Digital identity cards

THE founders of the internet were academics who took users’ identities on trust. When only research co-operation was at stake, this was reasonable. But the lack of secure identification is now hampering the development of e-commerce and the provision of public services online. In day-to-day life, from banking to dating, if you don’t know who you are dealing with, you are vulnerable to fraud or deceit, or will have to submit to cumbersome procedures such as scanning and uploading documents to prove who you are.

Much work has gone into making systems that can recognise and verify digital IDs. A standard called OpenID Connect, organised by an international non-profit foundation, was launched this year. Mobile-phone operators have started a complementary service, Mobile Connect, which allows identities of all kinds to be authenticated from smartphones.

But providing a digital ID that will be widely used and trusted is far harder. Businesses can check their employees rigorously, and issue credentials for gaining access to buildings, computers and the like. But what about outside the workplace? Facebook, Google and Twitter are all trying to make their accounts a form of ID. But these are issued without verification, so pseudonyms are rife and impersonation easy.

http://www.economist.com/

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