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Facing problematic aspects of digital identity

Stephen Wilson puts digital identity under the microscope and wonders why digital identity turns out to be such a hard problem. In fact,  people are social animals with deep seated intuitions and conventions around identity, but exercising our identities online has been hugely problematic. In response to cyber fraud and the password plague, there has been a near universal acceptance of the idea of Federated Identity. All federated identity models start with the intuitively appealing premise that if an individual has already been identified by one service provider, then that identification should be made available to other services, to save time, streamline registration, reduce costs, and open up new business channels. It’s a potent mix of supposed benefits, and yet strangely unachievable.

Álvaro. J. Gutierrez explains in his paper that in order to attack the problematic aspects of digital identity, some work has been done regarding this respect. For instance, Daniel J. Solove created a taxonomy of privacy. The problems are directly related to the goal of this paper, since they will be either fully or at least partially addressed by the solution(s) proposed afterwards:

  •  Unreliability.
  •  Inconvenience.
  •  Inconsistency.
  •  Impermanence.
  •  Insecurity.
  •  Propagation.
  •   Intrusion.
  •   Intransitivity.

Dorian Wiszniewski and Richard Coyne  in their contribution to the book Building Virtual Communities explore online identity, with emphasis on the concept of “masking” identity. They point out that whenever an individual interacts in a social sphere they portray a mask of their identity. This is no different online and in fact becomes even more pronounced due to the decisions an online contributor must make concerning his or her online profile. He or she must answer specific questions about age, gender, address, username and so forth. Furthermore, as a person publishes to the web he or she adds more and more to his or her mask in the style of writing, vocabulary and topics. Though the chapter is very philosophical in nature, it spurs the thinking that online identity is a complex business and still in the process of being understood.

Digital Identity Managnemt

To sum up, Johnson I Agbinya and his colleagues of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Technology claim that a digital Identity Management system using a multimodal authenticating system was developed to address the issue of identity fraud and theft seen on most online services today.The multi-modal authentication technology can also be broadly applicable to physical access control systems in buildings, information security systems such as the Internet and intranets. Most online services like internet banking, school records systems, travel ticket booking all depend on a simple pin or password. The DIMS has been designed to request for a combination of credentials. This should make it difficult, if not prevent identify thieves to forge all the combination of credentials thus reducing cases of identity fraud on online services


  1.  Stephen Wilson,  18 June  2011,  A new ecological theory of digital identity, OpenForum. Retrieved: 9 December 2011. http://www.openforum.com.au/content/new-ecological-theory-digital-identity
  2.  Alvaro J. Gutierrez and Professor Joan Feigenbaum, Spring 2006, Towards Better Digital Identity Management, Sensitive Information in a Wired World. Retrieved: 11 December 2011. http://zoo.cs.yale.edu/classes/cs457/spr06/info_paper.pdf
  3.  Dorian Wisznieswski and Richard Coyne, 3 December 2011, Online identity, Wikipedia. Retrieved: 11 December 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_identity#Online_identity_and_the_concept_of_the_mask
  4.  Johnson I Agbinya, Rumana Islam and Chandra Kwok, Development of Digital Environment IdentiTY (DEITY) System for Online Access, Faculty of Engineering, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia French South African Technical Institute in Electronics (F’SATIE), Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. Retrieved: 11 December 2011. http://www.ee.latrobe.edu.au/~johnson/PapersNew/Digital%20Environment%20IdentiTY_Norway.pdf
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