The Senior Director for Research sets out a helpful framework to more easily distinguish between digital identity, identification and ID – and lays out why it's critically important to strive for clarity.
His over-arching division of the terms proposes that:
- Identity is a concept: the sum of the ways in which we prove who we are to the world in relation to other people and institutions
- Identification is a process: the transaction, system or act through which we prove who we are
- ID is a thing: a physical artifact, such as a passport
Donner flags the inherent difficulty of talking about identity in our digital-first world:
Building on these core distinctions, he also addresses identity systems (the whole network of technologies, administration and people required in the process of identification) and identity ecosystems (the totality of different identity systems at work).
Finally, drawing on the application of "legal identity" in the Sustainable Development Goals, he notes how prefacing the term in this way modifies it to make it a binary concept – something you either have, or don't – which is helpful in a practical sense in addressing the "digital divide" in this case. But it should be remembered that identity itself is anything but binary – it is an ongoing negotiation, and conversation that he invites us to add to.
In his own words: