The term ‘digital identity has been in vague in relation to various technological innovations. The upsurge of digital systems in proving human identity has not only simplified a complicated procedure of multifarious social systems but has also made social interactions easier, efficient, and less uncertain. Digital identity has enabled the transactions for the movement of goods, peoples, funds, data, and resources in the area of both financial services and government-issued identification. According to World Economic Forum, digital identity enables transactions in the digital world and offers functionality for its user. This transaction is done through various electronic attributes such as biometric templates, online browsing records, phone numbers. In other words, digital identity paves a way for identifying an individual in the online world through electronic ways and means.
The evolution of ‘digital identity is closely associated with the transformations in the online world. Different phases of identity authentication started in the 1990s with a market opportunity to sort out the issue of poor online registration, log-in process and a simple way to authenticate users on the website. In this phase, Microsoft introduced the first concept of online unique identification- ‘Identity 1.0’- with its passport product. Passport became a unique platform to virtualize the identity of various users enabled by log-ins through a single username and password. The product received criticism for not being receptive to businesses and consumers. Further, it failed to remember the user preferences and became a cause of disappointment even among Microsoft employees. The phase of ‘Identity 2.0’ began in 2010 with the rise in social media websites verifying the social identities of various users. The logins and credentials were not only used via computer systems but also in mobiles with more than 10 billion becoming a part of social media websites called in Facebook in 2013 alone. This further created an opportunity for various businesses to provide information about an individual’s likes, dislikes, relationship status, and work history. The consumers have marketed an idea according to their particular information given on social media websites and thereby, popularising various brands and businesses. The growth of ‘Identity 3.0’ is the contemporary phase of enabling digital identity through next-generation authentication methods, increased security, new protocols and innovative application of identity. The websites like PayPal and Amazon have created identity verification through social media accounts to streamline their online retail checkout process. Apple Pay’s Touch Id is another evolution of identity authentication, which deploys biometric and near field communication to identify shoppers at the point of sale. Facebook has been appealing to European Union for a money-transferring license. In the times ahead, this will create possibilities for Facebook with an extremely high number of active users even on WhatsApp and messenger to embark on the path of payment technology. The evolution of ‘Identity 3.0’ is a crucial point for numerous experiments coming in the landscape of the Internet of Things.
Advances in AI will not only ease out the communication with various identities created in the digital space but will specifically create a difference in two major sectors- healthcare and financial services. The new AI capabilities will aid the way financial firms confirm identities and build risk models to detect fraud and instances of money laundering. These capabilities can further assist in solving issues like privacy protection, regulatory compliance and credit risk assessment. HDFC is already using machine learning to identify and build scorecards for loan applications where credit history may be thin. According to a Forbes report, “By using demographic, geographic and other data to augment loan applications, HDFC Bank analysts can do faster, more accurate credit analyses. This helps the bank identify the best loan applicants and manage its own risk better”.
In the healthcare sector, the digital identity with the help of various AI filters can pave a way for clear communication between a patient and a doctor. The day is not far when a doctor’s device can communicate with a patient’s identity bracelet allowing him or her to access the patient’s medical file on the spot. A system infused with cognitive abilities can put forward a selective array of relevant research, available treatments and accepted protocols in accordance with a patient’s unique situation. Forbes has argued in its report, “When the doctor leaves the room, the visit is logged and the file is locked and saved until an authorized user calls it up again. When nursing staff make their rounds, sensors in the room provide real-time information about the patient’s condition and activity. Metadata from all interactions as well as institutional and sensor data, combined with patient outcomes, can then be used to improve hospital procedures and, in turn, train cognitive systems to make more intelligent and relevant suggestions to caregivers”
The interaction of AI with the digital space will only strengthen different contours of digital identity. However, it has some real challenges in terms of the right to privacy and the right to life. These challenges must be addressed through a concrete legal framework balancing the evolving technological advancements with the constitutional restraints of maintaining an individual’s right to privacy.
This piece is written by Manisha Chachra.