Digital identity’s future is unobtrusive and human-centric

19 July 2022 4 min. read
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One of the major shifts of the past two years is the challenge to entrenched power dynamics. This is forcing a general rethink of what organisations do and more importantly, how they do it. And it is all being done with the individual being top-of-mind, writes Ashley Diffey, Head of APAC and Japan at Ping Identity.

Workplaces are under pressure to be more human-centric, instead of being so overtly driven by commercial imperatives. Gartner calls the current developments in the space a “great reflection” and “a liminal moment for people and work”.

“Employees want a more human employment value proposition: They want employers to recognise their value and provide value to them on a human level,” Gartner concludes. In other words, personal purpose and values are elevated.

Ashley Diffey, Head of APAC and Japan, Ping Identity

It’s no longer tolerated to prioritise the needs of the company over the needs of the user. They have to be treated as equals going forward. If not, people are just going to leave.

More broadly, businesses are also redesigning operations with a collective human good in mind. As Fortune notes, “Organisations are increasingly creating new human-centred purpose statements, or ‘North Stars’, that aim to positively address social causes, political issues, and contribute to global sustainability efforts.”

In some ways, this has been a long time coming. Human-centred design principles and culture have long been goals of governments, banks, urban planners, and health authorities, all of which have close customer contact as a central part of their operational models. But efforts have also been disparate and piecemeal.

Idealism is not an effective driver of human-centricity, but a change to the macroeconomic environment is. That change is inspiring more of a mass movement toward human-centric approaches to everything – and security and privacy are the next waves of that trend.

Identity is the next wave

Many individuals today feel they have lost control of their identity and in turn their privacy.

The technology that would allow a typical citizen to control their identity attributes has not existed in a consumable form and so historically, corporate and government entities have assumed the role of “identity guardians”. The result is that the hundreds of different organisations that an individual interacts with wind up owning attributes of that individual’s identity.

These organisations also make the rules about how individuals can re-authenticate themselves. Passwords, challenge questions, SMS codes, QR codes – it’s like identity roulette – you’re never quite sure which method, or combination of methods, you are going to land on when you engage with an organisation.

Further reading: Why digital sustainability is key to combat growing data pollution.

No one wants to deal with an identity process, because these processes get in the way of individuals doing what they need to do - accessing an app at work or checking their health record at home, for example. Today’s approaches to identity add friction to end-user experiences.

Human-centricity promises to turn this model on its head.

It means not having to remember a hundred different complex passwords because the organisations you engage with have implemented a simple user experience associated with identity. That may include passwordless options like SMS, biometrics, or QR codes for example. Or it may mean that through the use of machine learning, the organisation can identify you by attributes alone and allow you to skip the upfront authentication process.

You might not have to login at all because they are employing adaptive identity that recognises you from your device, your location, your usage patterns, and so on. Identity ‘utopia’ in this scenario would be that the individual is authenticated or authorised without them even knowing they went through the process.

In the longer term, human-centric identity means that someday we will all be our own identity providers. Digital wallets, credential management, verification, and identity proofing are examples of technologies that are paving the way to this being a reality in the near future, with the smartphone is the delivery vehicle. This will allow individuals to be the guardians of their own identity and in turn to take back control of their privacy, where they – and only they – ultimately decide what to share, when and with whom.

Comfortable engagement

This is good and bad for organisations.

If the digital experience with your organisation is simple and fast, then users will continue to do business with you. If not, there are a multitude of options for them to choose from and they will look until they find a company that makes doing business simple.

Organisations that know their customer base understand that the more they can offer an identity experience that users love, the more successful they will be in retaining those users. And to be clear, those users could be employees, customers, partners or anyone that has a relationship with the organisation.

Human-centric identity means getting the right users connected to the right assets in a way that makes them feel good about how they engage with the organisation.