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This blog post covers the work underway by the Digital Identity Transition team at the Department of Internal Affairs to explore the opportunities for digital identity and how it could work for New Zealand.

Digital identity is how you prove who you are online.

Your digital identity isn’t one thing and depends on the context it’s used in. It varies from person to person. It depends on the technology you use, how you use it, and how often.

A 20 year old student in Auckland who uses social media throughout the day will have a completely different digital identity to an 80 year old retired farmer who uses a computer less regularly and for online banking.

Trust in a changing world

Trusting that someone is who they claim to be is a vital part of any exchange between anyone. The way that we identify ourselves has changed significantly over time.

There was a time when you had to wait in line at the bank and show a form of ID to get your money out before going shopping. Now you can do both in a few clicks wherever you want.

As the demand and use of online services and products increases, so has the amount of personal information we provide to access them. Each time you make a transaction online, you give providers some information about you.

Think of how many different apps, online accounts and passwords you have. Your data might be held in a lot of places. New technology has also expanded the ways that we can prove our identity. We are now seeing an increased use of face, voice, and fingerprint recognition to confirm a person’s identity.

New tech, old thinking

Machines can collect, copy and move information faster than ever before. But the way we share and use information hasn’t kept up with that. At its core, there is a disconnect between the information you are asked for and the information that is needed.

When you buy alcohol you might use your driver’s licence as ID. Your driver’s licence contains your name, date of birth, donor type, licence type and more. But all the liquor store needs to know is if you’re over 18 and to trust the source that confirms this.

Proving your identity online has its own set of challenges. Once you give an organisation your personal information, it can be hard to control or remove it. Each time you repeat this process of providing the same information to access different services means there is more people you need to trust to keep that information safe.

As we see an increase in data breaches, scams, and cybercrime, we know that people are more concerned about their privacy and what is done with their data.

Constantly repeating processes to verify someone’s identity also has a cost in time and money for businesses and organisations. The rules around sharing information are restrictive. The unintended consequence of this is that it is hard to connect any of that information you’ve provide. When someone new needs it, they ask for it again!

The future of identity

What if you could prove who you are without showing any of your personal information? What if that same ‘proof’ could be used across the services you use? What if organisations had to ask you to see your information to give you a service rather than the other way around?

A future where the citizen has choice and control over their personal data is complex but possible. Technology is a tool to solve these problems, not a solution itself. There is no one size fits all approach. The challenge is to find a way for many solutions to work together in a trusted way.

What are we doing?

Our purpose is to present options for what the future of digital identity will look like to Ministers next year. To do that, we are:

  • Exploring what rules and policies are needed to give citizens choice and control over sharing their private information to prove who they are.
  • Talking to citizens to find out what is important to them when it comes to their digital identity.
  • Taking real examples of possible solutions and testing them to see if they work.

Any feedback or questions? Please get in touch with the Digital Identity Transition team:

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