When searching for sources under the broad topic of ‘digital identity’, I came across an interesting metaphor – it was suggested that our digital identity is the permanent collection of data about us that is available online, that is, a digital ‘tattoo’ (Binary Tattoo). And it is striking to note that almost all activities that are based on using web tools and applications are actually ways of creating our digital identities, even when they are not intended (Torres and Costa, 2011).
Krotoski (2012) suggested that, with Facebook and Google encouraging the pursuit of authenticity by tying different accounts, photo streams and participation in any activity to a person’s real name, our daily online activity is becoming more and more non-anonymous, that is, whatever we do, including comments we make, any online-shopping records or even google search records, are becoming traceable. Hence, I do agree with the ‘tattoo’ metaphor to a large extent.
So, there are a few pros about tying everything into a big, one and only digital identity under your name. Firstly, a single identity makes everything easier and more convenient (e.g.: Apple Pay) – users are familiar with logging into other services using Facebook or Google IDs, forming a single public identity that’s an aggregated version of their offline past (Krotoski, 2012).
Secondly, people are provided with an assurance of security and credibility. With a rapid growth of the digital identity infrastructure over the last decade, more and more services are available online. In fact, business activities like online transactions, online banking and even ATM are enabled by the existence of digital identity, as banks no longer need a human in the loop to identify customers’ identity (Windley, 2005). Thus, with the increase in money being involved in online activities, online security, credibility and integrity have become increasingly important.
While having one account and one password for all services seems super handy, we can argue that despite being more connected than ever before we are equally much more vulnerable (Torres and Costa, 2011). As suggested in The Value of Our Digital Identity (2012), personal data has become a new form of currency. It is estimated that applying personal data can deliver a €330billion annual economic benefit for organisations in Europe by 2020!
Consequently, it is important not to always put all your eggs in one basket – Below is a video that talks about Online identity theft:
On the other hand, Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project emphasised the need for anonymity – he argued that losing anonymity, that is having only one online identity which remains when you are offline, prevents people from being creative and explorative. He also highlighted the importance of the ability to forget and start over. It is believed that as Facebook and Google shape online experience based on one’s past activities, people may face a lack of choice in their online experiences and remain stuck in their old life (Krotoski, 2012)
To sum up, there are significant pros and cons for each side of the argument. Hence, it is suggested that the need for education in privacy management and digital identity management over the web should be emphasised in future education systems.
Binary Tattoo (2015) How are you defining YOUR digital identity? Retrieved from: http://www.binarytattoo.com/about-us/ (Accessed on 30/10/16.)
Krotoski, A. (2012) Online Identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?, The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity (Accessed on 29/10/16.)
Liberty Global, Inc. (2012) The Value of Our Digital Identity. The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Retrieved from: https://www.libertyglobal.com/PDF/public-policy/The-Value-of-Our-Digital-Identity.pdf (Accessed on 30/10/16.)
Torres, R. and Costa, C. (2011) To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity, in the networked society, Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, n.º extra, 47-53. Retrieved from: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126 (Accessed on 29/10/16.)
Windley, P. J. (2005) Digital Identity: Unmasking Identity Management Architecture (IMA). USA: O’Reilly Media, Inc. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=o8mHSbDHgPsC&oi=fnd&pg=PT5&dq=digital+identity+dictionary&ots=URmuofyE1t&sig=PGG-KNqiFgJEzePypLqlY2O11lo#v=onepage&q=digital%20identity%20dictionary&f=false (Accessed on 30/10/16.)