Privately proving you’re a unique person

Why this is exciting

Bot prevention with traditional methods like phone numbers or CAPTCHAs have limited success. Government document verification could work, but it’s expensive to do, users often don’t trust a website enough to share sensitive personal information, and there is a risk of data breach.

What if there was a way for new businesses who haven’t built up trust with users, to know they’re interacting with a unique person, without knowing any personally identifying information? Crypto platforms or e-commerce businesses can offer promotional incentives without worrying about fraud, while social media apps could ensure real discussion and reduce spam.

Imagine a world that has eliminated bot-related fraud, spam, and impersonation

What I’m exploring

I want to explore bot prevention in digitally-native industries like social networks, customer incentives, and marketplaces. I’m ignoring regulated industries like finance or government benefits, where businesses need to know the personal identity of their users.

How this would work

This would be a Know Your Customer (KYC) solution that allows a user to verify they’re a unique person by uploading documents once, and reuse this verification across many websites and apps. Websites are only able to discern that this person hasn’t signed up before or that they’ve only done a specific action once.

Websites would use us in their onboarding to let users privately prove they’re a unique person. Users go through a trusted identity verification service like Plaid or Stripe, a hash of that ID is generated and is compared against other IDs that have been seen, and if they have not verified before, they’re added to a list of verified persons by country. All personal information is subsequently discarded.

An example - When a user signs up for a new crypto or rideshare platform, they’ve able to claim a $25 signup bonus by proving they’re a unique person. This is different from problematic promotions that have run in the past, because personal information is discarded afterwards. That user doesn’t have to worry about sharing sensitive passport details to a new startup. Over time, if that user has verified before with another company, they can breeze through this process.

This implementation is similar to that of World ID. Instead of an iris scan, it uses well-known identity verification services which is accurate enough to reduce the majority of fraud and doesn’t have privacy perception issues issues or or artificial adoption constraints. Instead of full decentralization, we rely on users and businesses trusting a provider like Stripe enough. However, we keep the same notion of discarding the personal information and instead only storing a hash.

Why now

Given the explosion of AI-generated content, and increasingly capable bots, a system for detecting bots from humans, or proof of personhood, is a matter of when. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin believes that proof of personhood would be very valuable, and OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, built a company called WorldCoin to do this in a global and distributed manner.

ID.me does verification for governments and regulated industries, but shares user’s sensitive information with websites. They’re reached 100 million members.

Digital ID systems are becoming increasingly popular, whether it’s digitizing government documentation like Arizona and Ukraine, biometrics based like India, or even modular open standards like Mosip.

How would distribution work?

This would be a B2B offering to help businesses privately integrate proof of personhood.

For example, an app can use our SDK to provide customers with larger signup bonuses if they prove they’re a unique person. Normally, businesses would need to pay $0.50 - $1.50 per verification, but we could subsidize that cost for any users that our platform has not seen, and amortize that cost by reusing that verification confirmation across many businesses.

Next Steps

See if there is a demand to verify personhood but not get traditional KYC benefits

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