10 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Digital Identity Provider - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

Digital identity allows people, businesses, and government to facilitate remote transactions, and access essential services like healthcare. Through providers, society could see an increase in financial and social inclusion, but not every provider has garnered widespread trust and adoption. Keep reading to understand what you should be looking out for in a digital identity provider.

1. Commitment to Consumer Privacy

According to Morning Consult and Politico, Americans overwhelmingly support data privacy initiatives. In 2011, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace was created to fund identity solutions that “addressed concerns about the interplay between identity, privacy, and civil liberties”. Not every digital identity provider is open about how they deal with consumer privacy. It is important to seek out transparent providers that value consent and allow consumers to retain ownership of their data.

2. Consistent Customer Support

In order to increase accessibility and prevent security violations, round-the-clock customer support is necessary. Unresponsive customer support can be frustrating and stressful to fix errors and access services. Through digital identity providers, it is also imperative that customer service is promoted through different channels, whether it be through chatbots or phone calls.

3. Strong Fraud Protection

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), financial losses from identity fraud grew from $1.8 billion in 2019 to $3.3 billion in 2020 and $5.8 billion in 2021. Thus, a digital identity provider must have strong defense against potential fraud, especially for large data breaches as to not risk consumer safety. 

4. High Degree of Assurance

A digital identity provider with a high degree of assurance “meets both government and private-sector institutions’ standards for initial registration and subsequent acceptance for a multitude of important civic and economic uses.” For example, if the provider was used to allow access to a bank account, the assurance on this digital identity should meet these standards each time it is authenticated. This can be achieved through biometrics, strong passwords, QR codes, and smart devices with identity embedded.

5. Unique Identification

Each digital identity should only correspond to one individual. This is important to prevent fraud and identity theft. Common unique attributes include social security numbers, biometrics, name, place, and data of birth, or other unique identification numbers.

6. Flexibility 

A digital identity provider likely aims to be open to as many people as possible. However, with this comes more diversity in user needs. If a provider is built on open standards, they are more likely to serve different users. For instance, between 11% and 17% of people switched bank accounts in 2021. To access and keep track of their finances, flexibility in a digital identity provider is key, and “identity providers become a critical part of the digital economy” with strong positioning with users, according to Deloitte’s A Blueprint in Digital Identity

7. Valuable Use Cases

A user inevitably will use a digital identity provider more if it provides usage with higher value. For instance, if a government is looking to adopt a digital identity provider for access to its online services, there needs to be a variety of functions enabled within the built system. This could include integrated travel ticketing, electronic signatures, digital document vaults, and more. If different use cases aren’t available, the quality of convenience and engagement goes down for the user, and so does the value.

8. Strong Authentication

While an emphasis on consumer privacy was mentioned above, some users may not be aware of what they consent to in terms of what a provider can do with their data. Higher levels of login requirements such as “multi-factor authentication (MFA), uses an SMS or a call-in code, and/or an email link” pile on extra levels of security to ensure you, as a user, don’t face potential risks with a provider.

9. Global Coverage

Technology has created more connectivity in the world. Globalization has also made our world more interdependent. Whether you’re an individual that may need access to global companies or foreign governments or a company looking to connect with different consumers, global coverage will empower access to identity documents for a seamless user experience.

10. Omnichannel verification 

There are barriers to even beginning the process of a digital identity. Approximately 21 million Americans still lack access to reliable broadband services, and it’s even worse for those living in rural areas, where one-fourth of the population lacks broadband. To enable access for different services to all people, self-serve, in-person, and video chat options should be available for individuals without broadband. This approach will increase verification pass rates, providing more access through digital identity to systems.


Katherine Zhang is a contributor to Identity Review from the University of California, Berkeley.

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