A digital identity is a computerized dataset that represents facets of a person’s social, civil, or national identities typically generated through our online actions, relationships, etc. This includes usernames and passwords, online search activities, birth date, social security, and purchasing history, Likes, posts, reposts, and shares on social networks, even wifi passwords (eduroam). Daina and Allison explained in their video that “digital identity is composed of several factors that are dependent on what we value and how we interact with the environment, and it can change over time.”
When I looked up my name on different platforms, I couldn’t find a lot about myself. My public digital identity started with the first class I took with Alec. However, I am always hesitant to share my family photos, personal information or even my location. I assume the worst when thinking of sharing these kinds of personal information as I think they will be used out of their context by third parties organizations or hackers. I started to think, does this mean I don’t have a digital identity? And the answer was, of course, I have one.
I do online shopping all the time. Facebook knows exactly what products I am searching for and give me recommendations the next time I log in. I search the Internet every day for different things. I have an online medical record with eHealth Saskatchewan, an online bank account and numerous other online accounts. I was most impressed and happy by the purchase history tracking provided by the PC optimum card. The app of The Real Canadian Superstore remembers my shopping history (I use their reward card). These are the kind of information that I am ok to share on the Internet as it helps optimize my daily routine. Information about all these activities is the traces I leave behind every time I use the Internet, which can make my life easier next time I do them. Cookies offer some convenience by saving my browsing history, which saves my time logging in or re-entering my personal information.
It seems that, in the future, there will be much more reliance on digital identity for simplifying government services. More than 60+ governments have started using digital identity as part of their eGovernment initiatives. In Estonia, the use of digital identities reduced queues in hospitals by 33% and saved the equivalent of one working week for all of the working population. In fact, Germany will have an eID for all of its citizens in 2020; yes, all 61 million German Citizens will have a national electronic identity card. Germany has developed the technological infrastructure (and legal frameworks) that have been developed.
In addition, digital identities allow access to services from across the Internet through different mobile devices. Examples of eGov services include managing health records of citizens such as what is happening with Sask Government eHealth, and Sask Government PowerSchool. Another eGov service would consist of eVoting which may increase the percentage of people being able to participate in elections, this enables more democracy.
Different people have different concerns about digital identity. Many more people have concerns about privacy or giving the government more control, data breaches at various companies and governmental agencies and many other reasons. Therefore, educating our self and our kids about digital identity and the value it brings to us helps mitigate these concerns. Although it seems the only viable option, having control over our digital identity isn’t always an easy process. Below are some of the recommendations I found online from different resources on how to protect our digital identity
- Use strong and unique passwords on each of your online accounts
- Make sure you’re on a secure network or using a VPN, a virtual private network, when banking, shopping, or making other online transactions. Public wifi is free? They can gather your usage and sell it to data brokers. Other public and free services (possibly of the future such as Elon Musk’s satellite-based Internet or google fibre to the home Internet) are probably free because they collect your data.
- Don’t share your login credentials with others
- Limit the use of social media. How many social media platforms are you using? Maybe one should start by pausing/ delete one of your social media today.
- Turn off your device/ location tracking. Many apps on your phone keep track of your movement for various reasons.
- The more the apps you have on your phone, the more the organizations collect data about you.
- Maybe use privacy-focused technologies (such as DuckDuckGo for search and Firefox for web browsing).