Why is digital identity a problem?

December 6, 2018

In the real world, most identity interactions are self-sovereign. People collect various credentials that they keep in their possession and present them at their discretion to prove things about themselves. They hold things like a driver’s license, passport, or insurance card and present them to any verifying entity they want, without the permission of the issuer. These credentials are kept under the control of the holder and only revealed with their consent.

This is not what happens on the internet. Like the famous cartoon says– “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, illustrating the very real issue with the lack of an easy, secure, standardized system for a person to collect, hold, and ultimately present trustworthy, verifiable credentials online.

One solution that has arisen to solve the problem of digital identity is through the advent of federated logins provided by services like Facebook or Google. What seems from the onset as a handy tool that helps expedite logging into the various websites that accept them, when actually, these federated logins are actually problematic. Relying on vast amounts of data collected from individuals– much of it unverified– one of the primary concerns with these systems is access. There will always be companies and individuals that will choose to not access these social networks and perhaps do not want to rely on these companies to control their or their customer’s data.

Overall, the internet lacks a universally available digital identity system that lets individuals collect, hold and present any credentials they want, to whomever they want, whenever they want– without the reliance on a third-party managing access.

See more about the problems with identity here.

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