Digital Identity can simply be defined as a virtual representation of individuals and associated entities. And having a verified digital identity – being who one claims to be – is crucial for online peer-to-peer services, social media interactions, e-commerce, and online banking. But in a borderless virtual world, many issues may arise with the concept of digital identity. As much as most people want to surf the Internet in all anonymity and privately, we more often than others, leave trails while shopping or posting on social media.
With our identity scattered all over the Internet, from our Facebook page to our online searches on Google, down to our purchase history from the bank, we can often be vulnerable and easily exploitable. All this information is more or less used to analyze us, create a patterned profile, predict our behavior, feed us targeted ads, and monetize our identities. When we choose to log into another website using Facebook, we automatically allow Facebook to digitally represent us and give them permission to sell our information to that site. Moreover, third party digital ID management may sometimes expose us to various threats. In 2018, the largest data leak in Facebook's history occurred when over 50 millions of users' personal data were harvested without consent by Cambridge Analytica for political advertising. The data collected through an app was used to build psychological profiles of users for precise targeting. Facebook later apologized for their role in the data harvesting and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of congress. This single example clearly demonstrates how digital IDs can easily be susceptible to various threats.
These threats – ranging from copycatting and hacks to synthetic ID frauds, etc... – and the ability to defend against them, vary across different geographic regions. For instance, In the United States, Synthetic ID frauds account for 10 to 15% of online financial crime. Basically, fraudsters apply for credit by creating fake accounts with real or fake information. The application usually gets rejected the first time, but they still use the accounts to build credit records and get access to credit in the long run. The scam is nearly impossible to detect when real information from real people is used. Solutions must be found to mitigate the effect of these threats and stop them altogether. And for a definite and strong solution to be implemented, awareness must be raised with regard to understanding the core elements of the digital identity trend.
"Self-sovereign identity requires that users be the rulers of their own identity" – Christopher Allen.
Many security specialists have mentioned a couple of solutions that could help mitigate the risks attached to digital identity. Among them, the notion of "Self-sovereign identity" could be the most probable once-off solution to offer true protection for individuals and entities in the virtual world.
With data becoming the essence of the digital age, the holders of that data are surely detaining the keys to the future. Thus the importance for people to be truly in charge of their information. "Self-sovereign identity requires that users be the rulers of their own identity" – Christopher Allen. The concept of Self-sovereign identity refers to the use of #blockchain technology to enable individuals and entities to properly manage their online presence, with full control over their information and the ability to transact in a safe and secure manner. It is basically, having all your information located in a locked box and having the ability to decide what info to share with the entity of your choice. E-commerce, banking, or dealing with your health data using self-sovereign identity will encourage transparency, interoperability, consent, control, access, and protection, and provide users with a safe and secure digital environment.
As the saying goes "Nobody knows who's a dog on the Internet...", individuals as well as organizations, must encourage research and implementation of self-sovereign identity, using blockchain technology to ensure safety, privacy, and ownership for all.