“Every car generates a lot of data every day,” says Jun Li, founder of the open source blockchain Ontology for digital identity.
In the automotive industry, there is a unique use case for his company’s ID solution as each driver’s data can be stored and used to calculate insurance premiums based on actual driving behavior.
“Some insurance companies put telemetry devices on cars to collect your driving information. Your insurance prices are based on your behavioral data every year. “
This is a positive development for Li as good drivers receive well-deserved discounts on their insurance payments. But what if someone doesn’t want an insurance company to access their driving records?
“You can decide what kind of data you want to share with whom,” explains Li, adding that “it complies with legal requirements for data protection and privacy.” So privacy remains under the driver’s control … but at what price?
“If you want to protect your privacy, you can do the following:” I don’t want to share any data, I am willing to pay a higher price. “Li explains that without a demonstrable, established reputation, no discounts can be offered.
It seems like privacy is becoming a premium asset. Developments like this are frightening to many, but Li believes that most people will be happy to part with all kinds of data if they can get benefits in return. “A user will see that data becomes a real asset. All data has value – even direct monetary value. “
In some ways, this is nothing new as insurance companies have long had premiums based on information such as age and gender that predict driving behavior. At the very least, this solution would base the rewards on actual behavior.
Li’s bigger vision is a globally compatible digital ID that a person can connect to any data they generate and share it with anyone they choose. This is similar to the privacy settings on social media websites, minus the need to trust the social media company itself. In the new era, industries like Decentralized Finance or DeFi could work with credit scores, and ID can be linked to educational achievements and even vaccination records. “You can use blockchain to reference different data sources related to identity,” he says.
Li is not working on ending anonymity per se, but on balancing interests so that everyday reality can better integrate into a decentralized world where individuals have more control over their data.
“I don’t want to define ourselves as a revolution. We want to change the connection to the traditional world to make things better and better. Not just” Okay, break everything and build everything again “.
The Wild West is a common characterization of the cryptocurrency environment – a new territory where everyone is a newbie with no prior reputation and therefore people are considered untrustworthy by default. The only currency here is cold cash (crypto). In the old world, reputation and trust are perhaps the greatest currencies. The question is how these two worlds will interact in the future: will they completely separate or merge?
Li believes in a merging of worlds and believes that real identities still have value. While centralized finance and DeFi firms like Celcius and Aave offer different borrowing solutions, they continue to rely on the borrower to provide adequate security.
As the solutions offered by the DeFi industry mature and seek to attract more of the global crowd, a shift towards services more familiar to the average person may be inevitable. This could mean the end of repetitive Know Your Customer procedures.
Jun sees Ethereum as the dominant chain for the future, but believes that at least a few others are needed, including a blockchain for digital IDs, which is ontology.
Opportunities are waiting for you
When Li began studying at the University of Shanghai in the mid-2000s, Li chose computer science because “the Internet was just coming out” in China and the degree offered the tough skills that made it easy to find a job in the growing country Technology sector. He initially worked as a programmer at various Chinese companies, but soon rose to manage the IT strategy for large companies like Infosys in 2010. He broadened his horizons by studying in Manchester, London and Hong Kong, adding masters degrees in both science and business administration through 2014.
With a new MBA in hand, he took a position at China’s first futures exchange, the China Financial Futures Exchange, where he laid the financial framework for the emerging Chinese economy, including “exchange products, mood products, design and architecture”.
Six years ago, when he led an innovation team tasked with researching new technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence, he realized that there is more to blockchain than meets the eye. Blockchain is “incomparable with other IT technologies”.
“I realized that blockchain is not just a type of financial technology. It’s kind of a mechanism that allows people to work together based on a mechanism of no confidence, ”he explains.
“I thought, ‘Okay, this is a very interesting technology, I should spend all my time on it,’ so I quit my job.”
In 2016 he co-founded OnChain, a provider of open source blockchain solutions for the Chinese market.
The system architect noted that the virtual world being built by the global blockchain industry has no interconnectivity due to its largely pseudonymous nature. “We need to build a bridge from the traditional world to the world of decentralized identity,” he concluded, explaining that a digital ID could connect blockchain accounts to real people. Two years later, he founded Ontology to bring this vision to life.
The big balancing act
For a person who values privacy and anonymity, the modern reality of surveillance capitalism is a force to be reckoned with. Participation is effectively compulsory in order not to become a true hermit. Even if you are not against giving your personal information to companies, there is a constant risk of identity thieves accessing companies’ databases, as emphasized by Erik Voorhees, whose platform for exchanging cryptocurrencies, ShapeShift, now allows users to do so without KYC to act .
“Online, your Bitcoin address is some kind of identity. People may not know who you are in the real world, but the account is some kind of identity.” This is a kind of pseudonymity.
Li’s desire for more transparency gives rise to ideas of integrity – a person should be who they say they are and do what they say. With an omnipresent self-sovereign digital ID, a kind of factuality or reality could be imposed on the online world. The name of the project provides an important clue – ontology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the ideas of existence, being, becoming, and reality.
Knowing who you are dealing with online is important for Li and he sees a future where centralized social media platforms give way to an environment where users directly control their information and take advantage of the security of blockchain technology, to control what you share and who you share it with.
“Most of the identity is managed by centralized organizations or even governments, so it is difficult for people to control all the verification processes.” I think a decentralized identity is absolutely necessary in the digital world. “
Li believes that blockchain solutions like Ontology strike a balance between the two undesirable extremes of business controlling all data and strictly anonymous interactions. “I believe this kind of balance between Internet services and between data protection and privacy,” he says, referring to the current need for people to trust multinational corporations with their private information and communications.
He believes that digital identity solutions have a future in industries like social media, in which users today will have to entrust their information to a centralized platform like Facebook and Twitter. Instead, social media could be a decentralized network of people who associate certain information with themselves and make posts using open source blockchain protocols. It would be easy to verify identity and reduce the risk of information being used in unexpected ways. “We may not need Facebook or Twitter in the future,” he says.
“I believe real information with real identity is becoming a mainstream social network.”
Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently suggested that a blockchain-based digital ID system could be used to prevent trolling and online abuse by users hiding behind the anonymity of various platforms. Such a system would still allow users to interact on the internet without revealing their true identity, but would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to spot abuse.
Digital IDs are not without precedent: a 2009 law in South Korea required the registration of real names on websites before being declared unconstitutional in 2012. China’s Cybersecurity Law of 2017 mandates that all users of Chinese websites must provide their phone numbers in order to create an online environment that is “safe and real,” according to state media. However, they have not caught on in the western world as Germany has been banning unnecessary requirements for real names since 1997.
Li, who lives in Shanghai, values real people and reputation very much. While he has no problems with anonymous profiles, he believes such users are less likely to provide trustworthy or reliable information. This is certainly the case with more traditional professionals who are trying to build their reputations by showing their work.
“I think people still want to say to everyone,” This is me, this is my opinion, this is my posts and articles. “But that’s a personal decision.”