In a sign of the things to come, Bitcoin enthusiast Christopher Ellis has developed the world’s first crypto-passport built on the blockchain technology. Ellis has created software that enables anyone create a passport based on PGP encryption and the bitcoin blockchain. PGP, which stands for Pretty Good Privacy, is a data encryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication including texts, emails, files, directories and even whole disk partitions. The crypto-passport project creates a mathematically produced identification paper that makes faking it next to impossible.
The project is yet another signal of the blockchain technology’s diversifying application. In October, CCN reported about the Blocknet and a project called Ethereum that would use a blockchain clone to provide distributed computing resources.
So far, no state has expressed any interest in Christopher Ellis’ project, and he would like to keep it that way. Ellis would prefer a voluntary system in which proof of existence would be backed by a social network of the individual’s choice. As presently configured, it would be difficult for most organizations to accept this type of passport, but Ellis sees potential uses when it comes to notarizing documents such as contracts and other business agreements. However, since the project is open-source, governments are free to use it to sign digital versions of state-issued IDs.
Estonia and e-Citizenship
It turns out that the idea is not as far-fetched as it seems. The Republic of Estonia, an EU member state recently introduced e-citizenship that would allow anyone to enjoy the same digital services that ordinary Estonians enjoy such as signing all documents, launching and managing companies, banking and file encryption. Though it does not entitle the holder to full legal residency or right of entry into Estonia it nonetheless is advantageous to entrepreneurs who have some connection to Estonia, or to those who would like to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation.
With the solution provided by Ellis, it would be a short step for any country to provide e-citizenship services either to nationals or as in the case of Estonia, open it to a global audience.
Bitnation and Governance 2.0
The most radical proposal is the one that has been presented by Bitnation. Bitnation is a governance 2.0 platform that is powered by blockchain technology. Its goal is to provide the same services that governments provide, but in a decentralized and voluntary manner, unbound by geography. It made headlines in early October 2014, when former Bitnation advisor David Mondrus and his wife Joyce became the first couple to use the Bitcoin blockchain to register their marriage.
The Bitnation Blockchain ID – How It Works
As previously mentioned, the Blockchain ID project is designed to layout a simple process for anyone in the world to create their own private passport service. In a joint presentation with Christopher Ellis, Bitnation introduced the Blockchain ID, which works on a proof-of-existence basis. This passport service can then be used to validate and prove the existence of other persons using nothing but available tools.
The available tools can be in the form of open source cryptographic tools such as PGP and blockchain technology.
To get started, one would need PGP keys, a KEYBASE.IO profile, camera, printer and thick paper, laminator and plastic sheet, scissors, laptop, internet connection, photo-editing software such as Photoshop and about US$ 5-10 for the timestamp. The next step would be arranging for a meeting at which the group of citizens would make the blockchain ID.
A person wishing to become a World Citizen would begin by getting the Merkle Root from Blockchain.info. The Merkle Root shows proof-of-existence at a certain point in time. The Merkle Root can be derived by clocking on the block from the latest transaction on the blockchain. New blocks are created every 10 minutes, and it is difficult to know the number in advance. The World Citizen would then have to write the Merkle Root number on a piece of paper, and then take a picture with it.
The next step will involve designing the ID. The ID will include a headshot of the person getting the blockchain ID and the brand of the organization arranging for it. It may be time-saving to prepare ID designs for different people ahead of the meeting with basic information such as names to speed things up.
After that, both the host and the person would sign the completed image using their PGP keys. This can be done by right-clicking on the image and clicking on the Sign option, to which a new signed document will be generated. The new world citizen would then have their PGP Key signed by others in attendance, a SHA256 digest of the key is then placed along with the key’s ID into the Bitcoin blockchain using an address that is preferably owned by the venue hosting the event. If the new world citizen does not want to put their key on the blockchain, they can simply store the hash.
Lastly, you can use websites such as proofofexistence.com to perform a timestamp. The three different documents needing to be timestamped are the JPEG file of the ID, the full image of the person(s) holding the Merkle Root, and the signature of the host of the event. Using proofofexistence.com, drag the documents onto the window in the website. This will generate a hash, with an address. Send bitcoins to that address, to communicate to the blockchain that you have made an entry into the blockchain. After a transaction, a link will appear with the transaction ID on the blockchain itself. Once, this is done, print out the design, laminate the print-out and cut it so that it fits your design nicely.
Could Borderless Citizenship Built on Blockchain Become a Reality?
The concept of governance 2.0 looks like one that even traditional governments would want to adopt in providing services to their citizens. In the words of Bitnation’s CEO Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, everything that governments do, can be done on the blockchain. It can only be hoped that governance 2.0 players such as Bitnation, or even Christopher Ellis would be able to pull together so as to create a framework that would lead to more widespread adoption. Already Estonia is taking tentative steps in that direction. Who knows which other countries are thinking along similar lines?
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