Web3 User Identity Needs to be Transparent and Secure by@ishanpandey
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Web3 User Identity Needs to be Transparent and Secure

by Ishan Pandey9mJune 27th, 2022
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ShareRing has pioneered the World's first user-focussed ecosystem for the issuance, storage, verification and sharing of personal information and key documents.

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Tim Bos, CEO at ShareRing talks about User Identity in the Metaverse with Ishan Pandey

Ishan Pandey: Hi Tim, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about your background and the inspiration behind ShareRing?

Tim Bos: Hi Ishan, thanks for inviting me to be part of the series. Well, where do I start? I’ve had a passion for cutting-edge technology and how big ideas can change the world for as long as I can remember, from the late 80’s and early 90’s when I taught myself how to code 68000 assembly language on the Commodore Amiga, and also used to ‘hack’ into bulletin boards and various other things (phone phreaking, etc), for a bit of fun. My first real job was in 1995 when I worked for Melbourne House (Beam Software), a leading video game development company that Atari later acquired. Around that time, I was also interested in the web (AARNet at the time. I spent too much of my time writing MUD’s on various systems) and its potential.

I started a small training group at the local university to teach people about it and how to get online. I guess that was my first startup. After that, I worked for a few consulting companies, including Avanade, GE, and also Barclays Capital investment bank. I finally took the leap and started my own company in 2004 called bioWatch. We developed one of the first cloud-based GPS tracking systems, initially with a focus on the horse racing industry, but we moved into vehicle tracking pretty quickly.

I sold that company in 2010 and then started Caramavan, a peer-to-peer caravan/motorhome sharing company with my partner at the time. We struggled to get that off the ground and ended up selling it to a listed company in 2012. In a similar ‘sharing economy’ vein to Caramavan, I founded Keaz, a leading white label vehicle sharing platform, in 2012. This was subsequently sold too. Throughout this time, I also kept up to date with new technologies. I mined some Bitcoin in around 2010 just for fun and was engrossed with the potential of Ethereum smart contracts when I came across it in 2016. All of these ideas and learning led me to conceptualize ShareRing in 2017.

Vested Interest DisclosureThe author is an independent contributor publishing via our brand-as-author program. Be it through direct compensation, media partnerships, or networking, the author has a vested interest in the company/ies mentioned in this story. HackerNoon has reviewed the story for quality, but the claims hereon belong to the author. #DYOR

Ishan Pandey: According to you, what is the future of the sharing and rental economy and how does Web3 solve the issues being faced in these businesses?

Tim Bos: As someone who was previously active in the car sharing economy, I saw a lot of issues that created high levels of friction for the renter and the company. One issue is around the fragmentation of the whole industry. If I’m travelling to Europe, and I want to rent a car from Share Now in Paris, then I go to another city and want to rent a SIXT car, then maybe I want to use a co-working space for a while, or check into a hotel or AirBNB/VRBO. Every one of these services requires me to spend 15-20 minutes signing up, scanning my ID, sending all my personal information and waiting for them to approve me. Furthermore, all of my information is stored on their centralized servers, waiting to be stolen.

There are so many opportunities to improve this process. Imagine if each of these companies had a standardized sign-up process and simply added a QR code on their windscreen/front-door that allowed you to scan it, and then get instant approval to book or use their asset/location. Furthermore, this increased standardization would reduce costs for the companies whilst also decreasing the rate of fraud that they experience.

Ishan Pandey: What are your views on NFTs? Do you think that we will see an NFT market crash and loss of liquidity with the end of free money and the rise of federal bank interest rates?

Tim Bos: Unlike 99% of the market, I don’t see NFTs as simply art. Whilst it’s a great use case to guarantee the authenticity of artwork, it has a utility that far exceeds this simplistic view. An NFT can be a method of positively authenticating almost anything. For example, your identity can be linked to an NFT as a way to prove something about yourself in Web3 applications. You could have an NFT-based land title that would make it easy to prove ownership and transfer this title to someone else. You could have NFT-based NFT tickets (which we are doing now) that will eliminate ticket scalping fraud, fake tickets, and also ensure the artists/agents benefit from ticket resales. There are many more examples of where NFTs can remove friction, fraud and frustration from various industries and services.

As for the NFT art market, I’ve been an art avid art collector for the past 18 years, so I have a personal interest in where this is going. I could write an essay on the subject, but in summary.. 99% of the NFT ‘art’ projects will go to zero and disappear. Any NFT art project requires a strong community and an ongoing belief in the team to succeed, but a lot of the groups that are launching the NFT projects aren’t factoring that in, so the community interest slowly disappears shortly after the launch of the NFT (this happens for many reasons, including founders who take 100% of the proceeds off the table, leaving nothing for the community building). There are also a lot of traditional artists who have jumped into the NFT space, only to find that their art hasn’t had much success or reached the stratospheric values of many other NFT projects.

