Understanding Identity In This Digital Age

By Ivharue Ofe.

 

First the big question – What is Identity?

In simple terms, identity is ‘being who or what a person or thing is’ — an attribute or sets of attributes a person ascribes to themselves or a thing. Global trend will permit me to say, identity can also be seen as the fact of being who or what a person wants to be seen as.

For example, any device with a bitten apple logo can be identified as a product of Apple inc. A man is identified as a man until he puts on a marine corps uniform and he is identified as a male marine officer, the logo on his uniform further identifies his country, the shoulder ranks goes even further to identify his rank in office. A Flag serves as an identity for a country … and so on.

In this digital age, the idea of identity has vastly transitioned into Digital Identity — an equivalent of the real identity designed for the modern web, to gain access or authorization into systems. From signing up to Gmail to setting up a social media account, to making payments on your Netflix account, your digital identity can vouch for your claim to access into any digital space. Just like real identity, digital identity proves an entity’s history, possession, and authority.

It is one thing to have an identity in all its forms, and it is another for the entity to prove ownership of that identity. And that is why ….

We can’t talk identity without talking Proof of Identity.

Proof of identity as the clause goes is any document that can prove a person’s identity. It is important that as individuals/entities, wherever and whenever, we have on us proof of identification — either a photo ID, birth certificate, or our digital identity in our subconscious digital wallet.

The general rule of thumb here, however, is that government-approved proofs of identity carry more weight than their counterparts. Although, in a lot of developing countries, a large number of her citizens do not have a single government-approved proof of identity for all the wrong reasons, which limits or even completely blocks them from receiving certain basic services, such as health care, and also struggle with gaining economic opportunities and financial inclusion.

This brings us to another big question….

silhouette of people

Why do we need our identity?

It should be noted that our identity is way more important to other entities than it is to us (the owners) as we already know who and what we are. The identity construct is necessary for other entities to see and place us accordingly.

So why do we need our identity, digital or otherwise?

One reason, the most obvious of all, is for Identification. Identifying a person by their name, country, state, and so on. Identifying a product by its logo. Basically, recognizing a person or thing as who and what they present as.

Another reason is for Authentication. This is to prove that the identity attributed to the entity or thing is owned by them. This usually would need a physical presence like matching a photo ID with the face of the person presenting it, or, best practice, authenticating a digital ID against an existing database.

And finally Authorization. This is to gain access to any service, be it a location, health services, travel services, web, systems, and also to determine the level of access we get. Like gaining access into a building using an RFID code tied to our digital identity, viewing our result after an exam using a unique number tied to our identity, or Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) for enterprise systems.

Moreover, with the emergence of digital identity came several identity issues. The need to solve these rampant but uniquely emerging identity-related issues birthed the concept of identity security only achieved through Identity Management.

So let’s talk Identity Management …

Basically, this is the authentication and authorization of an entity to gain access to certain services and systems (digital id) using an established identity.

Identity management in ancient times was as easy as someone having to vouch for another with word of mouth. This method served as the approved means of identification and authentication, while authorization was just based on status. Now with the rise in the use of digital technologies and the interconnectivity that the Internet of Things promises, the identity environment is constantly becoming complex, which means identity management will have to keep up with the changes.

Some of such changes include Blockchain Technology, Digital Wallets, a shift towards Decentralised Identities, Self-Sovereign Identities and Distributed Identity -  all aimed at strengthening identity management and mitigating against the increasing issues with identity and access control. Now, identification requires proof, authorization requires passwords and other predefined Access Control List (ACL), and authentication requires verifying against a stored database.

Since Identity in all its forms is a key, identity management is necessary not just to protect the key but also where the key can be used and how. Issues of privacy and identity theft have driven companies all over the world to consider the use of identity management solutions to address these concerns.

Identity management as a whole sits well on a foundation of Data Management. This is the process of creating and managing a database for identities. Digital identity management, especially, will not be possible without first a capture process that collects and collates these identities in a database to be queried for authorization and to be matched side by side for authentication. So, it is safe to say that data capture is the chief cornerstone of identity management.

On the other hand, is Identity Validation. Normally, except a company is directly connected with Identity and Access Management (IAM), identity validation should not come up. However, with the increasing risk of identity fraud and data breaches, identity validation has become a general topic and should never stop being one. In this world where digital identities serve as access to almost everything - a fraud with few pieces of critical information can wreak devastating havoc. Hence validation as a necessary factor in identity management.

Seamfix as a holistic identity management company…

Identity management, data management, and validation are trends that are sure to stay as long as people still care about security - either in terms of identity or data - and that is why as a forward-thinking technology company, we chose holistic identity management as our core focus.

Seamfix takes identity management to the max by building platforms that enable businesses in every industry to capture digital identities of their customers, and validate these identities against all national databases (we are connected to) all in one-suite.

Right now, Seamfix enables the verification of unique identifiers such as Bank Verification Numbers and National Identity Numbers (for Nigerians only) to ensure that organizations collect only clean data to be gleaned for insights.

Read more about Seamfix identity management solutions HERE

 

Are you, or your organization passionate about data? collecting it? collating it? analyzing it? then you are the kind of people we write for. Follow our publication, and you would gain knowledge on everything data, from the process of easy capture to the end goal of making data-driven decisions. Find out about our company SEAMFIX and how we solve big organizational issues with third-generation solutions HERE.

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