Our friends at Smartex challenged its readership to define Digital Identity the other day, with a bottle of wine on offer for the best definition. I’m pleased to say that the bottle of wine was won by Consult Hyperion, with a couple of competition entries submitted.

Coming up with a definition for digital identity is not easy. It can refer to quite a number of different things, making the task of encapsulating it in a sentence next to impossible. For my attempt I thought that rather than try to describe what it is, it would be better to describe what it does. I came up with this:

Digital identity allows us to trust each other by enabling us to share the minimum amount of verifiable information needed for the thing we want to do.

In one sentence I was trying to capture several points:

  • Digital identity is a means to an end not an end in itself
  • It’s bi-directional – in any transaction both parties need to have confidence in the other party
  • It’s about the information you need to share, which will vary considerably between contexts.
  • It protects privacy by only sharing the information (or claims) necessary.

Unfortunately, that was too subtle and the bottle of wine went to my colleague Nick who instead decided to focus on one aspect – digital identification. He came up with this:

The remote identification and verification of an individual, organization or smart device including robots, without recourse to paper foundational identity documents

This is definitely an important piece in the digital identity puzzle and clearly the thing that resonated on this occasion.

In general, a better way to think about identity is our 3DID model which shows that identity is multi-faceted and provides a useful way to break it down.

You can read more about the model here.

The point is that digital identity is broad. It’s much more than just establishing who the real person is. Providing ordinary people with the tools to access the digital economy in a safe, secure and inclusive way is really what this is all about and is what we and many of our industry friends are working so hard towards.

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