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What is digital ID?

What is digital ID?

Digital ID is a form of credential which is presented electronically to support a claim about the identity of the subject. It can take the form of a numerical code, an asset like a digitized version of a physical identity document, or a collection of attributes that constitute acceptable evidence of the claim.

The concept has become polarizing to many people, some of whom base their opinions on mistaken impressions of what it is and how it works. Popular misconceptions of what digital ID is include the belief that it necessarily includes a mandatory card, or that it requires people to be implanted with microchips.

Many different forms of credentials can be used for digital ID, from numbers referencing entries in nation-scale databases and civil registries, to user-held and controlled credentials like decentralized identifiers (DIDs).

For a digital ID to be useful, it must provide an assertion, along with a way to verify that the assertion is true. Traditional digital IDs assert the identity of the individual. Newer models of digital ID can assert the identity of an entity, such as a business, or an attribute, such as being a person above a specified age, as opposed to a bot or an underage user.

The degree of certainty the digital ID provides about the claim being made depends on how it is verified, and determines the kind of application the credential is appropriate for. Every person who has an email address or social media account has a digital ID, but not necessarily one that can be used for all applications.

Digital IDs often, but not always, bind an individual to a claimed identity through biometrics.

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