Kaliya Young

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Molly Schwartz:

" She has a background in environmental activism, and she’s built a career as a freewheeling community organiser for identity tech. She does research. She writes white papers and op-eds. She introduces people to each other. She advises everyone from the US government to small tech startups to Microsoft. At a lot of meetings she was the only woman in the room. People came to know her as “Identity Woman”.

Most importantly, Young has created a space for standards work to happen, twice a year, every year. In 2005, she co-founded the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) with Phil Windley and Doc Searls. Every six months, a few hundred identity geeks flock to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, where they work together on identity standards and technology.

The conference has spawned widely used standards such as OAuth, which is used by millions of people every day when they use login credentials from one site to sign into another. These days, most of the participants at IIW are working on Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), a technology that uses decentralised identifiers that people create and own, and verifiable credentials issued to them and under their control.

SSI has its critics. Some say that a decentralised system will never work, that a company like Amazon will come through and monopolise identity. Privacy critics and techno-sceptics are concerned about the unforeseen consequences, such as backdoor data intrusions, or a lack of institutional recourse if something goes wrong.

Young has seen plenty of new identity schemes fail. She’s a walking, talking encyclopaedia of standards past and present, dead or dormant. She can tell you about failed attempts at a single sign-on tool, such as Microsoft Passport (which famously crashed hotmail.co.uk when Microsoft forgot to renew the passport.com domain in 1999).

But the tech underpinning SSI has matured since Young started working on it, and a growing number of industries, including finance, enterprise management and healthcare, stand to benefit. “Banks are interested in SSI now because it’s significantly reducing risk for them,” she says. “It’s so much more secure than cookies.” (https://www.wired.co.uk/article/kaliya-young)