Your identity includes not only your name but also your employment details, marital status, and social networking preferences. Biometric techniques such as thumbprints or retina scans, which are unique to each individual, can be used to identify you. While you would like to believe that you are unique, the fact of the matter is that if you have ever used the internet, even to open an email account, you have created a digital twin—your digital identity (digital ID).
The Importance of Digital ID
Digital IDs comprise personal data available in the online space. This information can be grouped into two broad categories: digital attributes (date of birth, medical history, bank details, etc.) and digital activities (online purchase history; search queries; likes, comments, and shares on social sites, etc.). These pieces of information, either separately or combined, can be used to identify a person.
Digital IDs contain crucial information that can unlock seamless access to banking, healthcare, education, government benefits, and several critical services. However, although digital IDs offer multiple benefits, they engender risks and can be misused by fraudsters. Only a trusted ecosystem built in accordance with a robust and holistic digital identity framework can leverage the true socio-economic potential of digital IDs.
The Digital ID Framework
Australia, Estonia, Finland, and Canada are among the countries that have either implemented or are creating a centralized digital identity system. In Australia, the Digital Transformation Office is creating a trusted digital identity framework to pave the way for a centralized digital identity solution. This framework aims to create an ecosystem of trust where the government and businesses can easily authenticate the identity of individuals they engage with and allow individuals to have greater control over the privacy and use of their data while also verifying the credentials of the institutions and businesses they transact with. To achieve this, the Australian government, in collaboration with the private sector, is developing a Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) to support the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda.
The Underlying Principles of TDIF
User-Centric: The framework needs to ensure that individuals and institutions can access digital services in a simple and secure manner. Furthermore, it should give individuals the flexibility to create a digital ID from a range of accredited government and private sector providers and use one or more Identity Service Providers (ISPs) to maintain separate or merged personal and business digital IDs.
Voluntary and Transparent: The framework should enable individuals to choose and control the access and use of their digital IDs; they should be given a choice to opt in and control their digital IDs. Further, Accredited Participants should be mandated to maintain records of credential use and make these records easily accessible to those authorized to review them under the TDIF.
Service Delivery-Focused: The Accredited Participants should offer choice and convenience of uses. Furthermore, the cost of participation should be neutral to users. This means creating a supporting business model that will also encourage private sector participation.
Privacy-Enhancing: Privacy and trust are at the core of a centralized digital identity ecosystem. Thus, the framework should ensure that personal information is collected and disclosed only by Accredited Participants with the consent of users and in accordance with privacy laws and good privacy practices. Furthermore, users should be well aware of how their personal information is being used and protected, and they should be empowered to manage their personal information, i.e., correct errors, change/update the information, and even revoke consent. Relevant privacy-enhancing technology, policies, and processes should be embraced.
Collaborative: As the framework is being established keeping in mind the best interests of the entire ecosystem, it is imperative to encourage active collaboration between the public and private sectors and the broader community. Such collaborations will ensure that the strengths and expertise of both the government and businesses are optimized.
Interoperable: Interconnectedness with other Trust Frameworks and identity services nationally and internationally will ensure that the benefits of the ecosystem reach a large number of individuals and institutions. Furthermore, it will also enable scale and future growth.
Adaptable: The framework should be adaptable and flexible to ensure a quick response to the evolving community expectations and changing business, technology, legal, and social needs. It will also enable the ecosystem to adopt innovation in technology and business models.
Secure and Resilient: In order to safeguard personal information from misuse and fraud, accredited participants must meet stringent government security standards and ensure that all cybersecurity and fraud-related risks are proactively identified and mitigated.
The TDIF seeks to empower individuals by ensuring seamless access to critical services as well as assuring them of impeccable data privacy and security. A robust framework like the TDIF is instrumental to creating a centralized national-level digital ecosystem while protecting individuals’ digital identities. Digital IDs can be optimized if these standards and principles are correctly implemented.