Revealing the power and potential of digital identities

Digital fingerprint
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In recent times the concept of identity has taken on a whole new dimension. Digital identities have become a catalyst for transformative change, revolutionizing the way we interact, transact, and navigate our increasingly interconnected world. Yet, despite having already reshaped numerous aspects of our daily lives, and having immense promise across multiple industries, a limited understanding of the concept of digital identity and its potential to enhance every day processes is stunting growth and inhibiting mass rollout.

So, what don’t everyday consumers know about digital IDs?

With many consumers getting to grips with this new, transformative innovation, John Cullen, Strategic Marketing Director Digital Identity at Thales shares some key takeaways about digital identity, and how they offer exciting potential for security, efficiency, and simplicity across the digital landscape…

John Cullen

John Cullen is Strategic Marketing Director Digital Identity at Thales.

Anyone can use them – not just digital natives

While many may see digital IDs as a technology suited to digital natives and younger generations exclusively, they actually have an incredibly user-friendly interface. A user’s digital wallet on their smartphone can be pre-loaded with any and all forms of credentials and identity, with users able to launch it by using a form of biometric authentication (such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning) to verify their identity. A QR code will then be presented for the service provider to scan. It’s as simple as that.

While it’s true that digital identities will not be as accessible for some communities – due to socioeconomic disparities, technological limitations, or a general lack of awareness of this emerging tech – many vendors are bridging the digital divide by designing inclusive and accessible systems that cater to diverse populations.

As with a lot of technologies, the rollout of digital identity will take some time. The concept of traditional physical IDs isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – in fact, physical and digital IDs will be complementary to one another, with both due to be accepted by service providers.

They’re incredibly secure and private

With data breaches and identity theft being hot topics on consumers’ minds right now, individuals are understandably concerned about the protection of their personal information. What many don’t realize though, is that digital IDs are extremely safe and secure. Thanks to the aforementioned biometric authentication processes, alongside encryption, the data stored in digital wallets have multiple layers of security protecting them. This prevents access to anyone other than you, should your phone get into the wrong hands. Likewise, with passwords being an outdated form of authentication for online systems, biometrics are a far more resilient means of proving that you are who you say you are.

By using contactless digital IDs, there is also no need to physically share any IDs, documents, or personal information, ensuring complete privacy and anonymity in the verification process. The verification simply happens in the background, with your eligibility delivered in the form of a certificate, so no individual service provider will be privy to your personal details.

They’re a frictionless and efficient way to prove who you are

The current ecosystem for identity verification is incredibly fragmented in nature; there are countless platforms, services, and systems out there, each with its own set of authentication protocols, requirements, and data silos, making for an incredibly inconvenient user experience. As we all know too well, this can often involve the unnecessarily laborious task of retrieving many different forms of identification from both digital and physical sources.

Digital IDs offer a frictionless and efficient alternative to identity sharing, with all credentials conveniently stored in one digital wallet, eliminating the need for manual handling, printing, and storage. A digital ID can do all that in seconds, and for all identity verification scenarios.

You only need to share the bare minimum of information

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to sacrifice all your data with a digital identity. While your digital ID may securely host a wealth of information about you, it takes a more granular and controlled approach to data sharing, as it only discloses the bare minimum of detail to meet the requirements of the transaction or process at hand.

This selective information sharing means there’s no risk of oversharing comprehensive personal records with potentially sensitive or private information. On that basis, it’s fueled entirely by consent and transparency, as the user only discloses what they’re comfortable with to meet the exact parameters set by the task.

For example, when applying to a job, you will often have to prove your qualifications and employment history, but in the process you may have also shared unnecessary details such as your date of birth, marital status, hometown, address, and the full details of your references. With a digital wallet, this process can be finely controlled to ensure such details, that aren’t relevant to the application, are left out, and only a streamlined list of your qualifications and previous roles is.

Likewise, if you’re at a pharmacy collecting a prescription, you’ll often have to share your name, date of birth, and address to prove your identity to the pharmacists – and oftentimes you have to do so verbally and in front of other customers. With a digital wallet, the pharmacist could simply scan your digital ID to ensure you are indeed the intended recipient of the prescription.

They have the potential to be used anywhere

Digital IDs are a versatile concept that are on track to be adopted in countless industries, including banking, retail, travel, voting, real estate, law enforcement, and online services. On that basis, they can hold all forms of identity and documents for everyday scenarios, such as driving licenses, boarding passes, qualifications, loyalty cards, and employment status, for example. Although all are very different use cases, all would operate under the exact same principle, meaning they truly do have the potential to be used anywhere.

Digital IDs are also a means of future proofing, as they are an enabler of scaling digital services. Indeed, in an increasingly digitally-driven world, there are countless instances where you have to prove your identity online. And without the possibility of in-person verification, there needs to be an alternative system in place to do so virtually.

Looking ahead, digital identities can be easily integrated into emerging technologies, digital platforms and transactions, paving the way for more secure and efficient digital interactions in the future.

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John Cullen is Strategic Marketing Director Digital Identity at Thales.