A New Era in Personal Identity – Safer, Smarter, More Secure

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Most US citizens have some type of Government Issued Identity Instrument (G3I) for identity verification. The most common form is a driver’s license. But we also have a plethora of other identity instruments that we carry around every day; healthcare and prescription cards, employee badges, library cards, gym memberships, gun ownership, fishing and hunting licenses, store loyalty cards, and more. These cards identify and convey privileges to the owner. The prevalence and capabilities of the smartphone can secure and automate these cards and identity exchanges, ushering in a new era of personal identity. No more fat wallets or lost cards.

You are in control of your information

This new digital capability has many advantages over the current paper or plastic card implementation. It allows the user to share only the pieces, of their personally identifiable information (PII), referred to as identity traits, that are relevant to the current verification request. Instead of revealing your exact birthdate when participating in an age restricted activity, you can securely share an identity trait that indicates you are over the threshold age. The digital identity can offer more security for the data itself as well as the exchange of data. You, the owner, have full control of your identity data, no longer can one single entity monopolize (or jeopardize) your identity. You can present identity information from multiple documents at once during an identity verification.

Digital identity documents improve safety, convenience, delivery, recovery, and more – what’s not to love? Table 1 captures the many of the advantages of digital identity documents over paper and plastic ones.

Feature Mini-Story
Improved trust and reliability over paper/plastic thru non-repudiation; cryptographic proof of the integrity and origin of PII data. Officer Bob can trust the validity and freshness of information received in an identity verification response from a citizen’s mobile device.
Selective delivery of non-repudiated privacy information. Citizen Ann can respond to a proof-of-age request with identity traits (photo, age) from her mobile driver’s license without revealing additional PII.
Self-sufficient in satisfying one’s basic needs in the authentication and verification of an identity challenge response. Officer Bob can verify an identity verification response without needing to depend on secondary communications with the Issuing Authority.
Intermixing identity traits from multiple documents to respond to any identity challenge request. Citizen Ann, being self-sovereign, can respond to a verification request with a photo from her fishing license and her address from her driver’s license (DL).
Immediate update and/or revocation. Citizen Ann need not wait several years for get her change of address reflected on her driver’s license.
Immediate reconstitution of your identities from a trusted delivery agent. Citizen Ann replaces a lost device and without contacting her issuing authorities. She can immediately contact the delivery agent to prime her new device.
Avoidance of physical and close proximity interactions for safety purposes. Officer Bob does not need to closely approach a vehicle at a traffic stop just to physically receive identity information. He avoids placing himself in a potentially unsafe position.
Availability on multiple devices. Citizen Ann can reap the benefits of mobile convenience by registering multiple devices with her trusted delivery agent.
Central access to multiple identity instruments. Citizen Ann’s US state of residence requires her to present two forms of photo ID to procure Schedule II Drugs as per the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Ability to present multiple identity instruments simultaneously. Citizen Ann can respond in a single seamless action to a request for multiple identity documents. For example, a traffic accident requires 3 disparate documents: DL, Vehicle Registration, Insurance Card; a Medical office requires 2 disparate documents: Government Issued Identity Instrument (G3I)., Healthcare Insurance Card)
Protected access to personal identification information. Citizen Ann need not worry about her lost device containing numerous identity instruments. She can immediately purge the identity instruments from the lost device.
Empowerment to grant consent to privacy information. Citizen Ann can provide Carl with time restricted access to her Boat Registration.

Table 1: Advantages of Digital Identity Documents

The combination of consumer demand for mobile convenience along with the convergence of all types of content (personal, music, movies, photos, games, social, shopping, etc.) on a single smartphone device that everyone carries all the time has triggered a sea change in the world of digital identity.

Are you ready for the new era? If so, IBM is ready to help you get started. Learn more about our Mobile Identity Solution at MI.ibmjstart.com.

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Becky Gibson
Becky is a Senior Technical Staff Member in the Emerging Technologies Group at IBM. Her career has spanned many products and programming languages and she has contributed to both commercial and open source projects. Becky is widely recognized for her efforts in the area of Web Accessibility - making the Web usable by people of all abilities. She has now turned her attention and efforts to the area of digital identity and mobile identity solutions.
Becky Gibson
Dan Gisolfi
As CTO for Trusted Identity, Dan is focused on the development and execution of a trusted identity strategy for both citizen and corporate identity interactions using blockchain technologies. This endeavor includes the development of a formal IBM Mobile Identity offering, the definition and development of a trusted identity reference architecture, and the creation of devops tools that streamline the delivery of trusted identity solutions for clients.
Dan Gisolfi
Dan Gisolfi

One comment

  • Great article. The way of explanation is really good. the concept of personal identity is too much complicated and confused a lot but you explained it in a very laymen language. Thanks for sharing.

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