Current definition

Digital identity

Definitions of digital identity are ever-expanding, and hard to describe.

Sometimes it is just used interchangeably with Digital ID.

For the most part, digital identity is the way we are identified in an interconnected world.

It is the sum of all the information that identifies us when we use digital services, systems and tools – whether that’s using an e-passport or a scanning your eye at a refugee camp. It could be the data saved to your online banking record or profile generated through social media platforms.

Every day, we use different digital credentials to travel, do business, access services, and stay connected. Sometimes these take the form of government-issued “national IDs” or “legal IDs”.

Other forms include the IDs issued by private businesses for employees, customers, and vendors.

But a digital identity is not just one individual thing like a card or a number. Nor do we have a single “digital ID”. It is a growing network of credentials, linked databases, and “data trails” that get recorded as we use more and different digital services.

Tools that track our location, search history, and all of our daily transactions online create digital records, sometimes called de facto ID, that can be used to identify us.

Often we are not fully aware of how these data trails identify us, what they reveal or how this information is used.

Even newer forms of ID – those that people assert themselves as well as personal data which is stored outside of institutional databases, sometimes on the blockchain – are further expanding definitions of digital identity.

Because ID systems are not inherently good nor bad, it is critical that we design for the outcomes we want.

To ensure the identification ecosystem in the digital age is truly inclusive, secure, and safe for everyone to use, regardless of their chosen form, it requires shared and thoughtful debate as well as collaborative development of policies, technologies, and practices.

Last updated: 26 April 2021

Source: #GoodID team

See also: Digital ID

More around the web

“Digital Identity, in its simplest form, is a digital means of establishing we are who we say we are. There are at least three types of digital identity in use today: Identity issued by an identity provider; De facto identity; and self-asserted identity."

Digital Identity and Privacy (Point of View paper) – Omidyar Network

"Our identity is, literally, who we are, and as the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution advance, our identity is increasingly digital. This digital identity determines what products, services and information we can access – or, conversely, what is closed off to us."

Identity in a Digital World – Derek O'Halloran & Manju George, World Economic Forum

“Digital traces, footprints from cell towers, or logs of transaction behaviors, can be used as inputs in identification systems or even “social credit scores,” with or without the consent or knowledge of the individuals in question. People’s own contributions to social networks, made in the service of creating and presenting elements of a social, cultural digital identity, can be used to segment, to divide, or to serve.”

The difference between digital identity, identification, and ID – Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital

"A person’s digital identity is an amalgamation of any and all attributes and information available online that can bind a persona to a physical person. It's similar to the way that your name and an ID card make up your identity in the physical world, but your online footprint goes beyond this to include behaviors, social profiles, device information, location, search history, etc., to make up your identity in the digital world."

Demystifying Digital Identity: What It Is, What It Isn't And What It Can Be – Avi Turgeman, Forbes Technology Council

Join the debate

You can help frame the Good ID debate and build a shared understanding of digital identity terms.

Join the discussions on Twitter and submit your own definitions below.

Help to define Digital identity