Is the digital identity layer missing or just misplaced?

The orchestration of existing services and data could provide a digital identity layer that gives the internet a common way to handle identity for all consumers.

I recently presented on a panel alongside a UK government identity specialist and an anti-fraud vendor. The conference focused on citizen ID and how the complex world of citizen identity is handled by the current status quo. The general view was that we need to find structures that can drag digital identity into the 21st century, and fast.

At the same time, I hear murmurings in the world of digital identity that all is not well. When I look at the vendor landscape, I see a complicated web of “identities.” For the consumer, this must be both annoying and confusing. We need to remind ourselves: Digital identity, especially for consumers, is a very personal and highly contentious area that we need to get right.

Many in the identity industry talk about the internet having a missing layer that would handle identity correctly for consumers. I say this layer is here; it is just not being used correctly.

The state of the identity nation

To see a problem, you sometimes have to stand back from it. The trees in this forest are a buoyant identity landscape. It is filled with all sorts of “identities.” I’ll stop there. Identity is possibly a misnomer. When a consumer or employee or citizen uses identifying data to do a job online, they aren’t necessarily linking that act to their actual identity (and all the philosophical baggage associated with that). They are, in fact, presenting information as requested to carry out a transaction. That information is usually made up of a number of attributes, depending on the value of the transaction.

High-value transactions like certain government services, banking or large online purchases will likely require personal, financial and even metadata and behavioral data. For lower-value transactions, a verified email address might suffice. Certainly, Sign In with Apple seems to think so.

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