On October 2, 2017, Ethereum developer Fabian Vogelsteller created Ethereum Request for Comment 725 (ERC725) on GitHub. The ERC doesn’t even have an assigned Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) number, but within 24 hours, the plan for a standardized identity system for humans and machines reached the Twitterverse.

Vogelsteller is working on a critical development for Ethereum’s infrastructure. On GitHub, UX designer and fellow Ethereum Foundation member Alex Van de Sande called the ERC “very useful,” while suggesting some adjustments. In an email to ETHNews, Vogelsteller explained, “Identity is certainly one of the most [important] missing pieces in the Blockchain ecosystem, and I think this standard can fulfill that.”

What problem does ERC725 solve? On GitHub, Vogelsteller replied to commenters who inquired about the benefits of an identity standard and potential interoperability.

“This needs to be standardized so that other contracts can interact with real world identities, automatically check and verify them,” wrote Vogelsteller. “It’s not mainly necessary for interfaces alone. Also, this contract represents ONE identity. The addition of claims needs to be standardized, so that other identities can issue claims about each other.”

He elaborated, “Currently everybody collects all information about you separately to make sure they know who you are (e.g. banks, credit services, or any service which needs to have KYC). A standard will help insofar that everybody can auto check certain claims, and therefore don’t need to store actual details about you anymore, as they – as long as they trust the claim issuer – don’t need to have the actual information. The current over-collecting is because of lack of a better system.”

Vogelsteller also shed light on how identity verification would occur:

  • “Either the calling contract knows the claim type (are not defined yet, but would be things like address, biometric data etc.) and issuer it trusts. Then he simply needs to retrieve that claim and verify that its signature contains the address of the identity and the claim number. And checks that this signing address belongs to the issuer’s identity.
  • Or he will retrieve claim by type and then goes and checks the issuer’s identity claims. This can be done down as many ways as necessary to end up at a trusted claim.”

Tomorrow, at the Ethereum London Meetup, Vogelsteller will present ERC725 more formally. As with many aspects of Ethereum, it remains a work in progress – but ERC725 is definitely worth monitoring.

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