Identity is the representation of who you are. A person’s identity is composed of different attributes such as name, date of birth, address and citizenship. Historically, the way we established our identity is through physical documents (e.g. driver’s license, passport, ID card), sometimes supplemented with some form of physical verification (typically a signature). In our increasingly pervasive digital world, our ID can also include additional attributes like usernames and passwords, as well as physical factors like the SIM card in a mobile phone. A digital ID is a way for people to identify themselves electronically without the need to present physical documents.
It is important to differentiate between digital identification and digital authentication. Digital authentication is something most of us do every day – logging on to our favourite social media site, signing into an account with our preferred ecommerce retailer, or even accessing our mobile device through a thumb scan. Authentication is the act of proving that the person accessing my account or device is me, usually through a PIN, password, biometric identifier or other form factor. Authentication is designed to answer the question “Is that you?” Identification, by contrast, is more complex. Identification is intended to answer the question “Who are you?” Digital ID is the challenge of answering “Who are you? with a high degree of certainty, without resorting to face-to-face interaction and the exchange of physical documents.