The Chinese government has revealed plans to implement a blockchain-powered platform for identity verification of its 1.4 billion citizens. The “RealDID” system aims to leverage decentralized technology to enable anonymous yet authenticated access to online services.

RealDID will allow Chinese residents to register accounts and log in to websites anonymously using encrypted credentials tied to their real-world identity. This is supposed to preserve privacy while satisfying regulatory requirements for service providers to validate users.

The initiative highlights China’s rapid blockchain adoption to strengthen data security and personal control in the midst of an ongoing wave of digital transformation. However, mandatory integration with government ID databases raises questions concerning the development of state surveillance infrastructure.

Preserving Anonymity While Confirming Identity is the Goal of RealDID

Details of RealDID emerged during the December 12th BSN conference in Beijing. BSN refers to China’s national Blockchain-Based Service Network, which oversees the country’s proprietary blockchain infrastructure.

RealDID will fuse BSN’s capabilities with the country’s existing identity authentication platform, also known as CTID, which is operated by the Ministry of Public Security. The CTID program has provided centralized digital identity authentication since 2016 across sectors like healthcare and transportation.

Under RealDID, residents will be able to generate keys tied to their legal identity which can be used to access different services without revealing personal details. Users control what information to disclose and service providers are only allowed to access essential data based on these permissions.

BSN’s materials describe this as “anonymity at the front desk and real name at the backend.” Residents will be able to register accounts that will be untraceable but will have to undergo identity checks when conducting secured transactions. The system then proceeds to verify the credentials without tracking profiles or behavior.

Verified Social Profiles Will Be Possible Without Diminishing Users’ Privacy

BSN’s domestic infrastructure links government agencies with Chinese corporate giants like Tencent, Huawei, and UnionPay. The Ministry of Public Security will rely on RealDID as part of its national digital governance initiatives.

Meanwhile, BSN Global supports international programs as a separate entity. This structure allows China to export technical capabilities while guarding domestic operations.

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RealDID also aligns with recent policies enforcing real identity disclosure by major influencers and content creators. Verified standing allows for uncensored communications without total anonymity.

Cryptographic identity validations support accountability in line with last decade’s ‘real-name registration’ movement. RealDID reinforces this agenda by leveraging blockchain technology rather than centralized databases.

In showcasing RealDID, Chinese authorities have emphasized their leadership in the development of blockchain-powered identity management systems. The launch of RealDID at BSN’s flagship conference signals a model for ID verification that may be considered innovative globally.

By tackling identity authentication through decentralized encryption, China will be among the first countries to offer a solution that preserves online anonymity without forfeiting oversight. With an unmatched population scale, demonstrations of credible identification alternatives may help set global standards if the country demonstrates its success.

This latest program provides additional evidence of China’s thrust into cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and other complex blockchain applications.

RealDID Would be Used Across Multiple Economic Sectors

BSN outlined numerous application scenarios for RealDID spanning healthcare, finance, communications, and more. Users could disclose medical data to hospitals while shielding their finances or online behavior information and without necessarily revealing their identity.

The Ministry of Public Security currently relies on CTID as the backbone for digital identity services. The program is already embedded across public and commercial activity. RealDID promises to expand use cases and participation by enabling self-controlled information flows.

Authorities forecast that the system’s online anonymity combined with selective data transparency will accelerate digital transformation. It is also a promising step in terms of building the core infrastructure needed to keep pushing forward the country’s digital economy and web 3.0 industry.

Will RealDID Lead to Increased State Surveillance?

RealDID’s encryption and anonymous credentials could give citizens significant data security advantages. Nonetheless, leveraging the Ministry of Public Security’s existing digital ID databases suggests mass embedding into centralized monitoring systems.

No opt-out exists for citizens from compulsory ID registries or blockchain integrations mandated by Beijing. Once encrypted linking occurs across economic and social activities, reversing infrastructure dependencies becomes impossible.

Advanced functionality enabling anonymous transactions still requires identity credentials issued and verified by government authorities. There is no way to avoid the government’s surveillance capabilities in this context as they will be ingrained into nationwide digital infrastructures through mandatory citizen participation.

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While showcasing sophistication matching global competitors, China’s solution to ID management involves integrated encryption, not independent identity ownership outside state administrations. Critics highlight the risks associated with binding new technologies into existing surveillance capacities. These capacities seem to be expanding faster than regulatory restrictions over data access by authorities.

However, RealDID demonstrates global technical leadership in blockchain identity authentication from China. Few countries could attempt nationwide anonymous credentialing leveraging unified ID systems.