Who are you? What is your identity? And what is the purpose of your identity?
No one thinks much about this, but the way our identity is coded, on a bank card, passport, social security number, is crucial to how we live and go about with our lives. A few decades ago, most of us, just had a limited number of proofs of identity, mostly our ID, passport, a few bank cards. With the internet and its digital world, our identities have become more and more fractured and prolific. In every platform we use, in a couples of minutes, we craft a new proof of identity, a new profile, a new number, a new password. Data related to our
identities have thus, expanded considerably. These identities, are what one could call digital identity. In our fast times, digital identity is more important then ever.
Identity can be problematic for individuals, society, governments and in the economy. For individuals there can be problems with validating who they are online and offline on at least a daily basis, as a result of numerous passwords and different ID documents. This is also a difficult issue for society in general, businesses and governments. Finally, with the internet, the way large media corporations are handling our digital identity and personal data, are hitting the news everyday, sometimes not for the best of reasons. Recent scandals about personal data misuse have finally come to the forefront.
Identity and digital transformation
The process of identity is a dynamic one, and it is key for the ongoing digital transformation occurring in the world. Most of the activities of our lives now imply processes of digital identification. When we log into our online bank account, Instagram profile, or the tax office, we necessarily go through a process of digital identification. When clients or users are required to enter their real names, phones, and other types of recognition, they are in fact giving their identities with them. Private tech companies are seemingly using personal identities as mere assets which to trade with. So the least that users can ask for is just a responsible and coherent use of their data, where privacy and exposure should be at the top of their concerns.
Presently there is a lack of trust between different organisations, and there is no one overarching “identity” that is utilised all of the time. For example, a physical passport is needed to board an airplane to travel abroad, while an online password and multi-authentication process may be needed to access online personal tax records. This has led to people having a wide range of different credentials for different public organisation and private company services that they need to use. Individuals don’t know what information organisations and the government store about them – and it is difficult to control or edit this in any way. Finally, keeping track of such a wide variety of different aspects of an identity in a digital world is very challenging for individuals, leading them to risk the security of their identity by writing down passwords, or compromising it by using the same password for all services.
Digital identity is defined as being that which allows transactions to take place online or digitally. It may use a variety of different types of information such as biometrics, phone numbers, browsing records and more. If people had a clearly defined digital identity which brought the key information together then in theory, the types of challenges outlined above could be solved in society with the use of digital identities, to the benefit of everyone. As implied above, this would require a system that everyone was able to trust and that was portable and acceptable. It would need to be user friendly and allow elements of control of data by the individual. While digital identities are currently fragmented, they could be brought together in a single repository.
There are a variety of ways in which the evolution of digital identity is important for people, the government, society and the economy. For individuals, great value is brought about through having an safe identity and being able to authenticate that. Examples of where a better digital identity could be of benefit include at border control, in accessing healthcare services, and potentially also in undergoing background checks carried out by employers.
The government could benefit from digital identity more effectively in the areas of issuing documents like driving licenses, in the collection of taxes and in travel. Meanwhile organisations like banks and telecommunications companies would find this beneficial for finding out pertinent information to validate the consumer is who they say they are. Complexity could be reduced and time taken to validate or authenticate an individual could be significantly reduced with digital identities – with clear benefits for people, government, organisations and the society overall.
Article written by Maria Fonseca and Paula Newton
Part 2 will be published tomorrow
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.