If blockchain-based identity platform Civic is to go mainstream, then making it simple for as many businesses and consumers as possible to start using its app will be key.
“Consumer adoption may take a while. Hopefully, we have a hit that takes off,” Vinny Lingham, CEO and founder at Civic, said on stage at Money 20/20, in a fireside chat with Bruce Silcoff, CEO of blockchain-based ID company Shyft, and moderator James Mirfin, global head of digital identity at Refinitiv.
To that end, the company is aiming to attract more partners with its latest solution, Civic Connect, an integration tool that will allow mobile app developers to integrate the Civic app directly into their own apps as a way to authenticate users. Civic made the announcement on October 21, 2018, during the Las Vegas event.
Civic Connect includes two libraries: One is an Android library, the other, an iOS library. The library tools, both available on Github, allow a partner app to include a “Connect with Civic” icon in their own app with only a few lines of code.
Tapping on that icon takes a user from the partner app over to the Civic App, where the user can approve the exchange of login credentials or personal information, and then back to the partner app again.
“They are basically transitioning screens,” JP Bedoya, vice president of product and design at Civic, told Bitcoin Magazine.
“If you were logging into Wikihow, for example, one of Civic’s partners, you would just use your Civic identity and with that you will login in a matter of seconds, create an account and whatnot,” he said. “So CivicConnect is an extension of that. Now you can use that Civic identity in a seamless way from any mobile application that works with Civic,” he said.
The Civic app itself works like a digital wallet, but, instead of storing funds, it stores personally identifiable information, which you can use to log into another app without a username or password or to share know-your-customer (KYC) data, depending on what an app requires.
The library tools allow developers to add two-factor authentication (2FA), anonymous private 2FA and onboard verified users in a customized flow to streamline the experience, Civic said.
The way Bedoya sees it, “If you think of all of the millions of apps out there today and you have to create a username and password in all of them, now you can just use your Civic app.”
Private ID Verification Transactions
Civic wants to allow consumers to regain control of their identity. As Lingham explained it, in talking to Bitcoin Magazine, imagine if you handed your driver’s license to a bartender to show you were of legal drinking age, but then the bartender memorized the information, or then the Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that issues licenses, had a way of becoming aware of that (and every) transaction you made using your driver’s license?
“It would just be freaky,” he said. “We think about it that way. How do you create a world where you have an ID without a record being tracked? And that is why the blockchain makes sense. Now the bartender can verify independently, and only you and he know the transaction occurred.”
Civic stores attestations on the Bitcoin blockchain, while ID information is encrypted and stored on a user’s own device — not on Civic’s servers. Transactions, which occur when you show your ID to another app using Civic, are handled by smart contracts on the Ethereum platform. Eventually, the project plans to move to RSK, but it is not there yet.
The Civic project has 1 billion CVC tokens, a third of which it sold in a 2017 token sale to raise $33 million to build out its platform.
But while Civic has big plans for its future, competition in the space is stiff. Right now, Lingham explained, there are about 40 or 50 other blockchain-based identity services on the market — and “thousands” of companies trying to handle ID in a centralized fashion.
“No good idea is born alone,” Lingham said. Nevertheless, he thinks Civic stands a good chance of coming out ahead. “The real question is how do they compete with us?” he said of his blockchain-based ID competitors. “We got here first. We have a lot of IP that has been developed and a string of patents, so we are first.” (Civic was originally founded in 2016.)
Civic has also been adding new partners, companies and entrepreneurs that need its ID services. According to Lingham, Civic has 100 partners so far. Its best-known partner is Anheuser-Busch. Partners in the crypto space include Brave, ShapeShift and 0x, and it’s been able to sign up several ICO projects that need to follow KYC before selling tokens.
Lingham feels consumers will be drawn to Civic because of its security and privacy. “We don’t make money out of monetizing your personal information like the big guys do,” he said. “When you use Facebook, let’s be frank, they are tracking every time you use it to open an account in an app, so they can target ads at you, and Google as well.”
Of course, Facebook and Google already have a gargantuan user base, while Civic is just getting its feet wet in the ID space.
“We could take the approach, that their user base has such a big unassailable lead,” he said. “Or, we could take the approach that this is important enough that people who care will switch to an alternative, and over time we, as an industry, will provide a better solution.”
Amy Castor is a full-time freelance writer and researcher who enthusiastically follows Bitcoin and Ethereum. She has been writing about technology for nearly two decades. You can follow her @girlandgrowl on Twitter.