So far, in the GlobaliD 101 series we’ve explored:
- Part 1: What a smart and humanistic approach to digital identity would like
- Part 2: The Trust Triangle — the system of issuers, holders, and verifiers that illustrates how identity works (and how it’s broken, today)
- Part 3: Why the ID Wallet is the first step toward achieving a new vision for digital identity
- Part 4: Why every company is an identity company
- Part 5: What is Bring Your Own Identity?
Today, we’ll discuss a key topic that’s core to the future of digital identity — reusable identity.
Your driver’s license is a form of reusable identity. You receive one after you’ve verified yourself at the DMV with required identifying documents. (And, of course, after you’ve passed your road test.)
You can now present your driver’s license whenever some form of identity verification is required. The same goes for your passport.
That’s not how identity typically works online. Instead, you need to re-verify yourself with each new service. Imagine having to go back to the DMV every time you needed to prove that you’re legally allowed to drive.
Having to redundantly verify your identity online is also incredibly insecure. Every time you do so, your sensitive personal information is stored on yet another server on the internet. Security practices across businesses will vary. The point here is that each server is another potential target for hackers.
It’s also bad for business. Not only are there costs associated with managing user data, the need to verify identity every time you onboard a customer increases friction by an order of magnitude.
While some forms of reusable identity already exist, they are more often than not associated with your social media accounts — for instance, Google or Facebook. With one account, you can sign up and connect to a large network of services. Known as Bring Your Own Identity, we discuss that framework in our previous piece in the series. The problem here is that these forms of identity don’t have the same level of trust necessary for more important tasks, say, opening a bank account.
In an ideal world, we would be able to reuse our identity just as we reuse our driver’s license. With an identity that you own, you could verify your driver’s license once and receive a credential for doing so. You should now be able to reuse that credential without going through the same verification process wherever a driver’s license is required.
Businesses love this form of identity because it reduces the hurdles customers need to jump over to use their service, expanding their pool of potential users. With a reusable credential that they can trust, they can have the peace of mind of knowing who their customers claim to be without needing to deal with all of that expensive management of sensitive data.
Bottom line, we all need an easier way to prove who we are online. Reusable identity is the next step towards that solution. In fact, the market for reusable digital identity applications is projected to reach $266B by 2027.
With the technology continuing to improve and governments continuing to adopt electronic identity systems, reusable identity is set to play a big part in making our digital lives easier.
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