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The current state of personal identity relies heavily on centralized authorities. Two major issues with the existing systems are the security of identity and the lack of identity. Having a personal identity is recognized as a human right in international law, yet our current regulations fail to protect and enforce people’s right to legal identity, allowing the existing systems to be taken advantage of for unethical behavior such as human trafficking and identity theft, as well as causing economic and social problems with more than a billion people living around the world without an identity.


We elaborated on the concept of humanity by redefining the idea of personal identity, providing a trustworthy and robust system through a decentralized network and giving the control of personal identity back to the people.


The proposed solution, EarthID is a blockchain-based global identity management platform that allows users to register and validate their personal identity information through advanced facial recognition technology. It is based on the utilitarian concept and is designed to have a positive impact on our society, economy and environment. EarthID brings legal identity to more people with the goal to maximize human flourishing, provides better security to protect personal identity, balances out the power to control identity between regulators, businesses and individuals, and is accessible from anywhere around the world, without having to carry any identification documents.

ROLE: Research | Regulatory Gaps | Design Solutions | Design Research |  Strategy | Art Direction


TEAM: Alfie Cobo, Eva Foo, Jia Hui, Karishma Damani, Vishali Bawa

DURATION: August 2017 - November 2017



Every human being on this planet is a unique individual, and the purpose of identity is to ensure that this is recognized and enforced. Historically, human used body marks, jewelry or objects to identify individuals. As we become more and more connected in this world, the methods evolved over time. In today’s society, government-validated identity, such as an ID card or passport, is the most widely used method by not just the governments, but also different businesses and institutions.




Many incidents have proven these methods to be majorly flawed. When an individual’s identity is only tied to single or limited sources, such as a government-issued document, ID number or personal certification, it makes the identity vulnerable to stealing, faking or modification. We are witnessing problems such as identity theft, global terrorism and human trafficking become more serious day by day.

Lack of regulations -

The current regulations and laws fail to enforce individual’s right to  have a legal identity, even though international laws recognize personal identity is a basic human right.

• Identity is more critical to the advancement of AI

• Currently, the U.S. federal government doesn’t enact specific legislation to regulate blockchain across the nation, and different States are free to introduce their own rules in this area. Developments of blockchain regulation and implementation in the U.S. include the recognition of smart contracts in Arizona, blockchain as evidence in Vermont,

• Many large businesses are hesitant to launch any projects based on blockchain technology because of the lack of regulation in this area. This opens up an opportunity for new and disruptive organizations to gain an advantage over incumbent businesses.

Jurisdictions -

• Since the nodes on a blockchain can be located anywhere, not bound by any boundaries of jurisdictions, this can lead to a number of issues related to contractual relationships.  

• If transactions fell under the jurisdiction on location of each and every node in the network, the blockchain system would need to satisfy the umpteen number of regulatory regimes.


Data Privacy -

Even though blockchain system allows its users to be anonymous, in many cases it is necessary for people to reveal their identity. Whenever users are asked to disclose their personal information, there will be issues around privacy as the use of personal data.

• For example, a user’s passport or other identity information might be securely encrypted, but the proof of validation could be used publicly on a blockchain system for the purpose of a transaction, without revealing the underlying private data.

• For example, If a buyer wants to use the personal information of an individual's database for a new purpose, they will have to get consent from that individual in order to comply with the Data Protection act 1998, a regulation designed to protect personal data stored on different systems.


Liability -

Since blockchain is decentralized, if anything goes wrong, it can be very hard to identify who is to blame for the problem and who would take the responsibility of fixing it. Liability can be hard to prove and there is no form of accountability. Thus, the allocation and attribution of risk and liability needs to be well thought through between all the relevant stakeholders.

Regulations on facial recognition as ID method -

The American Bar Association enables collecting, storing, or using individuals’ biometric information for law enforcement, immigration or national security.

Humanity -

In the centralized identity system, people don’t have power over personal data control. It is hard for them to access their data which is controlled by the government. We are talking about protecting people’s personal freedoms at multiple levels here. While everyone in the world is born with a unique identity, not everyone in the world has a proof of their identity.


