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Digital Identity: Evolving, or just cloning itself?

Added by David Hill on April 4 2017, at 1:06 pm
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  • The premise of the report is this: full participation in today's societies and achievement of one's desired potential are increasingly likely to depend on the ability to identify oneself; however, some 1.5 billion people are reckoned to lack "legal identification", and action should be taken to remedy this.

    The report acknowledges that private companies and other non-governmental organisations are stakeholders in such an identity infrastructure, and further notes that identity, in the desired sense, does not necessarily imply nationality or citizenship. Off-hand, two examples where "legal identification" systems already conform to this model are:

    • Estonia, where the government issues an "e-citizen" credential which, although legally recognised, does not imply citizenship, and is independent of nationality;

    • The Scandinavian Bank-ID system, in which credentials issued by banks (and therefore independent of nationality or citizenship) are legally recognised by public sector bodies.

    So, as a principle, this is clearly viable based on existing practice. However, in two areas the report seems to me to miss opportunities that are relevant to the modern concept of digital identity.

    First, the report is written entirely from the perspective of the “historical”, credential-based model of identity, in which you go through a trusted enrolment process in order to be issued with a trustworthy credential (for example, the passport issuing process). Understandably, that’s how nation-level eID systems are designed, because that’s the model of identity that state actors are familiar with.


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