Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has unveiled plans to craft a new form of digital identity on the blockchain Internet. 

In the current Internet ecosystem, services such as social media and search engines, provide free access in exchange for user data, which is subsequently sold to advertisers. Users of these services have limited control over how the data is used. In a February 12 blog post, Ankur Patel, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft’s Identity division, revealed details related to the company’s efforts to establish a new paradigm for such transactions. (See also: Blockchain Could Make You The Owner Of Your Data.) 

“Rather than grant broad consent to countless apps and services, and have their identity data spread across numerous providers, individuals need a secure encrypted digital hub where they can store their identity data and easily control access to it,” Patel wrote, adding that the “self-owned identity” would be easy to use and provide users with “complete control” over how and when it is used. (See also: How Ethereum Blockchain Can Solve Your Social Media Privacy Problem.) 

Microsoft plans to use blockchain technology and its principles of decentralization in order to fashion a new digital identity for users. For example, the company’s proposed self-owned identity system will use community attestations to establish trust in an identity. 

Writing in the New York Times, Steven Johnson recently provided a big-picture perspective of a similar concept in the future. As he explained it, closed systems, such as Facebook and Google, have siloed identities in corporate databases. Corporate companies own user identities, in this case.

When users own their identities, they can selectively share it (or, loan it to) with the service that they plan to use. For example, within a ride-sharing context, users can choose to share their contact and payment details only for the duration of an Uber or Lyft ride (as opposed to entering the information during an app registration process). Similarly, users could create a circle of trust using multiple addresses.   

Microsoft already has an app called Microsoft Authenticator that can serve as a cryptographic backend for such operations. The authenticator generates six-letter tokens for temporary access to websites and other services. In his post, Patel stated that the company’s next step will be to enable decentralized identities using Microsoft Authenticator. “With consent, Microsoft Authenticator will be able to act as your User Agent to manage identity data and cryptographic keys,” he wrote. 

The Redmond, Washington, company is already part of the Decentralized ID Foundation, an open source group that is constructing a new digital identity. It had earlier become a founding member of the ID2020 project at the United Nations and donated $1 million to it. 

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