of SSI. And we are hyper technical in this community, which is not reflective of society at large.

I don't think this is really a big deal. Use whichever term you like with the appropriate caveats until the defining term comes along. Maybe take a moment to get real with yourself on why you like that particular term. A lot of people like the unconscious/challenging authority attributions of "self sovereign."

IMHO, making what we are doing/creating in this community more accessible to outsiders, with their fresh view unadulterated by our years of philosophical discussion is what will give us clarity on the potential impact of our work here - which may lead to a better socio-cultural verbal identifier.


On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:22 AM victorsyntez <<>> wrote:
+100  to this perspective, especially #3. Many Asian countries and a number of European countries consider community stability more important than individual freedoms. We can't expect them to agree with the notion that privacy and self-sovereignity of the digital identity is more important that government oversight of the digital identity.


Sent from my Galaxy

-------- Original message --------
From: Manu Sporny <<>>
Date: 2021-03-22 6:32 a.m. (GMT-08:00)
Subject: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)

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 -

Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Veres One Decentralized Identifier Blockchain Launches

Heather Vescent<>
Co-Chair, Credentials Community Group @W3C<>
President, The Purple Tornado, Inc<>
Author, The Secret of Spies<> (Available Oct 2020)
Author, The Cyber Attack Survival Manual<> (revised, Dec 2020)
Author, A Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity<>

@heathervescent<> | Film Futures<> | Medium<> | LinkedIn<> | Future of Security Updates<>

Received on Tuesday, 23 March 2021 13:08:34 UTC