How much of your life do you live online? What would you guess is your personal percentage of waking hours spent connected in one way or another to the internet?
Think about it. You manage your finances online. You work online. You share your social life online. You communicate with family and friends online. Perhaps you’re even enrolled in online education. We increasingly spend our lives online and the pandemic solidified that reality.
Every online touchpoint makes up part of our digital identity. But how much control do you really have over your online identity? Even with privacy policies in place, you have little control over those platforms and even less control over how they use your data.
In the United States alone, the FTC received more than 2.2 million fraud reports from individual consumers in 2020. Identity theft is on the rise because personal information is being used across multiple platforms and services. This interconnectivity causes information to be more readily available—and easier to steal—than ever before.
Longstanding systems we use to identify ourselves—such as paper documentation or physical identification cards—do not integrate easily with the ways we manage our lives online.
Identification is key to our success. It determines the jobs we get, the money we make, how we can manage our health, and more. The fact of the matter is that 3.4 billion people have access to legally recognized identification but still have difficulty using that identification online.
Achieving Greater Control Over Digital Identity
Sue McGill of ATB Ventures, a leading tech company innovating in the world of digital trust, says there is a disconnect between how we live online and the identification tools that we use.
“Digital Identity is massively important. It’s the link that connects individuals to their communities and commerce—both locally and globally—and plays a critical role in how individuals are represented online,” McGill said. “Sitting at the heart of every digital interaction—identity is in everything we do. It determines what opportunities we have access to, and who is trusted online.”
Digital identity can be explained as forming a bridge between the tangible forms of identification we still use—ID cards, badges, and passports—and the digital ways we leverage them. McGill and her team have been working toward trust-based tech initiatives in this area.
The key factor in digital identity is ownership. Where digital companies currently own the information you choose to share with them, digital identity puts the power and ownership back in the hands of the user. This is an important step in the right direction as our online representation is critical to our success in the community and in commerce.
McGill breaks down the facets of our digital identities into three categories. All three of these work together to comprise digital identity.
- The first category is more personal information that we use to distinguish ourselves, such as our name, age, and place of birth.
- The second level of identity is how we are represented by external factors such as our medical records, financial statements, and employment history.
- The third category is how we interact online such as the accounts we follow, pages we like, and posts we interact with.
By leveraging blockchain technology, ATB Ventures created two digital identity platforms, Proof and olives. These offer a higher degree of security for both the consumer and businesses than more traditional methods. The result is that identity ownership is placed squarely back in the hands of the individual.
Digital identity software makes it possible for the user to decide who gets access to specific pieces of information while enabling an easy method for identification.
Owning our representation online is about equity. When individuals have more control over how their identity is being used and what level of information they want to share, they can take back the power of how they are perceived.
Digital Identity and the Pursuit of New Opportunities
Think of it this way. Employers regularly check the social media accounts of potential hires to look for any red flags. With this in mind, most adults know that they shouldn’t publicly share things they wouldn’t want an employer to see. We already try to filter the information we share publicly in order to protect our opportunities. Digital identity technology will enable this same process but in a more streamlined and comprehensive manner.
Digital identity has the power to transform how we live online because it will provide a greater degree of trust between consumers and the organizations they interact with. This trust will be facilitated by the transparency with which these tech systems operate. With no more data harvesting going on behind the scenes, consumers will be empowered to give consent for the collection of their information.
Our world is an increasingly digital one. We all need tools that enable us to participate in the global economy in a safe and secure manner. Digital identity has the capacity to level the playing field, place more power in the hands of the user, and pave the way for every person to have verified identification at their fingertips.