Every time we see a cool new piece of tech our minds start to race about how it can make our lives better. I remember when the iPad started making its way into everyday business life, the way we handled documents and reading material drastically changed for the better. It seemed that as soon as someone dreamt up a new use case for the iPad, an app was launched. Some tools that have been developed have new innovative ways that may have never crossed our minds. Last week Apple announced new features to its wallet app that will allow users to store their government issued ID’s in their apple wallet, through the use of verifiable credentials. This is a game-changer for both identity verification and securing your client’s documents against identity fraud. Lawyer’s should be looking at this change as a step forward in the technology used to protect their clients and themselves, in addition to further expanding their business by enabling their ability to more safely take on clients they have not met in person.
What is a verifiable credential?
A verifiable credential is the tool that enables users (your clients in this case) to provide evidence that they are who they claim to be. An entity (in this case a government) can issue a credential to a person, who can then do with it what they please. Similar to how the government issues a physical driver’s license to a person and they can do what they like with it, a government can issue a credential and the user can store it in their digital wallet and share it with whomever they like. The credential is authenticated through a blockchain link proving that the government issued the credential and that its sole right to use lies with the user, this is usually locked through a biometric. The credential is stored on the user’s phone, the safest place to keep it, and can be shared without the credential ever leaving the phone.
Solving the privacy problem
The most important use for a credential is that it solves an issue relating to data privacy. When you sign up for a social media account, newspaper subscription, or provide ID documents to a lawyer, each of those companies needs to store that data securely. However, because the more places that sensitive information resides, the higher likelihood the user has to be subject to a privacy breach. If any of those companies become compromised the user’s data can be stolen. Credentials allow a user to verify the information that each of the entities may require without having to allow them to store it, reducing both the users’ and the entities’ risk levels.
Verifying documents with credentials
Perhaps the more important use for credentials for lawyers is the tethering of credentials to legal documents which can create more fraud-resilient, traceable and verifiable digital signatures. Even the largest document signature companies have hailed this as the future of digital signatures. Using verifiable credentials, a notary could apply their seal digitally knowing that a document couldn’t be altered. While, someone who depends on that document could check that document for both authenticity of the notary seal and the signature, and crucially, a user could sign a document using a verifiable credential. Signing a document with a verifiable credential goes two steps further than most current digital signatures can go. A VC signed document, links the document to a biometric and a blockchain meaning we can see exactly who signed a document, at the moment they signed it, and prove that it hasn’t been altered since. This creates levels of assurance on legal documents that are the gold standard for proof.
All in, Apple’s new credential feature in the wallet offers major advances for lawyers in identity verification, privacy, and security in addition to lowering risk levels surrounding the growing issue of identity fraud. To look deeper into using verifiable credentials for your firm, contact us.