4 key problems with digital identity and why we need a new approach

To more accurately and more safely authenticate people online, digital identity needs to better cope with changes in people's lives. It's time to build identity technology for a digital life.

abstract face / digital identity
Maksim Tkachenko / Getty Images

Digital identity is now much more than a way to authenticate someone to access a resource. Identity and access management (IAM) has matured into a more holistic and consumer-led model, driven by privacy, cybersecurity pressures and greater functional needs. The services a consumer IAM system now must deliver require a new way of thinking about what a digital identity is and what functionality it has to perform.

Organizations and the identity industry need to break out of the point solution mindset. A digital identity now needs to encompass an ongoing, dynamic way of representing an individual, and associated entities. The potential benefits of this are easier onboarding and confidence level assignment, better security and more control.

What is a digital identity when does an identity become a digital life? Are we just playing with words or is this technically achievable and needed?

Here's what I have learned over the years in designing ID services and why I believe that digital identity is more than just a way to authenticate someone to access a resource.

Build for a digital life

I am a practical person at heart. If I make a statement, I have a strong need to back it up with a practical application of the statement. So, when I use the term “digital life” and not “digital identity,” there is both method in my madness and a view of how to achieve that.

First, what do I mean by “build for a digital life"? Life is all about change: We are born. We become independent from our parents. Some people get married or find life partners. Some have children who then repeat the process. Sometimes we get serious health conditions. We grow old. We die.

A change is just an event and software can be very good at reflecting and responding to events. Rules can be applied to act on (be triggered by) an event. So, we need to build this capability into our digital systems. We need to reflect a life, and an identity is defined by a life history. If we create identity services that reflect life events, we add flexibility around areas, including know your customer (KYC), as we can build up knowledge about a person, over time. That brings a balance between ease of online registration and verifying a person to a high level of assurance.

To continue reading this article register now

The 10 most powerful cybersecurity companies