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What is a digital identity?

Digital identity works as a technological link between the real you and your digital equivalent. This means your online identity can be used to perform daily tasks, such as accessing your bank account or booking appointments. Used correctly, a trusted digital identity can also improve security and streamline identity and authentication processes.

July 12th, 2022

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In the real world, proving your identity is straightforward. You can open a bank account, purchase alcohol, or gamble at a casino by showing someone your ID. The member of staff can then make the connection between the ID you’re showing and your physical attributes. 

But, what about if you want to do any of these things online? Well, this is where digital identities come into play. In this blog, we’ll explain all about digital identity and authentication. We’ll provide a digital identity meaning and look at how digital identities are verified.

What is my digital identity?

On a very basic level, a digital identity is the body of information about you that exists online. A basic digital identity will include things like photos you’ve uploaded to social media, posts you’ve created or commented on, and your search engine history. It can also include sensitive pieces of information such as your medical history, your social security number, your bank account details, and your date of birth.

At a more advanced level, a digital identity works as a technological link between the real you and your digital equivalent. In instances such as this, a digital identity includes a collection of electronically captured and stored identity attributes (such as biographic and biometric data). These attributes and credentials are also validated from ID documents. Once your identity attributes have been captured, verified, and digitized, this form of ID is known as a trusted digital identity. It can then be used to access the services we discussed earlier.

People often own several different digital identities (sometimes without realizing). When engaging with media or entertainment sources, we prefer it if our identity is blurry and doesn’t contain too much identifiable information. However, when it comes to important interactions with a government body or a bank, we need to provide as much information as possible. This way, we can prove that we are exactly who we are claiming to be.

What are the benefits of a digital identity?

Your digital identity can provide you with a great deal of value. After all, your digital identity can be used to verify who you are. This means your online identity can be used to perform daily tasks, such as accessing your bank account or booking a medical appointment.

Used correctly, a trusted digital identity can also improve security and streamline identity and authentication processes. After all, with a trusted digital ID, there’s no need to remember lots of different passwords and usernames.

What are the risks of a digital identity?

Because digital identities include aspects of a person’s actual identity, privacy and security risks are growing concerns. In particular, identity theft is problematic.

On top of this, pseudonymous profiles can also yield an individual’s identity through cross-site data analysis. While passports and licenses identify users in real life, the inclusion of such personally identifying information (PII) online can pose a number of risks if the data is compromised.

What methods can be used to obtain a digital identity?

Technology is in the heart of enabling trusted digital identity and authentication, helping governments, service providers, and other players in the ecosystem create a trusted digital security system.

In the modern world, digital identities and ID documents can be issued by a national ID scheme or authority. To create a trusted digital identity, these schemes and authorities will capture verified attributes, verify the documents, and then issue the ID.

The way the owner receives their ID depends on the country (or state) of origin. For example, eID cards are issued in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, while several US states allow for a digital driver’s license on a mobile phone. Meanwhile, in places like India, citizens have a unique biometric-related ID number.

Popular methods for issuing and obtaining a digital identity include:

  • Credentials such as a unique ID number
  • Mobile ID
  • An eID card
  • A digital ID wallet
  • A digital identity certificate

On top of this, a digital identity can be issued by a service provider who has validated the information and the ID you’ve provided when you’ve attempted to use their service. 

How are digital identities verified?

The digital identity verification processes employed by banks and other companies ensure that a person’s identity matches the identity they claim to have.

A number of different identity verification methods help verify a person’s identity, including:

ID document verification

This form of digital identity verification is used to verify the legitimacy of an ID document, such as a passport or a driver’s license.

Biometric verification

This process uses a selfie to ensure that the person presenting the ID is the same as the portrait on the ID they’re showing.

Liveness detection

This detects spoofing attacks and determines whether a selfie and a verification session are genuine.

OTP verification

During the verification session, a user is sent a one-time passcode via SMS or email to prove they control the account.

What regulations are there surrounding digital identity data and security?

Although several authentication and authorization systems have been explored, there is still no standardized and verified system to identify digital identities. Nevertheless, the need for strong identity verification systems is crucial.

That said, the European Union has adopted an eIDAS regulation to facilitate electronic identification. This European digital identity will soon be available to EU citizens and will allow them to access public services in any member countries. In addition, citizens will benefit from European digital wallets, enabling them to digitally identify themselves. They will also be able to manage and store identity data and official documents in an electronic format.

What does the future hold for digital identities?

As the digital economy continues to thrive, digital identities are becoming increasingly important. Christopher Allen, the co-chair of the Credentials Community Group of the World Wide Web Consortium, sees digital identities and digital citizenship as a way of bypassing the costly and, for some nations, near-impossible task of organizing an effective identification system.

Now, it’s believed that digital identities and digital citizenship could help the one billion people worldwide who do not have proof of identity.

Speak with the digital identity experts at Veriff

As a business, you can verify your customers using their digital identity. Our ID verification software can help you verify identity documents in real time. It can be used to detect fake and tampered IDs, verify document data and comply with AML and KYC regulations.

Your customer simply needs to snap a picture of their ID. From here, you can even ask them to take a selfie and match their face to the ID and prove it’s really them trying to access your service.

To learn more about how our solutions can help you, book a personalized demo with our team of specialists today.

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