More than 100 entities including the government of Bermuda are taking part in a private test of Shyft Network, which aims to help banks and other institutions verify who their customers are without storing their sensitive personal information.

Shyft Chairman Joseph Weinberg, who announced the test Thursday at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto, said it will become open to the general public within two weeks.

If it works, Shyft will help the world better define what ‘identity’ really means in a digital age.

The company also announced that a first group of companies has expressed interest in becoming “Trust Anchors” on its network. They include EnStream, BDO, Paysafe, Polymath and Aion.

Shyft says its platform will streamline the Know Your Customer (KYC) verification process that financial institutions must follow while keeping individuals’ personal information secure, because it won’t be held in a database that hackers can target.

Here’s how the system works. Say, for example, a bank wants to verify the identity of a new customer. Instead of asking the consumer for data such as her name and address, the bank would use Shyft tokens to request the information from a Trust Anchor on Shyft’s network. The Trust Anchor would already have collected the consumer’s information away from the network using traditional processes to verify its legitimacy. But once the Trust Anchor has sent verifications to the blockchain, it destroys all the data collected. And because those verifications are on the blockchain, they can’t be altered or reversed.

In Search Of Modern Data Collection

According to Weinberg, Shyft’s approach will avoid the repetitive data collection processes used by major institutions that may include information that is incorrect or outdated. It will also use information that is more relevant and contextual than things like names and addresses.

“We look at it as “unidentity,’” Weinberg told the Blockchain Futurist crowd. “We feel it is our civic study to enable things like your credit ability, not your personal identity, to act as collateral.”

Besides credit scores, other kinds of reputation data could include how long someone has owned a mobile phone, Weinberg said. By distributing such information on blockchain, it doesn’t have to reside on a single entity’s internal systems forever, and allows those involved in a transaction to focus only on the kind of information they need.

“If you want to come to a bank today, they have to have full disclosure or nothing,” he said.

Shyft has been in development for more than three years. Because Trust Anchors would essentially share access to the distributed information they might need on a customer, Shyft says it could help firms reduce what it costs them to collect and manage KYC data in compliance with industry regulations today.

If it works, Shyft will help the world better define what “identity” really means in a digital age, Weinberg said, as well as how it is used.

“If someone says they are trying to solve identity on blockchain, that person is lying to you and saying you should run,” he said. “Your personal identity is the worst thing to put on blockchain, because they’re all these public ledgers.”

Shane Schick
Shane Schick is veteran journalist who covers lifestyle, business and technology issues. He is the editor-in-chief of the Canada-based B2B News Network and Chair of the 2018 Blockchain Summit in Canada.