Moving Beyond Social Security Numbers Part 4: Data minimization and consent by design
This is the fourth post in a five part series. I recommend you start with Part 1: Claiming Your Unique, Digital Identity, Part 2: Identity proofing, data matching, and why the SSN is still important, and Part 3: Tokenizing identities or the Credit Card 2.0 model for identity before reading this post.
When you walk into a bar, a bouncer will ask to see your drivers license. If you choose to show that person your credential, then you will expose all of the information on the front of that card: Name, Date of Birth, Address, Height, Weight, Eye Color, Hair Color, Drivers License Number. If you choose not to show your credential, then you don’t get to go into the bar.
What is wrong with these two distinct decisions?
First, consumers are over-sharing personal information to complete transactions. The bouncer just needs to know that you are 21. They don’t even need to know your actual date of birth — the bar just needs a trusted reference to let them know they won’t be fined if you drink at their establishment.
Over-sharing of personal information is a characteristic that is inherent to physical credentials. Because the drivers license must be printed and is designed for use with law enforcement — a police officer may very well need all of the data fields on your card — then when the drivers license is used in less risky contexts e.g. you want to go get a beer then the information on the card represents an unnecessary risk to privacy and security. If even one bouncer is a stalker, then sharing your address information when you don’t need invites unnecessary risk.
Digital credentials offer the promise of a much more tailored identification choice. When an organization needs trust in identity, ID.me follows the guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and minimizes the data fields they can request from a user’s credential to only those fields that are relevant to the transaction at hand. And, if the organization just needs a claim rather than the raw data element e.g. this person is over 21 versus this person’s date of birth is September 1, 1980, then the person is only asked to release the claim to the organization. Printed credentials could never hope to offer this nuance by organization and transaction, so there is a real imperative to take advantage of the potential that digital identity holds for our collective privacy and security.
What physical identity cards get right — and what digital identity has largely gotten wrong to date — is user consent for all transactions. Individuals control physical identity cards, and the cards are portable to wherever the person physically goes. It is the person, not the bar, who decides whether or not they will produce the credential that identifies them. The internet, full of ad-tracking technology, cookies, and data mining companies, often takes that choice away from people — selling your information to the site you are visiting before you have the chance to decide if you want or do not want to be known. It’s almost like the in-person equivalent of having a stalker following you around from store to store and recording your behavior.
ID.me follows a model that provides the best of both worlds: user consent to decide whether to share identification information with a given organization for a given transaction and data minimization to ensure the user is never asked to share more data than is required for the transaction at hand.
Unlike logging in with social credentials like Facebook or Google or showing a physical identity card in-person, individuals should never have to choose between the convenience of completing a transaction versus the loss of control of personal data not related to the transaction. Smart digital credentials built with privacy in mind are the solution. From the beginning, ID.me built data minimization, consent, and privacy into our network so organizations get the minimum set of data they need to establish trust while individuals remain fully in control of how (or if) their data is shared.
Read Part 1: Claiming Your Unique, Digital Identity
ID.me is the next-generation digital identity platform that provides for trusted and convenient interactions between individuals and organizations. Government agencies and commercial partners use ID.me for online identity proofing and authentication to ensure their platforms and users are protected from fraud and identity theft. All media inquiries can reach Laura Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org