How does a digital identity work and how do you create one?

Similarly to how your passport gives physical proof of who you are, a digital identity is a digital representation of your key credentials that helps to authenticate that you are who you claim to be. This digital identity can be used online or in person in order to help authenticate you during interactions and transactions. It is great for improving convenience in everyday life as you don’t have to carry around or send off precious documents like your passport or marriage certificate in order to be granted access to a service like updating your driver’s license information.

Digital identity can come in many forms. In the weakest possible secured system, just a password and an email may suffice to assume some form of identity. However, in most cases some form of two factor authentication and biometrics will be needed to confirm your identity. For example, if you want to set up a new bank account on your mobile, you’ll likely be asked to upload a picture of an ID document and to take a selfie so that the bank can compare and match the biometric face pattern.

So how does this work in reality?

When you set up a digital identity, you’re combining a set of digital credentials together that are then examined by a service or application that approves or denies your authorisation to conduct the request.

The credentials needed to create your digital identity come from physical and already verified documents like your driver’s licence and passport. These credentials are then encrypted through a process called tokenization to secure the sensitive data. Tokenization replaces personalised information with randomly generated numbers meaning any sensitive data becomes useless should an attacker somehow get hold of it. The encrypted credentials are then used to securely verify a digital identity.

If you need to make an age sensitive purchase, the approver only needs to see your picture and your date of birth from your ID document. With a digital ID this can be confirmed in seconds without transmitting other personal information like your place of birth. How? Well, the system simply confirms that you are over the threshold required to make the purchase. This helps maintain your privacy while allowing you to access the same services.

How do you create your own digital identity?

The process to create your digital identity will be determined by which country or state you live in. However, the creation process for a trusted digital ID generally includes the following 3 steps:

  • Attributes are captured from ID documents or biometric data
  • The authenticity of these documents and the identity of the person is verified by a government or official institution to confirm the physical document is legitimate and not a fake
  • A trusted third-party checks all the necessary information has been collected and finally digitises the digital ID. This can then be sent to the customer in a digital format, such as a being stored in digital wallet.

If you search on the internet whether your country or state has an official digital identity system, you should be able to find and apply for a digital identity if this is a possibility. If not, don’t worry, many countries are in the process of introducing digital identity systems, including the UK as well as the European Union who is designing a collective system for all its member states.

Having a digital identity that you can use easily and universally will be vital as the digital age progresses. What form of digital identity would you like to use? Let us know in the comments section.

And if you’re interested in other aspects of digital identity, you may want to read these other posts:

You can also visit our dedicated webpage on mobile driver’s licenses (a new form of digital identity).