Today, our identities are our most closely kept secret. We intend to remain anonymous online, we avoid “identity theft,” and we try to protect our identities whenever possible. The threat here is that, if our identities are compromised, we lose our ability to control our lives, both financially and digitally. This is why we safeguard identifiers, like Social Security numbers in the United States or our biometrics.
The missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting our identities, however, is properly managing them. We take great pains to avoid identity theft and the leaking of private data, but we don’t manage our digital identities properly in the first place.
What Comprises Digital Identity?
The first thing to consider is what assets or accounts make up our digital identities. Every time we create a new Snapchat, Facebook, or Mastodon social media account, we’re adding another piece to that digital identity, and that’s just for social media. From PayPal to Disqus, every account we have online, whether it’s financial, professional, or just for commenting on a blog post, makes up a small piece of our digital identities.
And each one provides a new way for that identity to be targeted and compromised. In order to reduce the surface of attack, we have to be mindful of what information we put out there on the Internet, how public we make that information, and how well protected it is. This also means properly deleting accounts once we stop using a service, and regularly managing this library of accounts.
Protecting Digital Identity
In order to eliminate the threats to digital identity and better manage our online presence, we need a better way to authenticate into our accounts. Usernames and passwords are dead, we all know that it’s only a matter of time for a hacker to crack even the most complex password. That’s why more companies are investing in two-factor authentication or biometrics. With these tools, we’re able to add layers of security on top of faulty systems like passwords or replace them altogether. Ultimately, these improvements provide the foundation for an increasingly security-conscious public and the necessary groundwork for a new way of approaching digital identity protection.