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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Secure Identity Alliance explores Digital IDs

Secure Identity Alliance (SIA), the industry association of identity system suppliers (its board members are Thales, Idemia, IN Groupe and Veridos) just published its latest report titled “Giving voice to Digital identities worldwide,” in collaboration with onepoint, a France-based consulting firm. In addition, SIA and onepoint held a conference to introduce the results of their research.

The goal of the report is to provide a current status on the state of government-led Digital identity programs across the globe by analyzing projects from 25 government agencies including Estonia, Nigeria, Canada, India, Belgium, Azerbaijan and Singapore among others and extracting from these interviews major value propositions that allow to analyze Digital ID developments worldwide.

The report considers as its first insight the need to consider Digital ID as a driver for inclusion and dignity. Digital ID is an appropriate answer to the fact that nearly one billion people worldwide lack a legally recognized form of identification. Having a proof of ID is a required step to open a bank account, register for a school, apply for social benefits, rent a flat, find a job, etc. "People with no identity lose their dignity,” says Christopher Goh, GM Registration and Licensing Modernization at Department of Transport of Queensland, Australia. Digital ID solutions are a means to provide access to individual rights such as social services to people with no ID or with difficulties in accessing their rights.

“Giving voice to digital identities worldwide” report also insists on the need for privacy in the design of Digital ID systems in order to protect citizens. Each of us has a right to know and to understand who owns our data, who can access it, and what is it being used for. Technology provides solutions for privacy by design, data filters between identity and service providers, decentralized databases, etc. The definition of the legal and regulatory framework to protect individuals should come first, before any technical specification or development.

The best balance between user experience and security is to be found for Digital ID projects. Most users are accustomed to services delivered by the GAFAM (Google Amazon Facebook Apple Microsoft) that allow access to their services in a seamless manner with a minimal authentication level. On the other hand, governments, and especially European governments through the eIDAS framework, have defined security levels and authentication methods. Users may not always understand why accessing government services is more complicated than accessing their Facebook account. Finding the right level of user authentication and security depends on several factors including digital maturity of the population, level of equipment, and whether the Digital ID is mandatory or not.

The report covers several additional insights on Digital IDs and detailed reports on projects by more than 25 governments worldwide.

Finding the right procedure for citizen adoption is paramount: a few months ago, the French government was considering Alicem, a project that would use face recognition during the enrolment phase for providing ID documents to French citizens. After a research, it has been demonstrated that most people were not confident in facial recognition when it is under government control, although they do not hesitate to unlock their smartphone dozens times each day with the same technology. Consequently, according to a speaker during the SIA conference, French ID documents are likely to keep on being delivered by officers in city halls as, for many citizens, they represent a safe situation when they accept to be authenticated.

The document sums up the understanding of experts in Digital ID, and of us, who have been involved in these subjects for years. To implement any of these solutions, a tremendous effort is to be made on information of the public to explain what kind of individual data is used, how it is used and stored, who can access it and for which purpose. Technology based systems are never as transparent as physical systems for the end-user. Building confidence is directly dependent on the pedagogy efforts made when introducing Digital ID programs.

The report “Giving voice to digital identities worldwide” is available from SIA website.

Photo credits: Images by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay - Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash - Alex Iby on Unsplash - Jayson Hinrichsen on Unsplash

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