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Legalizing Identity Protocols for the United Nations 16.9

This paper reviews the accepted deficits of UN's targets, 16.9: “By 2030 provide legal identity for all including birth registration”, of Sustainable Development Goal 16, and offers proposals that the private technology sector can provide with the aim in achieving this goal. In order for a technology or system to be replaced it only needs to provide a marginal improvement to the current or existing system. Such that the cost of implementation can be realized over a reasonable amount of time, or that the costs are irrelevant because evolving the system is an ethical necessity. In the case of the current standard of centralized identity systems both reasons for change, financial and ethical, are reasonably arguable. There are a vast number ways to improve the efficiency of the current system. As well as an unignorable number of tragic human stories, that provide a humanitarian motive in providing the world with legal identities.

In developed nations, where most individuals have possibly dozens of ways to validate their identity, aims at creating specific identity protocols has not yet found the market that is most in need of it. Since as long ago as 1991 with PGP, or 2011 with Namecoin, advancements in identity protocols has primarily benefited tech savvy individuals who already have legal identities. Although the goals of those identity systems was never explicitly to bring legal sovereign identities to the world, it is possible to make that the goal today. The friction in achieving this goal is in bridging the communication gap between the public and private sector. The technology exists to equip so many people in the world with an identity, but there is an immense responsibility to do this securely and ethically. A primary goal with any public-private partnerships in this space is to instill confidence that potential identity systems are only more secure from fraud, identity theft, and robber baron scenarios than what currently exists worldwide today. The public sector needs the innovation and talent of technologists, while the private sector needs the legitimacy and trust, without an excessive legislative, political or financial burden in the way of effectively providing a legal identity to those without.

I. Accepted Flaws in the Current System

“…it’s a small paper but it actually establishes who you are and gives access to the rights and the privileges, and the obligations, of citizenship.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, launching Plan’s Universal Birth Registration campaign, February 2005

Generic Process of Birth Certificate to Legal Identity
  1. Parent A and or Parent B Sign a "Statement of Live Birth" for Child C, which serves as the hospitals record of birth.
  2. The certificate is sent to the Agency A, to create the "Official Government Issued Record of Birth: the Birth Certificate".
    • The certificate it stored at Agency B using electronic records management software.
  3. The Birth Certificate is used as the primary document in getting a photo ID when the child comes of age.
This process has several notable economic and security flaws:
  1. Infrastructure: The process requires a certain amount of infrastructure, access to hospitals that can provide the child with the "Statement of Live Birth" and the subsequent the "Birth Certificate".
  2. Identity Theft: The paper document is subject to theft. There is a risk that the person presenting the birth certificate as a primary identity document is not the true owner of the "Birth Certificate".
  3. Verification and Re-issuance: The paper document is subject to loss or physical damage. Verifying or re-issuance of the Birth Certificate relies on stability and trust of Agency B.
  4. Prevention of Duplicates: There is no barrier or management of possible duplicate identities. 4.1 A typical example of this is with Social Security Cards in the US. When an individual dies it is common for that identity to be picked up and used by someone else.
  5. Centralized Trust: There is degree of security and privacy is entirely reliant of Agency B.

The question to ask of any identity protocol considered with the aim of resolving UN 16.9 for identity is, does this technology improve upon the existing problems in the process of obtaining legal identity?

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