Moving Beyond Social Security Numbers Part Five: Decentralization, privacy, and the importance of choice

This is the fifth 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, Part 3: Tokenizing identities or the Credit Card 2.0 model for identity, and Part 4: Data minimization and consent before reading this post.

To move past social security numbers and static identifiers to secure digital credentials, a robust ecosystem of decentralized, digital credential providers. Decentralization ensures there is no “one login to rule them all” that would centralize all of your data and see all of your transaction history. Like the remark Alfred made to Batman at the end of The Dark Knight where they could listen to Gotham’s cell phone conversations: “no one should have that kind of power.”

Banks and Visa provide an excellent example of identity decentralization with choice. In this model, people are free to pick one or more banks to trust with their business and then that bank becomes their credit or debit card provider while Visa ensures the credential is broadly accepted across the economy. This model forces competition, innovation, and accountability because customers can choose between many different banks or leave a bank if it’s not providing a great product or service. As a result, banks tailor their offerings to particular demographics and psychographics to differentiate from their competitors — producing innovation that is good for everyone.

DMVs provide an example of identity decentralization without choice. In this model, people are geographically assigned to their state identity provider according to their home address. While this model is effective, the monopoly nature of DMVs restricts consumer choice and results in less innovation and less accountability because people have no other option if they wish to drive legally.

A decentralized digital identity model where government sets the standards but many different legal identity providers compete to win citizens trust is the ideal model. By empowering competition and letting people pick the best credential provider for themselves, the market will produce more innovative solutions at lower prices. And organizations that screw up or produce poor customer experiences — like the typical visit to the DMV — will lose business.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has promoted this approach for America through the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. ID.me is one of the initial credential issuers certified through the program. Seven federal agencies, two state governments, and more than 200 retailers are integrated with ID.me’s Identity Gateway — an open identity network designed to put people back in control of their identity and personal data.

We invite all organizations that wish to move digital identity beyond social security numbers to join with ID.me. You can start by clicking here.

Read Part 1: Claiming Your Unique, Digital Identity

Read Part 2: Identity proofing, data matching, and why the SSN is still important

Read Part 3: Tokenizing identities of the Credit Card 2.0 model for identity

Read Part 4: Data minimization and consent by design

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 laura@tenorcom.com

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Founder & CEO of ID.me. Leading a talented team focused on increasing trust in digital transactions. Iraq Combat Veteran.

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Blake Hall

Founder & CEO of ID.me. Leading a talented team focused on increasing trust in digital transactions. Iraq Combat Veteran.