Around 17 years ago, I first had access to a computer with the internet. A typical millennial, the majority of my online interaction was through MSN messenger under an anonymous username. Probably something like ‘CoolCatXOXO’. My digital and physical identities were completely separate and giving away any ‘real-world’ information was totally out of the question.
Since then, you won’t be surprised to hear that my digital and physical lives have become increasingly intertwined. As a society we have become digital bankers, customers, citizens, consumers, patients, students and employees. For many of us today our digital life, IS our real life.
So how has this shift impacted identity? Who we are doesn’t change when we go online, but the way we share and validate information about ourselves does. In a digital world, establishing trust is complicated, as is choosing to keep our personal information private, or maintain control over how data about us is shared.
A broken model?
The digital world creates immense opportunity for those looking to manipulate our identities for their own gain. We have become unsuspecting targets to fraudsters, valuable data points to Big Tech and puppets to bad actors looking to spread dangerous misinformation.
Then of course there are those who have no online self. A number of factors such as economic disadvantage, government persecution, disability or simply a lack of technical skills, might limit a person’s opportunity for online interaction. How do the identities of these excluded individuals fit into a world geared so strongly towards digital?
In the past few years, technology has allowed for significant progress in anchoring our online to our physical identities. Yet there is no one commonly recognised, unique identity for proving who we are digitally. We are known to each online service by a different identifier – a number, a password, a token, a biometric – and control lies firmly with the service provider, rather than us as individuals.
Tim Berners Lee, reflecting on the development of the world wide web since his invention of it in 1989 noted, “Transformation is hampered by different parts of one’s life being managed by different silos, each of which looks after one vertical slice of life, but where the users and teams can’t get the insight from connecting that data.”
What does the future hold?
The way we manage identity online might be broken, but the future offers boundless opportunity to build a better ecosystem. Despite disagreement over which specific technology or architecture should be implemented, there is some agreement on what a ‘better’ ecosystem would look like. In many ways this consensus comes down to four key values, Trust, Interoperability, Control and Inclusion.
With these four values in mind, the future of identity might look something like this:
- Only identity solutions delivering the highest levels of security and resilience will be sufficient to establish digital trust.
- Siloed identities will be left behind, in favour of an ecosystem in which service providers across different sectors, or locations can identify a shared customer by interoperable credentials.
- Users will regain control, with individuals able to choose when and to what extent their personal information is shared and ultimately reclaim this data for their personal benefit.
- Identity systems will be built for the benefit of everyone, including those groups and individuals in danger of being overlooked or excluded.
The vision is a powerful one, but it is only by thinking bigger, designing better and building together that we will see it realized.
This is the ethos behind Future Identity. A new brand bringing together a diverse community of identity pioneers. There’s a place for CEO’s, researchers, architects, directors, experts, students, activists, policymakers… anyone interested in driving the worldwide development of digital identity.
Within the financial sector identity has increasingly been an important aspect of digital transformation. At Fintech Talents virtual and in-person events over the past few years, digital identity has found its way into so many conversations about financial crime, customer experience, open banking, financial inclusion and many more topics.
The financial sector will remain an incredibly important aspect of the Future Identity community, but we believe the broader the collaboration, the more we will see progress. So, the community will also bring together those working to transform identity in healthcare, government, retail, entertainment, travel and humanitarian industries.
Future Identity will be a place for education and conversation. Not only keeping you up to date on the latest trends and insights but allowing you to discover new perspectives, by engaging with those who have different views or experiences to your own. The community will be a place for connection, enabling participants to meet groups or individuals who will help them to solve unique identity challenges.
Future Identity will make an impact by elevating the projects, technologies, concepts and ideas which are gaining traction in the identity space. Most importantly Future Identity will champion the development of a human-centric identity ecosystem, centred around trust, equity and collaboration.
Discover how you could be a part of the community at thefutureidentity.com
To join us at the Future Identity Festival, a hybrid experience taking place November 15-18 2021, register your interest now.