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Introducing SelfKey

I’m involved in quite a lot of start-ups, ICOs and funds these days, and recently started a mini-series of interviews with them, as I think it will be of interest to readers of my blog.

In the fourth of this series, I’m interviewing Edmund Lowell, founder of SelfKey.

In one sentence can you summarize the key advantages and benefits that the SelfKey network provides to all its parties involved?

In a sentence, SelfKey helps take the pain out of KYC onboarding and turns the work being done in the compliance space from a cost into a revenue generating activity.

What is the solution proposed by SelfKey to solve the technical limitations and security risks of current identity management systems?

In most cases, identity management systems of the world are centralized databases and therefore offer an attractive, and vulnerable, target for determined hackers. Equifax is the most recent example of this vulnerability. By decentralizing the system, SelfKey can achieve security by design, because the value of any one target is much lower and also much more difficult to hack.

As SelfKey has a transnational approach, how does it remain in compliance with data protection laws of different jurisdictions?

The core principle of the SelfKey network is that the individual identity owner retains control of their documents and their personal data. The owner decides who has access to those documents and who they are shared with.

Importantly, personal data and identity data are kept out of the transaction ledgers altogether by replacing them with an encrypted reference to the data – a “hash”. These hashes or ‘fingerprints’ help the identity owner prove that data did exist at a certain date, with the identity owner sharing a signed identity claim – but without necessarily having to share the underlying documents which could be compromised in an identity theft.

Who is going to validate users’ identities in SelfKey?

We will rely upon existing legal infrastructure (lawyers, accountants, notaries and other certifiers) to certify true copies of documents.

How can SelfKey help to speed up KYC onboarding processes?

Using their SelfKey digital wallet, users can submit their encrypted identity documents directly to a relying party in order to fulfil that party’s KYC requirements.

How will SelfKey aid data minimization?

By creating certified identity claims, these claims (and not the underlying documents) can be securely shared with others, thus removing the need to share multiple copies of unencrypted original identity documents which is the current norm when accessing financial products and services.

Why does SelfKey use a native KEY token to perform transactions instead of using an existing cryptocurrency or fiat money? What are the benefits of using KEY tokens?

While KEY tokens can be used as a payment mechanism within the network, another important element of KEY tokens is “staking”. The three main participants on the network (identity owners, relying parties and certifiers will all need to stake KEY tokens in order to participate).

Because we are bootstrapping a new network, we will need to overcome the ‘chicken and egg’ issue inherent in any marketplace. We will incentivize the parties which are slow to grow by paying this stake.

After users have staked a certain amount of tokens, they can they engage in commerce and if they act correctly – they will not lose this stake. Notaries or relying parties would be able to monetize identity claims, and identity owners can access different products.

How are transactions based in trust frameworks going to work in the SelfKey Network? Can you give an example?

All users on the SelfKey network must agree to abide by the governing principles of the network. This ensures that all parties act in the best interest of the network and respect the identity owner’s information. If a party acts against the network, they will lose any KEY they have staked as a member. This helps incentivize good behaviour, prevent spam, and strengthens the network, creating a self-sustaining crypto-economy which runs on KEY tokens.

There are a lot of other identity schemes out there, how is yours different or better?

There is no identity system that provides the real-world utility of ours, where users will be able to sign up for more than 300 products and services across more than 10 market verticals.

Soon we will have a desktop wallet that allows you to share not only your KYC securely, but also to send ETH, to for instance participate in a token sale with one click. We will be the only product on the market with this capability and it coincides with our public token sale in January.

Beyond just participating in token sales, there are lots of products available, including residencies, exchange accounts, and many more. You can see the future we are building at alpha.SelfKey.org/Marketplace.

In addition, most identity schemes are proposed, ours is live and working. We have a working product and our technology has been used by some very large and notable token sales, and several are ongoing right now. If you go to pre-sale.SelfKey.org and pre-register you are using our technology.

Finally Edmund, how do you think all this plays out long-term. What is your vision of the future?

My vision of the future is one where you actually own your data, signing up to financial services is seamless and can be done with a click or a selfie, and individuals and businesses who use the SelfKey ecosystem enjoy more freedom, privacy and wealth. That future arrived in the first quarter of 2018.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...