What Is Civic? Blockchain for Digital Identities

There are now so many alt-coins out there that it’s almost impossible to keep track of which projects are legitimate and which are garbage.

This article is the second entry in a series I will write for Hacked which will give summaries and context around a specific crypto project.

The topic of today’s summary is Civic.

So, what is Civic?

Essentially, Civic is a personal identity verification tool that leverages distributed ledger technology to manage digital identities more effectively.

Civic, in a nutshell, is a platform that envisions a safer, cheaper, and more efficient identity verification method for individuals and industries around the globe.

A perfect use case of Civic’s platform is everyday KYC requirements. In most cases, when someone applies for a new job, opens a bank account, or even participates in an ICO, they have to submit some valid proof of their identity and then wait for it to be verified. Depending on the service utilized, this could take days or even weeks.

Typically, this sluggish pace is due to the fact that organizations have to spend the time and resources authenticating this information with outdated systems.

Civic contends it has a modern solution to this problem, where a single input of your personal identity data allows any organization or service to cross-check it on the blockchain without asking you to provide the same data twice. That is, Civic wants to provide personal identity verification that is easily transferable from one service to another. They do this by leveraging their own token, which is built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Civic Network

Civic’s network accommodates three different but interwoven individuals/entities: users, validators, and service providers.

The users are defined as anyone who wishes to use the protocol to register an identity. Civic provides their own “secure identity” app expressly for this purpose.

Validators meanwhile are responsible for verifying an identity’s authenticity on the blockchain’s distributed ledger. They can then choose to sell this information to service providers who in turn need to verify their customer’s identities, in exchange for CVC token. Civic uses smart contracts to oversee data attestation and payout for this work.
Secure Identity App

As previously mentioned, getting started with civic requires the secure identity app, either in its or mobile or web version.

To set up the application, you need to enter a variety of personal identity information. This includes your name, address, social security or tax identification number, passport number, driver’s license, etc.

Without utilizing usernames and password, multi-factor biometrics, such as fingerprint scan, secures the application to keep it-and your data-fully in your control.

The application also encrypts personal information with a private key issued by a third party wallet; this provides a buffer between Civic and its users, in theory providing peace of mind that Civic won’t access personal identity info without consent.

As a matter of fact, Civic doesn’t store any personal information on the blockchain directly. Instead, it stores attestations of this information for reference. Storing references to the data instead of the data itself ensures that you are always in control of your own sensitive identity information, while also providing proof that the validators have confirmed the authenticity of your data.

The Civic ecosystem, therefore, functions with the app accommodating users on the front-end, and validators and providers supplying the back-end services, including identity attestation and KYC confirmation for users.

Validators are also responsible for verifying identities for the network, both on the blockchain and for service providers. If a user wants to submit personal identifying data to a service provider (e.g., an exchange, a bank, or other service), they could submit the relevant info from their Civic app to a validation contract.

These smart contracts act as escrow services for the transaction and provide validators with the identity data. After attesting that the information is authentic, the validators hash it into the network.

It’s relevant to mention that in theory a validator could be the service provider itself, and for a user identity’s first commit to the network, it likely would be.

Additionally, in order to confirm a user’s identity, validators need to crosscheck their information with some other source (e.g., public records, financial records). A government, for instance, could provide a wealth of information as an identity authenticator.

Once a validator has verified the identity data, other service providers can buy access rights to this information on behalf of a user with CVC, Civic’s utility token.

Validators can also sell rights to the information, (with the user’s consent), on the Civic Marketplace.

When a service provider pays for identity data, the CVC tokens are placed in the validation contract.

Once the validator provides proof of the identity data, both it and the user receive CVC in return. This service is flexible, too, since validators can pick and choose which information to verify per a service provider’s request.

Say a service provider, like a credit score company, needs access to a client’s credit history and bank account information. After communicating with the user, the service provider would submit a data request to a prior validator, maybe a credit card company, bank, or other financial institution. This validator would then be able to retrieve the hash for the requested information from the blockchain to attest it with the information that the client currently provides. If everything checked out, the validator is paid for these services (as is the user) and the service provider approves the client’s identity.

The Civic team is loaded with experienced entrepreneurs.

For instance, Co-founder and CEO Vinny Lingham has over ten years of e-commerce experience and is a member of the Bitcoin Foundation. He’s also one of the “sharks” on Shark Tank South Africa.

In addition, Jonathan Smith, the project’s CTO and co-founder, has more than 15 years of experience with development, technical analytics, and management work for blue-chip entities like Deloitte and RBS.

With Civic, reusable KYC and personal identity information could streamline identity verification for any relevant service. Service providers no longer would have to expend the effort and money to verify a user’s identity; as long as a validator on the network has done the legwork for them, they need only pay a fee in Civic tokens to have the information processed in real time.

Users would never have to recommit the same information to different organizations in tireless succession–saving time and effort.

At the core of this vision is the promise of greater identity security and integrity. The Civic app’s encryption and biometric locking mechanisms give users complete control over their identities, while the blockchain’s own encryption and distributed nature keep this information free from theft and exposure without user consent.

It’s important to note that Civic is not the only company attempting to provide moderns identity solutions. Some notable competitors include Bloom, SelfKey, Blockpass, and Peer Mountain.

As the competition heats up, it will be interesting to see whether the fragmentation of identity data makes centralization a necessary evil. The premise of services like this is that self-sovereign identity can give users more control of their data AND be more convenient. It’s the second part that remains to be seen.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.