The following is a discussion with January Walker, a Cyber Security expert and Congressional Candidate for “Utah 04”.
January is an active member of the Web3 community and is consistently taking the time to speak to those whose message she resonates with the most. January is also an empathic believer in the power of NFTs, Web3, and ENS domains. She has leveraged this technology to create NFTs to help fund her campaign and even has had donations sent to UtahPolitician.eth.
My mission is to make blockchain voting a reality ~ January Walker
CryptoReporter.eth: January, for those who may not know who you are, can you give us a little bit of background about who you are and what you do?
January Walker: So my journey into web 3 has kinda been interesting. I was first introduced to Bitcoin by my friend when it was a penny, then three pennies, then again 10 dollars. Of course, as you could imagine, I clearly didn’t lean in immediately like perhaps I should have. I would say that it truly started back in 2014 working in the identity space.
I was able to bring new solutions to processes that previously took nine months to prove someone’s identity, and reduce it to about 5 minutes. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been working on document verification KYC (Know Your Customer) and looking for ways to innovate and disrupt my own work. I started looking at decentralization identity wallets, specifically self-sovereign identity and the concept was just brilliant. This was the main reason that I leaned into the space.
I was seeing a lot of privacy practices that I felt were immoral and questionable to be deployed in businesses. For example, in behavioral biometrics, I could not trace my biometric data down to who had it, I hit a dead end. For those who don’t know, biometric data is the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you interact and hold your phone. Your device gives you a whole digital persona that you take with you and there were people buying and trading this and that wasn’t something that I really agreed with. So, I started learning more about Web3 and decentralization and recognizing the use cases, and I think they have been extraordinary.
CryptoReporter.eth: How can blockchain technology really help society and the government?
January Walker: I think when it comes to blockchain decentralized ledger, this technology has so many applications. Some of the biggest ones that I think are the most crucial for us to address is the national debt crisis. It is completely out of control and there is no accountability for spending. When I come across articles saying that the government misplaced, misspent, or misappropriated 662 billion dollars, that just doesn’t seem right to me.
So understanding that we do not have an adequate means of tracking has been something that I’m definitely aware of, and looking at the technology, we could trace these transactions down to the last penny. I was able to do research and proof-of-concept and realized that this is a viable solution. Some people just say put it on a database. My counter to that is that we have a database today, and that is precisely what is not working.
So that one I think is pretty important. Circling back to the privacy piece., You have a right to your identity and you have a right to privacy. I have never experienced true privacy in my life as an American. You can take this concept and you can implement it in healthcare, you can implement it in veterans affairs. You can use these solutions to solve fraud and misspending and the utility and use cases are astronomical. These are certainly viable solutions that we should be leaning into and I have a lot of concern about the aversion to technology.
In terms of congress and what inspires me to run today, it really comes down to nobody else stepping up. Before I sealed the deal and agreed to be a candidate, there were a lot of conversations around, you know the office that we would run for. I asked the party chair, do you have anyone else that you can run with this heavy, very difficult task? But then, I realized that we need truly outstanding, extraordinary people that step up and champion the people. We need people that think outside the box and are not afraid of innovation, and that is why I am running for congress.
CryptoReporter.eth: If the entire world could hear your message what would you say?
January Walker: There are two immediate messages that come to mind: number one, you have the capability to do whatever it is that you want to do. So frequently we get pushed and told we are not capable or that we are not good enough, that we don’t deserve a pay raise or that job, but that is simply not true. You have the skillset today to accomplish really great things and if you fight for your passion, you’ll get there and you’ll succeed.
The second thing that comes to mind is that we are all human and we have got to stop fighting against each other. This is our world and we have got to collaborate. If you feel animosity towards somebody a lot of times you can transcend that animosity just by having conversations and building a shared understanding. If we do that, we would not have the conflicts and problems that we have today.
January ended the discussion with some closing remarks about identity:
Earlier in the conversation, we touched on personal privacy, how our information was being used and utilized, and sold, and exactly what kind of information was being collected. Essentially, the way that you walk, the way that you talk and so much more. You have an entire digital persona and this information is being collected and sold. And you know, people are doing this under the umbrella of you agreeing to their terms and conditions. So you have no protection and I think that that is flawed reasoning.
A lot of times people don’t even fathom the way they hold their phone or the way that they type has a digital footprint of information that would be tracked and used. I think they are unaware there’s a company, a very large company (I can almost guarantee that you have their devices), but they have information not only on you but customers that they don’t currently have and they build these data conglomerates of information that surround you.
They know more about their non-customers than their non-customers know about them. When I say this, what I’m really talking about is they know how many people are in your house, what kinds of devices you have, what your preferences are, and what’s the best way to market and advertise to you. They even know if you have kids, including how many kids, and even what age groups they are in.
This biometric data gets collected and this is a reality, right? I’m not trying to be fearful or fear-mongering or anything like that. All of this information that’s being collected, it’s being sold to big companies like MasterCard. But what happens when this information, this data starts to get into the wrong hands or there’s a data breach and you have a device that you connect to your doorbell and the door just automatically unlocks because it recognizes you as a person or an individual?
But what happens when they take it beyond digital image and they actually take it to your identity? How does that look? What does that world look like? I’m very concerned about some of these items. When I think about what we need to be doing, not just from a personal standpoint but from a government standpoint, I believe we need to become really aggressive around our information and stop giving it away at the rates that we are because there are potential uses beyond anything that we’re currently imagining.
When it comes to identity and where we’re at now, we really need to transcend this Web2 space. Not so far in the future, you will have these identity wallets powered through decentralization. Most likely self-sovereign identity, which means that you just control your identity and all of your information. There will be centralized places that issue you identity aspects. Take your driver’s license for example, or voter registration, or even your education credentials.
There are so many things that build into your identity and you’ll take all this information and it’ll be issued to you through a decentralized ID. These wallets will have layers of protection that protect your information, like your Social Security number or your birth certificate, or your marriage license. You’ll have this extra layer of protection when you need to prove your identity, and this could apply to a passport as well.
What I love about this is you have the ability to revoke it. You can trace it and see where this information is going, and this allows you to say yes. You can have my information or no you can’t. You can’t sell it, and this will prevent fraud and hacking in the future. But that is our future, and especially when we look at items like the Metaverse where your entire essence will be put into these spheres, it’s really crucial that we get legislation ahead of everything.
I know people are so focused on crypto, but for me, there are some slightly bigger fish that need to be addressed and I just don’t trust that our current leaders really know or understand these concepts. In the next two years, what is going to happen here, and are we being as aggressive as we need to be to get the protections in place for the future?