Guest blog: Digital identities are the new way to prove who we are

We live in a society driven by digital connections – we can order a taxi, book a holiday, open a bank account and even meet potential partners online. Despite the advances in technology, when it comes to proving our identity we still have to show physical documents. But this is outdated and unsafe, with 400,000 people reporting a lost passport and almost one million driving licences losing a driving licence in one year - a substantial cost to both the individual and the economy.

Day in day out, we’re required to prove our age or identity. This could be to register with a new doctor, rent a flat or buy age-restricted items. Yet, some people don’t have the necessary documents to prove who they are; leaving them socially excluded and unable to access essential services. As techUK discuss in their white paper, as the UK aims to be the world-leading online economy, the case for digital identities is becoming increasingly apparent.

With a secure digital identity, individuals can prove their identity in a seamless, simple and secure way. This would help both the government and businesses to offer a greater range of online services, with the confidence that the right person is involved in the transaction. There will be less opportunities for fraudsters, an improved customer experience and greater trust between companies and individuals.

Digital identity technology is already being used by the Government of Jersey to give their citizens a safer and easier way to prove who they are. Using a digital identity app on their smartphone, an individual can securely access government services as well as engage with local businesses on the island. This utility across both public and private sector is key for driving adoption and awareness of digital identities.

Local retailers in Jersey and thousands of convenience stores throughout the UK are tackling underage sales and fake IDs using digital identity technology. Speciality drinks brand Jägermeister lets shoppers use a digital identity app to prove their age when buying items on www.jagershop.co.uk. And social networking app Yubo is using age estimation and age verification technology to help safeguard keep young people online. These are just a few examples that show how digital identities can help governments and businesses across a range of sectors offer simpler and safer user experiences, and unlock the potential for secure digital services.

Digital identities can also lead to greater social inclusion. For instance, age estimation technology integrated into self-checkouts could let shoppers buy age-restricted items without needing to show an ID document. This is not only simpler and safer for customers, but it can also reduce any potential friction between retail staff and shoppers when it comes to checking age.

The same technology could be used online to prevent children from accessing adult content, or to stop an adult giving a false age to access a young person’s chat room; helping to make the internet safer.

Moreover, digital identities give people more transparency and control over their personal information. In an era of data breaches, it’s not just the tech savvy who are concerned about how their data is being used. 57 percent of Brits worry about how much personal data they have shared online. A digital identity lets someone share specific details, for instance just their name and age, instead of revealing all of the personal information that would typically be printed on an ID document. This gives individuals more privacy and protection over their personal information whilst giving companies the details they need to be compliant.

In a world driven by digital connections, it’s time for the way we prove our identity to catch up.

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