This is because they don’t understand the dynamics of the market well enough, but also because the ‘art collector’ community that buys their paintings, prints and sculptures aren’t the same people as the crypto degens who are betting on the next big NFT ecosystem project.

Ishan Pandey: Gaming companies with virtual currency-based products are on high alert following the recent fall of TerraUSD (UST) and Luna. What are your views on the latest developments and concerns surrounding the Luna and UST token?

Tim Bos: I looked deeply at Luna, UST and Anchor late last year and it appeared to me that the whole model was unsustainable, particularly if the market aggressively entered into bear territory (which it has so dramatically done). What really shocked me was how many startup crypto projects had almost the entirety of their treasury in Anchor. The thinking was that if they could receive 20% APY, the interest alone would cover their operating costs.

A lot of people got hurt (directly and indirectly) because of this completely flawed ecosystem that was built. Terra’s actions to try and restore the UST peg were also a very badly thought out knee-jerk reaction that sent shockwaves through the whole market. I believe that there’s some good potential for algorithmic stable coins, but not when they’re attached to an unrealistic lending protocol or not when they’re so reliant on the price of a single token.

It would be good to see some more crypto companies take a proactive approach and introduce strong internal governance and best-of-breed regulations when launching DeFi products (something that only a few organizations such as have done).

Ishan Pandey: What is ShareRing ID and what is its impact?

Tim Bos: ShareRing ID is the nucleus of the ShareRing Vault. It’s generated from the first document that’s uploaded during the user sign-up process. This is very important, as all of the other identity documents are checked against this ShareRing ID. For example, if you’re uploading a graduation certificate with a name on it, the system will check the name on that certificate against the name in your ShareRing ID. Or if you’re adding another type of photo ID, the photo will also be matched against the one in the ShareRing ID.

Ishan Pandey: Tell us about the ShareRing network and the technology behind it? Further, how does it impact the industry?

Tim Bos: ShareRing was created with a couple of simple goals. We wanted to remove the friction that’s involved with accessing many different products and services, whilst maintaining the highest levels of trust and security for the users. Over the years, there’s been a trend for large companies to host more and more data about you in their data warehouse to provide you with a ‘better service’. But as a user, you still need to give all of your personal information to a new company every time you sign up with them.

And far too often, there’s a hacker that gains access to and leaks (or sells) this information. By using the concepts behind self-sovereign identity and W3C, we’ve created the ShareRing Vault. This technology allows you to store verifiable documents (and associated data) securely on your phone (or backup drive) and then use these documents to sign up for, and gain access to various services that we are adding to our ecosystem, from concerts and events, and eventually university campuses, worksites that require specific credentials/qualifications, to travel and car-sharing services.

The important thing is that, whilst ShareRing provides the infrastructure to access these services, we don’t store any PII about our users, beyond your name and email address.

Ishan Pandey: What kind of documents does ShareRing Verify? How does the protocol secure a user’s personal data?

Tim Bos: Generally, any type of document. We take a broad view of ‘identity’, in that it is a piece of information that allows you to verify something about yourself to another person or company. For example, it could be a passport or license, but it could also be your medical or vaccination history, or a ticket to an event, a graduation certificate, a trade/work certificate, or even or an NFT that you own. We have 3 methods of verification for these documents.

There’s verified at source, when the original creator of the document (ie. a graduation certificate) scans and enters the information via our document issuance service. The document is then encrypted using your public key and then sent directly to your ShareRing Vault. We also have ‘verified by ShareRing’. Documents in this category are scanned using the ShareRing app, but they’ll have something unique about them that will allow the ShareRing app to verify the authenticity of the document. It might be a QR code with the bio data encrypted in it, or it might be an NFC chip and MRZ like we have on passports and ICAO-compatible identity cards. We then have self-verified. These documents don’t go through any 3rd party verification. The user simply scans and adds these to the ShareRing app.

In all of these cases, a digital hash is taken of the document and associated data and then written to the blockchain. This means that when the user presents their document to a person or business (either physically or online), then the document’s authenticity (and evidence that it has never been tampered with) can be verified on the ShareLedger blockchain. The document is also always encrypted with the user’s public key and placed into their ShareRing Vault on Android or iPhones.

We are also in the process of introducing a smart contract engine to ShareLedger so 3rd party developers can write their own interactions and contracts for the ShareRing Vault identity.

Ishan Pandey: According to you, what new trends are we going to see in the blockchain industry?

Tim Bos: Given my current focus, I see a huge demand for identity-related products. These products can genuinely reduce fraud and increase trust, but also remove user friction. As regulation starts to roll out across the crypto industry (this is inevitable, given the recent events with Luna, Celsius, etc), there will be a lot of demand for identity products in a Web3 world. The current Web2 (centralized and self-sovereign) identity solutions won’t stand up in Web3, particularly when you need to prove your jurisdiction, age, or something else to interact with a purely Web3 DAO. I’m also looking forward to seeing more projects demonstrating real-world utility for NFTs.

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