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商业 - 科技

区块链身份认证:美好却不现实?

JEFF JOHN ROBERTS 2018年08月19日

可行的区块链身份认证系统不仅需要公司和个人的合作,还需要政府协助。


上周我去了趟车辆管理局,流程如你所料:不停地填表,在木凳上苦等。那地方简直让你觉得遭遇了技术上的时光倒流,但这可能也不是个大问题——毕竟,只有开车的人才会每过五年造访这里一次。

麻烦在于,在上飞机或进酒吧等许多其他场合,我们也要用到自己的驾驶证。它是一个有力的证件,告诉世人我们是谁。然而,把守这一身份系统的却是笨拙的机动车辆管理局,对带夹子的写字板有着疯狂的迷恋。

这就是为何区块链身份认证如此吸引人。理论上,我们很快就可以把个人数据储存到区块链里了。它使用的生物测定技术可以确保只有那些获得许可的人才能查阅数据。这意味着将来某一天,我们就不再需要Equifax等征信机构来收集和储存我们的个人信息了。在身份认证上,埃森哲(Accenture)和微软(Microsoft)等公司还提出了更加雄心勃勃的设想:利用区块链来帮助难民和世界上的贫困人口获得公民身份和移民纪录。最棒的是,区块链的安全特性意味着黑客入侵和盗取身份信息的难度会大大提升。

这些听起来都很美好,实现起来却极为复杂。因为可行的区块链身份认证系统不仅需要公司和个人的合作,还需要政府协助。政府依旧掌握着定义我们正式身份的终极权力。不幸的是,我在车辆管理所的经历表明政府完全不擅长技术。这意味着要实现“身份的自我主权”的梦想,还有很长的路要走。

令人惊讶的是,当下正红的区块链身份认证初创公司Civic的领袖文尼·林厄姆也同意这一点。在与《财富》(Fortune)的访谈中,林厄姆承认政府和行业可能还要数年时间来敲定区块链身份认证的共同标准。尽管初创公司uPort与瑞士的楚格市签订了推行区块链身份认证系统的协议,但他表示这些只是特殊情况,就像在数字化政府领域,爱沙尼亚属于例外一样。区块链身份认证要在更大范围内发展起来,难度会大得多。

林厄姆表示:“我们研究了区块链投票,意识到任何政府都需要相当一段时间才能推行它。至少在接下来两届美国总统的领导下,我们不会看到通过区块链进行选举的形式。”他补充道,利用区块链帮助世界各地穷人的精神值得赞扬,但目前这一想法基本不现实。

林厄姆称,相反,区块链身份识别系统将会首先在更加平凡的项目上得到采用,例如自动售货机或网站登录等。他预测道,在此之后,它会应用于社交媒体和约会网站。与此同时,这一过程的进展也会很缓慢。

林厄姆表示:“老实说这是个苦差。每周我们都会与几十个用户签约。希望能很快变成每周几百个或几千个。”他补充道,区块链身份认证项目需要结合每天或者每周都要使用的情境才具有可行性。

本质上说,区块链身份认证不单纯是个不切实际的愿景,但在可预见的未来里,驾驶证仍将是我们主要的身份证件之一。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正 

I went to the DMV last week and the visit unfolded as you’d expect: A lot of filling out paper forms and waiting on wooden benches. The place is a technology time warp and perhaps that’s not a big deal—after all, you only have to go there every 5 years if you want to drive a car.

The trouble is we use our drivers license for many other things, from boarding a plane to entering a bar. Our license is a powerful document that tells the world who we are. And yet, the gatekeeper to this identity system is a goofy motor vehicle agency that has a fetish for clipboards.

That’s why the idea of blockchain for identity is so intriguing. In theory, it will soon be possible to store our personal data on the blockchain, using biometrics to grant access only to those who ask for permission to see it. This could mean a day will come when we no longer need to rely on credit agencies like Equifax to collect and store troves of our personal information. More ambitious visions of identity—backed by the likes of Accenture and Microsoft—envision using blockchain as a way to help refugees and the world’s poor obtain citizenship and immigration records. Best of all, the security features of blockchain could mean hacking and identity theft will become much harder.

All of this sounds wonderful but horribly complicated. That’s because a viable blockchain ID system would entail coordination among not just businesses and individuals, but also governments—which still possess the ultimate authority to define our official identity. Unfortunately, as my trip to DMV underscored, governments are terrible at technology. This means the dream of “self sovereign identity” could be a long way off.

Surprisingly, one person who agrees is Vinny Lingham, who heads the buzzy blockchain ID startup, Civic. In an interview with Fortune, Lingham acknowledged it could take years for government and industry to agree on a common blockchain standard for identity. And while a startup, uPort, has signed up the Swiss city of Zug to implement a blockchain ID system, he says such examples are outlier cases in the same way Estonia is an outlier when it comes to digital government. It will be much harder for blockchain ID to get traction on a larger scale.

“We looked at blockchain voting, and realized it will take any government of a reasonable size years to implement it. We won’t see elections on the blockchain in the U.S. for at least two more cycles,” said Lingham, adding that using blockchain to help the world’s poor is an admirable but mostly out-of-reach idea for now.

Lingham says adoption of blockchain ID systems is instead going to start with more humble projects, such as vending machines and website log-ins. After that it will spread to applications like social media and dating sites, he predicts. In the meantime, though, it’s going to be slow-going.

“It’s a grind to be honest. Every week we’re signing up dozens of users. Hopefully it’ll soon be hundreds or thousands a week,” Lingham said, adding blockchain ID projects need to find daily and weekly use cases to be viable.

The bottom line is blockchain-for-identity is more than a pie-in-the-sky vision but, for the foreseeable future, our driver’s license is going to remain our primary form of ID.

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