Digital identity, what is it? What do you need to know?

Spend some time with us and you’re sure to hear us talking about digital identity. Around here, we talk about it quite a fair bit. But just what is it? As an individual and consumer, what does digital identity mean to you today? What should it mean to you tomorrow?

Let’s explore the definition of digital identity, identity as a whole, and how understanding digital identity can impact your tomorrow.

Real-world identity

In the physical world, it’s fairly straightforward to prove your identity. Whether you’re cashing a check, checking into a hotel room, buying a car, or buying a drink at a restaurant, you just need to show your government-issued identification, proof of address, and other physical documentation that may be needed for proving that you are who you say you are.

Step into the digital world and things take a more complex turn. Companies need to find an effective means of verifying a person is who they say they are, even though they can’t physically present their identification and other documentation.

How do you assure that your real-world identity is a match for your digital identity?

Just what is your digital identity?

We hear this question often. And for good reason. It can be difficult to understand at first glance. Let’s break it down.

Your digital identity is all of the information that is available about you online. There are two broad categories of information that can make up your digital identity.

  • Digital behavioral patterns, or activities. These are the behavioral patterns you display online and could include your activity on social media, your search and purchase history, and data pulled from what your mobile device tracks, including your location and app usage.
  • Digital identifiers. Also referred to as a digital attribute, this is personally identifiable information (PII). It is data that is included in online records that are accessible to government agencies or services, along with private and public sector groups. This information is typically used when you’re applying for a credit card, opening a new bank account, or even paying your taxes. Some examples of this could include your date of birth, your driver’s license, your social security number, email address, biometrics (eye, face, or fingerprint scan)

These pieces of information, of which there could be many parts, can be used alone or combined as a way of identifying you.

Your device can also have its own digital identity, which does get confusing.

Think of digital identity as a key

The digital identity that you’ve established for yourself can be thought of as a key. Working in your favor, it can allow you to readily open new accounts and get access to your current accounts. Best of all, digital identity can give you the credibility that you need to show you are a trustworthy person when engaging with products, services, and even people in the virtual realm.

It’s likely that you use your digital identity for a number of things in your day-to-day life. Think about the information that is asked of you when you log into social media accounts or perhaps your bank, your mortgage company, or your account at the hospital you visit to see your doctor.

With all of this access, are there any downsides to be aware of? Truthfully, yes. The fact that so much of your personal information is lurking online means that it’s subject to a hack, a data breach, and outright theft of your data.

According to the HIPAA Journal, 2021 is seeing the highest record numbers of reported data breaches. That is just the healthcare industry. Other industries saw data breaches increasing significantly in 2020 and it’s only continued to be an increasing issue companies are facing around the world.

How is data compromised? 

There is often some confusion about just how hackers can get a hold of your personal information. You’re careful, you change your passwords often, you don’t use the name of your pet as a password.

In truth, there are several methods that can be used to access your digital identity data. Particularly if you are not accessing a service or app that puts a priority on your security.

  • Third-party data breaches.
  • Phishing and spear-phishing efforts.
  • Adding people you don’t know on your social media accounts.
  • Location sharing settings on your mobile device.
  • Unsecured websites and apps.
  • Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those you’d find in Starbucks or the airport.

There are of course other methods used by unethical people with a focus on gaining access to your digital identity. The key is to be aware of the sites you’re using, know what apps you’re downloading onto your device, and trust companies that make security and digital identity security their priority.

Do you have a better awareness of what your digital identity is, and the role that it plays in your day-to-day life? Next week we’ll explore what digital identity means for businesses of all sizes, and just how important a role it plays.

Resources

https://blog.avast.com/what-is-digital-identity-avast

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/digital-identity

https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/153.nsf/eng/00001.html

 

Ready to learn more? Start a conversation with one of our knowledgeable professionals. And join us next week, when we will discuss what digital identity means for the business.