We’re now in a world where no organization wants to hold personally identifying information (PII) if they don’t have to. The implementation of GDPR regulations has brought a keen focus on what personal data is collected, stored, used and most importantly, who holds responsibility for it.
But we also live in a digital world where secure digital identification is a necessity for so many things – not least travel and crossing borders.
Data for travel
Passenger information, identification and government authorizations such as visa approvals are necessary for passenger facilitation, something that’s only becoming more of a challenge as we face rising passenger numbers globally. All industry players, are coming to the realization that the best way to handle such sensitive data is to not have it. It’s seen as a liability.
There has always been a need for people to assert their identities and today that’s lacking online. In an ideal world, individuals would hold all their identity data digitally themselves, which they could declare to various entities. In travel that could be at every step of the journey, from booking, traveling through the airport, crossing borders and checking-in to hotels.
Is Self-Sovereign Identity the answer?
My team in the SITA Lab is exploring the option of self-sovereign identity (SSI). First, let me define what this is.
Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is a lifetime portable identity for any person, organization, or thing that allows the holder to present verifiable credentials in a privacy-protecting way. These credentials can represent things as diverse as a passport, an airline ticket or simply a library card. Self-sovereign identity gives individuals control over how their personal data is shared and used. It adds a layer of security and flexibility allowing the identity holder to only reveal the necessary data for any given transaction or interaction. It essentially puts control of a person’s identity back into their hands.
There is real interest in the potential of self-sovereign identity. Global players – such as Cisco, IBM, T-Mobile and Viridium – have joined together in the Sovrin Foundation, an international non-profit organization with the mission to enable self-sovereign identity online. The Sovrin Foundation provides the business, legal, and technical support for the Sovrin Network, which enables people, organizations or IoT devices to prove things about themselves to anyone or anything, peer-to-peer, using data that the other party can verify.
SITA is one of the Founding Stewards of the Sovrin Foundation and together with global industry leaders we are working on a path to give passengers back control of their identity.
It’s our unique role in the global air transport industry – our community ownership and neutral position – that makes SITA ideally suited to be the first travel industry Steward for Sovrin, representing the air transport industry.
A new path for identity management
As digital identities and data privacy rise higher on the agendas of airline and airport CEOs and CIOs, we at SITA are working with our partners to explore a new path for identity management. Our team is developing use cases with our airline, airport and government partners to explore self-sovereign ID and to transform the online identity system for travel on the Sovrin Network.
Using self-sovereign identities could lead to lower financial transaction costs, protect people’s personal information, limit opportunity for cybercrime, and simplify identity challenges across the passenger journey.
Right now, at SITA Lab we’re working on three use cases with three partners on the Sovrin Network. In the next six to eight months we plan to showcase these to the industry and to demonstrate how self-sovereign identity could give control back to passengers.
There’s no doubt we’re approaching a turning point in our use of data and identities in air transport, and this will make travel easier than ever, giving back control to passengers. SITA Lab is proud to be playing a pioneering role.
For more information on the use of Biometrics in air travel don't miss the Biometrics for better travel report.
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