Who owns our digital identity?

"On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog", The New York Times reported at one point wanting to show the spirit of our privacy and anonymity in the early days of the Internet. Although anonymity is still a hot topic in the online world, times have changed, along with the Internet. With the rise of online banking, social networks, e-commerce and peer-to-peer services, a verified digital identity is a critical component to the success of any digital platform.

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Banking is one of the areas where the ability to verify a person's identity in a secure manner is a prerequisite for accessing essential services. In addition to accessing banking digital services, most have verified their identity through different services such as Google services, Facebook, and many others. Two-factor authentication or biometric identification often depends on your mobile phone. Of course, no one doubts the convenience of the case that gives easy and quick access to any application, or service, simply by allowing Facebook to share and sell not only your data but also your digital identity. However, your digital identity is more than just login credentials. Your name and password, or whatever other biometric you use, is the only authentication that connects you to your digital self.

Your digital identity consists of thousands of pieces of data that form a profile of who you are and what your preferences are. Today, your digital identity is scattered all over the internet, where Facebook holds our social identity, online stores have data showing what we like to shop for, credit services hold our credit score, Google knows what we do from the beginning of the Internet, your bank has our Payment History etc, etc.

So if we analyze in detail all of the above we can easily predict some future behavior and get income from it. Of course, the one who has the data can also earn income, without even bothering with the analysis.

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In today's Internet, not only do we not own our data, but our fragmented digital identity is everywhere, which can become very dangerous. For example, fraudsters have started creating digital identities to sign up for digital services.

This way they can apply for loans. Even though the initial application is rejected, a credit file is automatically created, thus creating a digital footprint for a person who does not exist. So imagine that with approx 10 million new loan application files created in the US each year, fake identities can be very difficult to detect.

Over time, these identities gain access to credit, and the bank losses due to these scams are estimated at around $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion a year. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a very notable example (see The Great Hack), has shown us that our privacy has gone awry, but also that our data collection can become disastrous.

 

The blockchain is often suggested to meet all the needs of our digital identity, something that has caught the attention of experts such as Mark Zuckerberg who sees it as an opportunity to earn even more.

With the upcoming release of Facebook digital currency, (Pound), the company will be able to further strengthen its position as a leading provider of a global digital identity. Many think there won't be a problem since everything will be encrypted, but a decentralized identity associated with the upcoming Libra digital currency will be the most interesting aspect of Facebook's plans. In its "fine" print documentation of the upcoming cryptocurrency states:

An additional goal of the association is to develop and promote an open identity model. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite for economic integration and competition.

A unified and verified digital identity would be beneficial for both users and digital service providers. However, allowing Facebook or the Libra Association to be the custodian of our unified digital identity is like putting the wolf in charge of the sheep.

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It is difficult to imagine a future of digital identity on the Internet without some kind of custodian who will maintain the boundaries and order between our physical and digital selves, ensuring that data is not used without our consent. It should monitor and record any malicious behavior, but also provide support in case of violation.

Do you trust Facebook, or maybe Google?  

One thing is for sure, such a solution should be based on trust and should also provide the end user with all his personal data, if requested, something similar to his data portability GDPR.

Our digital identity already exists on the Internet, so no one can stop it. Just like you can't stop data breaches no matter how hard you try. Regardless of the technology or appointed custodian we seek to solve this issue, our identities should belong to us. To us and not to a company or consortium of companies seeking to exploit our data for their own profit.

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Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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