The Top 10 Hot Identity Topics: A Smart Card Alliance Identity Council White Paper

An in-depth report on issues affecting identity management and protection


·         Financial identity: identity information used by financial institutions, such as credit card information

·         Citizen identity: identity information used by governments, such as passport information.

·         Healthcare identity: identity information used by the healthcare industry

·         Online browsing/email identity: identity information used to access information on the Internet, such as usernames and passwords

·         Ecommerce identity: identity information used to carry out electronic transactions, such as account numbers, passwords, shipping addresses and credit card information

Technological and process solutions are available that can create more manageable and secure identity tools. Adopting these solutions can ease the fears we all have about identity theft and fraud and implement more efficient identity transactions. To understand these solutions, however, we must understand some of the challenges that underlie the concept of identity.

What Is Identity?

Identity is represented by an assortment of information that can be tied to that individual and that describes an individual’s characteristics and uniqueness. An identity in this context is the information concerning the person, not the actual person.

An identity can be made up of many pieces. Some common components of identity are:

·         Demographics: information describing who you are (name, address, phone number)

·         Biometrics: information measuring a person’s physical or behavioral characteristics (e.g., fingerprint, face, iris, hand, speech)

·         Actions: information describing what you do and/or where you go

·         Preferences: information describing what you like or choose to buy

·         Status: information describing your social status (member or nonmember, married or single, retired, grade level)

·         Transactions: information describing a person’s past transactions (financial credit status)

Current Identity Systems: Multi-use or Silo?

Identity systems have proliferated in today’s society. Some of these systems have developed into multiple-use identity systems while others remain essentially identity silos - single-use closed systems. The more applications a collection of identity information has and the more meaningful that information is to third parties, the more valuable that identity information becomes. The U.S. driver’s license is an example of a multi-use identity tool. Its primary purpose is to prove driving status but it can also be used to provide evidence of identity when opening a bank account, buying alcohol, boarding an airplane, or applying for a job. Another example of a multi-use identity system is a major credit/debit card. Holders of these cards can use them to purchase goods and services almost anywhere in the world. Other collections of identity information have limited use and are essentially identity silos, such as healthcare cards, single-retailer discount or member cards, single retailer credit cards, and online subscriber account information. Although this identity information is more limited in scope than multi-use information, it is less likely that this identity information will be revealed outside of the system in which it is used. For example, healthcare information may be less likely to be divulged to those not needing to know if it is kept within one identity system. Of course, the problem of privacy is not solved by putting identity information in silos. It must be emphasized that identity information is only as secure as the system designed to manage that identity information. Identity information that is in a siloed system is less likely to be divulged outside the system only because it is used and transported less often than information in a multi-use identity credential.