The 5P’s of a Self-Sovereign Identity

Dr Mark van Rijmenam, CSP
4 min readJun 5, 2019

Increasingly, big data is invading consumers’ lives. It affects consumers’ privacy as the web has become such a centralised platform. When you have centralised organisations collecting so much consumer data and using it to offer personalised advertising to their users, it causes problems. As Jonathan Taplin discussed in his book Move Fast and Break Things, organisations that have access to so much data and use it to steer consumer behaviour could directly undermine our democracy. These centralised organisations do not forget or forgive. Since actions (i.e. data) speak louder than words, it is possible that data are defining human beings.

A Self-Sovereign Identity

A solution to these problems might be the incorporation of a self-sovereign identity; an identity that is owned and controlled by the person or the device that created it. To develop a self-sovereign identity, we need to look differently at identity and in the book Blockchain: Transforming Your Business and Our World, we discussed at length how we could develop such a self-sovereign identity. In a nutshell, it means that not only humans have an identity, but also organisations and even things have an identity.

Identity consists of many different attributes, which are constantly changing and evolving in terms of priority and durability. Some attributes such as birthdates, place of birth, biological parents, and Social Security numbers will stay with a person for his or her entire life. Others, such as an employee number, student number, address, or telephone number could change periodically. Still, other attributes could be very short-lived, such as a username on a forum or website. Each of these attributes has different, uniquely identifiable characteristics, and the combination of them constitutes a person’s identity (although the person might perceive that differently).

What applies to humans, also applies to devices. Machines also have a variety of attributes that make up its identity. These include the type of device, its brand, colour, characteristics, and capabilities. Although we have an identity infrastructure for people in place, at the moment we do not have an identity infrastructure in place for things. Despite that, we are rushing to connect devices to the internet, which could pose significant…

Dr Mark van Rijmenam, CSP

Strategic futurist keynote speaker and author who captivates audiences with insights on AI, blockchain and the metaverse -