Bitcoin Foundation board member Vinny Lingham has announced that he has stepped down as CEO of the popular mobile gift card service Gyft to pursue a new business venture.
Based in Palo Alto, Civic has already received $2.75m in funding from Social Leverage, along with a number of VC firms active in the bitcoin and blockchain space. These include Pantera Capital, Blockchain Capital and Digital Currency Group.
The digital identity protection startup, which focuses on online solutions for US Social Security numbers, is expected to launch this spring, according to Lingham.
Lingham told CoinDesk:
"Your identity information is out there, whether you like it or not. There's so many breaches. Right now, on the Dark Web, bad guys could be using your information to create fake accounts to apply for credit cards and loans. It's a huge problem, and it's ridiculous. The goal for civic is to make your Social Security number secure."
A long-time advocate for the bitcoin and blockchain industry, Lingham first integrated bitcoin payments into Gyft in 2013, and has since been a regular at industry events.
Following the company's acquisition by First Data, Lingham was instrumental in encouraging the company to attempt to build gift card technology on the blockchain as part of an ongoing project he said he will remain involved with.
While Lingham said there is no immediate connection between Civic and the blockchain tech space, he sees opportunities for the startup to leverage the emerging technology.
"There's a blockchain play here for data security. The blockchain is probably the most secure place to store information right now," Lingham said.
However, he kept his remarks broad, stating that he believes consumers need solutions to better control their personal information while providing a satisfactory consumer experience.
Inside the service
The premise of the app, according to Lingham, is that customers will provide Civic with their Social Security number for safe storage in exchange for greater monitoring capabilities.
"You install an app on your phone and when someone tries to use your SSN within your network, you get a ping. No one can use your identity to open up account," he explained.
Lingham said the service is an innovation on existing banking security models, as Civic is able to detect the use of a Social Security number before it is used to set up a new account.
"We use all the industry best practices, from high-level security to cryptography," he said, adding:
"In theory, you could print your Social Security number on a business card and they couldn't use it."
To achieve adoption, Lingham said Civic will seek to partner with select financial institutions. Additionally, Howard Lindzon, Social Leverage's founding partner, will join Civic's board.
Dan Palmer contributed reporting.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Civic.
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