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Chinese firms Baidu, Tencent in launch of distributed identity alliance

Digital identity

Yesterday a consortium of 17 firms launched a new distributed identity alliance (DID Alliance) in China, the Daily Economic News reported. The consortium is led by state-owned China Banknote Blockchain Technology Research Institute and Feitian Technology and includes numerous big names such as Baidu, Tencent Cloud, WeBank, and UnionPay Electronic Payment Research Institute.

Initially, the group will investigate four aspects. First off, it will research the current state of digital identities, such as distributed public key infrastructure cryptography, credentials, and DID’s advantages. Secondly, it will explore commercial applications, including cross-industry projects. 

Next, it aims to build a DID network in China using open source technologies. And finally, it plans to adopt international standards and create a bridge between local companies and international digital identity alliances.

On that point, and not mentioned in the announcement, the current international push is for self sovereign identity (SSI) in which individuals have far greater control of their own data. Often that means the individual stores the data themselves. It remains to be seen whether China’s government involvement will encourage embracing this approach. We note that the Chinese name translates to distributed identity as opposed to decentralized identity.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the big three mobile phone networks launched a mass scale DID solution in which a version of a driver’s license is stored on a smartphone to be used as a legal identity tool. Hence, there’s no need always to disclose personal details such as an address when proving a person is sufficiently old to buy alcohol. 

There’s also an international body called the DID Alliance where one of the founders is the CEO of a Korean technology firm.