Economic and social problem -

Unethical behavior for human trafficking and identity theft causes millions of value losing and uncertainty of individual security.

• If a birth is never recorded in a reliable trusted system, a child can easily disappear without a trace.

• Many platforms keep digital clones of our identity, even though there is only one physical version of us. These variations can lead to problems such as multiple systems of entry or just a mismatch in identity.

• Cases of identity theft can take place anywhere from the local ATM to the White House Office. In 2016, according to Research, identity theft cost the U.S. $16 billion and affected more than 15 million Americans.

•Fake IDs are an important tool for terrorism. For example, during the recent attack in Paris, some of the terrorists possibly used false passports to facilitate travel in Europe. This is a direct threat to national and global security.




Without a personal identity, it is difficult to protect people’s rights and offer them with equal opportunities. Refugees, for example, can be exploited, and undocumented children are more vulnerable to trafficking schemes. Without a secure identity system, It is easy for victims who experienced identity theft to suffer from the negative impact of their reputation, and global crimes can be committed under somebody else's identity.


Centralizing the network of personal identity creates a single point of failure, and builds a repository of high-value data that can attract hackers. Proper controls need to be in place to maintain integrity. 

We propose a solution called EarthID, a blockchain-based identity management platform that allows users to register and validate their personal identity information through advanced facial recognition technology. Having a single identity system, instead of multiple duplicates, means a person will be able to access the data from where this ID is linked, such as medical or school records. Furthermore, a decentralized network storage system will protect everyone's identity data against theft, fraudulent activity and potential security breaches. When people register themselves on EarthID, they will have the ownership over their personal identity that is free from tampering. Once a piece of data is registered to the blockchain system, that information cannot ever be lost or changed.


This system will provide people with the dignity of having a secure identity. People will be able to travel securely with an easy way to share who they are, eliminating the need for paper proof, reducing current problems such as human trafficking or intensity loss issues. EarthID is designed for human flourishing, with its goal to create a decentralized system which is transparent, based on important values such as empathy, freedom and equal opportunities for all.


EarthID is a technical solution to solve a human problem, which aims to empower people, communities and society around the world while bringing new economic opportunities through the removal of entry barriers and free-thinking lifestyles. The system will be built with the idea of modification in mind, being able to adapt to people’s thinking and behavior evolves.



The current Identity system is a top-down system that is not cost effective. There is very less power in the hands of the people and is controlled by the government. It is not very inclusive. For example, Refugees cannot turn to the government for the rights to a legal identity. 





- Positive impact on individuals

EarthID is a net positive design that considers all stakeholders, which we will divide into three categories, consumers, businesses and governments, to elaborate further. EarthID provides a convenient and seamless experience for all individuals to have access to different services, including ones that fulfill basic human needs. Individuals will have better control over their personal data with the decentralized identity system.


- Positive impact on businesses

With EarthID, a trusted system, businesses will provide better customer experience more efficiently. The highly secured system will also reduce the risk and cost of data breach. “On average, the cost of a breach has risen to $4 million per incident—up 29% since 2013—according to research sponsored by IBM’s security division.” According to IBM findings, healthcare has the highest cost per stolen record in various industries. The damage is not only costly to the businesses, but also the people. In traditional identity system, it is hard to monitor and track data breach. EarthID could help businesses effectively monitor and manage customers’ data to lower risk and avoid financial loss.


- Positive impact on regulators

Lastly, EarthID brings a positive impact to the regulators by offering a standardized process to provide identity to people. Individuals’ identities are no longer attached to their governments, which will increase the regulators’ efficiency and quality to monitor their people, and achieve transparent surveillance.

EarthID is an ambitious solution to solve a complex world problem. It will help us overcome the many challenges, especially in this VUCA world in order to achieve our goals. However challenging it may be, we believe it is time for the global identity system to be disrupted for a better future, and it starts with the idea of EarthID.


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