The role decentralised identities will play in a post-pandemic world

15 September 2021 4 min. read
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As the world looks for ways to recover from Covid-related disruptions, the role of digital identities is becoming increasingly clear, writes Ashley Diffey, Head of APAC and Japan at Ping Identity.

With an increasing proportion of daily life now conducted online, being able to confirm an individual is who they say they are has never been more important. Unfortunately, however, many people have lost faith in the ability of businesses and governments to manage their personal data and keep it secure at all times. They point to regular reports of data theft and loss as evidence that sharing IDs is a risky proposition.

This lack of trust needs to be overcome, and quickly. This can be achieved through the use of a variety of identity technologies, from biometrics and cryptography to digital wallets, within a decentralised identity framework. 

Ashley Diffey, Head of APAC and Japan, Ping Identity

Digital vaccination passports

Add the new prospect of digital vaccine credentials and passports and IDs become even more critical. These mobile-based credentials will enable individuals to easily share proof of Covid-19 test results and vaccinations with anyone or any organisation with which they interact.

Not only are identity-based digital passports more versatile and trustworthy than paper-based equivalents, they are also more convenient as they can be stored on an individual’s smartphone. They allow consumers to securely share proof with employers, restaurants, entertainment venues, friends, and family.

For this system to work effectively and gain public trust, authorities must ensure that these passports are free, secure, and in the control of the private sector. It’s not the role of government to hold that data. 

Privacy comes first

Secure digital wallets will play another important role in the transformation. This follows a sharp reduction in the use of cash with people preferring to use cashless, contactless payments. 

Digital wallets introduce greater levels of trust into this system. They serve as digital vaults that turn mobile devices into a secure identity wallet, giving people a more convenient and secure way to share their personal information as well as make payments. 

These secure wallets can also safely store a wealth of personal information, from driver’s licences and passports to employment, and educational credentials. It’s this capability that is the key reason the underlying technology is being used to power apps for Covid-19 vaccination records. 

Well-engineered digital wallets will elicit greater trust by allowing users to be in control of the personal details they share with others. However, it’s essential that wallet providers ensure enhanced security through use of multi-factor authentication and mechanisms. 

The role of biometrics

The role of biometrics is also becoming more important in this post-Covid-19 world. First, the non-contact biometric identification systems to authenticate employees and customers can help contain any lingering spread of the coronavirus.

The technology can also be instrumental in getting people back to work faster. For example, onboarding solutions that using face and document recognition to match a selfie to the image on an official government ID can safely validate employee identities. Facial recognition and thermal scanning could also be used to support new workplace safety procedures.

When it comes to retail transactions, biometrics can simplify the identity verification process for repeat customers, reducing costs while remaining compliant with regulations.

Decentralised control

To be effective, all of these tools must exist within a decentralised identity infrastructure that will accelerate their adoption. This is because a decentralised identity model is the foundation of establishing trusted relationships. Such a model can secure an individual’s data so no one can see it or use it without their consent. Businesses can avoid storing sensitive data while customers can avoid sharing unnecessary personal information with service providers.

Part of the approach involves encrypting digital identities in blockchain. This provides immutable data protection with no single point of failure. It means individuals don’t have to trust third parties to securely hold their personal data. 

Having such a decentralised identity model in place also makes onboarding more convenient for consumers while simultaneously reducing the administrative burden for large organisations. It also gives governments an infrastructure for ensuring privacy of digital health information.

It’s clear everyone is going to have to live with the Covid-19 virus and its effects for an extended period of time. By putting in place a system that allows digital IDs to be properly used and managed, key facets of daily life will be able to continue.