Digital Identity: Where We Began, Where We Are And Where We Are Going

Lovin Jesus

Well-Known Member
Identity verification isn't a new concept. As early as 3,000 B.C., there is evidence of fingerprints used to "seal" business transactions on clay tablets in ancient Babylon. Signet rings and seals were used in ancient Egypt as marks of authenticity on official documentation. Tattoos and jewelry as identification were used thousands of years ago to denote status, tribal affiliation and more.

Identity has been used throughout human history to identify criminals, protect transactions and prevent forgeries. At a basic level, identity is used to ensure an individual is who they claim to be. As civilization evolved, so did identity. From the introduction of passports, personal ID numbers, photographic identification and now fully digital identities, identity verification developed in parallel with the growing need to protect and keep accurate records of increasingly complex data, transactions, credit and regulations.

The Internet And Digital Identity Technology

Fast forward to 1983 and the invention of ARPANET, the foundational structure of the internet as we know it today. A digital infrastructure that could connect people all over the globe was truly revolutionary, but it was created without a standard to identify and protect the identity of its users. In fact, anonymity, while not explicitly designed into the internet, is one of its defining and most contentious features.

With the advent of ARPANET and worldwide connectivity, digital messaging, communications and interactions were born. Securing access—and therefore establishing baseline "digital identity"—started with the password, invented in the 1960s by Fernando Corbató (paywall). Securing an account with a password known only to a user could be used to establish an "identity;" however, it was weak: If your password was compromised, so was your account and "identity." So, while we were quickly moving to a globally connected world, digital identity was really at square one.

Our Future Selves: What's On The Horizon For Digital identity

By 2030, 7.5 billion people will be online: buying, selling, learning, connecting and living their lives. They expect to be protected by the businesses they frequent—even as data breaches, user error and complex, clever schemes carried out by sophisticated fraud organizations increase.

At the same time, customers expect a frictionless customer experience, one that inspires confidence and brand loyalty. The balancing act between security and ease of use will remain an ongoing challenge for businesses looking to increase friction for potential fraudsters while decreasing friction for legitimate users they hope will become long-term customers.

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