Alex Fauvel talks identity management at CoinGeek Seoul

Identity management is a key issue in the blockchain world, central to a number of real-world applications of the technology.

Alex Fauvel, general partner at TwoHop Ventures, took time out at the recent CoinGeek Conference in Seoul to address issues of identity management, and to discuss his plans for an on-chain solution that allows more effective, secure management of individual identity.

Fauvel said that one of the fundamental problems with blockchain at the moment is that owning a digital asset is in practice, not legally possible. This is because digital assets are effectively just data that can be copied, pasted, and passed on to anyone.

To ensure that assets can’t just be given away freely, ownership needs to be tied to a more permanent record of identity. While there have been a number of attempts to date to build this type of model, they fall down because identity is not being recorded on chain.

This means these services are relying on company servers to authenticate identity, creating a single point of failure—if a company goes bankrupt, for example, identity is lost.

Fauvel said that the solution was on-chain identity that survives any single point of failure, by recording unique identity information on the blockchain and tying this data to asset ownership.

Naturally, any data written to the blockchain can be publicly accessed, raising security concerns for those building and relying on this type of system. The solution, according to Fauvel, is to encrypt the data, as well as identity, and to hide sensitive encrypted data within other encrypted data on the chain.

He said this provides a foundation model for recording identity data securely on-chain by ensuring attackers don’t even know where to look to find the data they need to unencrypt to carry out an attack.

Billed as a general solution to secure data storage and identity management on the blockchain, Fauvel said there were a number of applications where verifiable identity was essential, such as managing title deeds on the blockchain and blockchain voting.

Alex Fauvel reveals Pixel’s VOAM identity system at CoinGeek Seoul

Pixel Wallet has been a huge part of Bitcoin SV’s (BSV) history, launching support for it in December 2018 and providing a cool way for users to send and receive funds using pictures. Alex Fauvel, Founder and general partner of Two Hop Ventures, a Dutch venture capital firm that made their first investment in Pixel Wallet, revealed that they have much bigger plans in mind at the CoinGeek Seoul conference.

Fauvel began his presentation by describing what Two Hop Ventures is all about, and it’s all about BSV. It plans to raise 40 million euros for BSV startups, sticking to 10 year fund terms only, indicating their belief in long term investments in the original Bitcoin.

But he then corrected the notion that Pixel is just a wallet. “What Pixel actually is, is a proprietary process which effectively just hides data inside other data,” he told the crowd. It uses technology that hides data inside other data, much like how letters are sent in paper envelopes. “This is not jumbling up letters like encryption. This is as secret, so the message must be hidden. If it’s hidden, an attacker doesn’t even know where to look.”

Using stenography and Bitcoin, Pixel is working on a digital rights management system for identity, or as Fauvel called it, digital privatized identity. Like how Satoshi invented Bitcoin to put an end to the government manipulation of money, Pixel is hoping to help people take control of their identities.

And while a noble idea, it’s a profitable one too. Fauvel noted the major technology firms who already make hundreds of millions from protecting user identities, applying dozens of different protocols to the task. The reason they do so is simple. “They are here because your identity is the most valuable thing you could ever own,” he noted. “The data that it creates is now the most valuable commodity on this planet. Today, we give it away for free while they make billions.”

But they all suffer from the same fatal flaw. If their servers should go down, or the companies go bankrupt, that identity information is lost forever. By using the BSV blockchain, Pixel is guaranteeing that identities will always be available onchain.

VOAM, standing for verify once, authenticated many, is Pixel’s upcoming product to address this problem, and plans to be the end to end know your customer (KYC) process for businesses and users. At $10 for users, and $100 for businesses, they are looking to set reasonable, yet profitable, prices for everyone to get in on the game.

This is a system that Fauvel touts as one that can help bring in new users to BSV as well. “The blockchain allows us to own our own data, and no one has been really addressing what owning things means,” he explained. “To own something, you must have a legal claim on it. So when people say that Instagram or Facebook, they own all our data, it’s simply because that’s the way the Internet works. This is a new system that will give people back their sovereignty over their data legally on a blockchain. The way we’re going to onboard the world is by not requiring Bitcoin to pay for the service.”

The benefits to VOAM are clear. Users will never again have to worry about their identity being used without their consent. They can either deny a service the ability to do so, or demand payment for the privilege. This not only makes identity a new source of profit for individuals, but helps protect against potentially nefarious uses like deepfakes.

It’s still a work in progress though, and we asked him how users would know if their identity wasn’t being used with their permission. “We are going to need certain notification systems when their identity might have been leaked,” he responded. “Quite simply, a lot of the data leaks are going to stop because companies don’t actually hold our data anymore, we hold our own data and we control access to it.”

And as scary as deep fakes might seem in 2019, Fauvel insists they will be at hing of the past once this product is available to everyone. “By simply saying that this video, that is uploaded to the metanet, is from my account, it’s from my legal identity,” he explained was the solution. “It doesn’t matter whether that video is procedurally generated to replicate someone’s face. If it’s got their signature legally, then there is no doubt that it’s come from the source.”

But it has to be done right, Fauvel insisted, and Pixel is working with a conservative timeline to make sure they don’t make any mistakes. Fauvel told the South Korea crowd that they hope to have a worldwide launch for the product by the end of 2020.