Wait, You Mean Digital Identity is an Entire Industry?

So there I am, enjoying my first neighborhood barbeque in YEARS, chatting with one of my neighbors about what it is I do.

Me: “I work with people and organizations developing standards for how to use digital identity.”

Them: “I have no idea what that means.”

Me: …

Hmmm. Now if that wasn’t a trigger to try and educate this poor soul who was just trying to enjoy a veggie burger and a beer, I don’t know what is! Because digital identity is an AWESOME field. Seriously, an understanding of digital identity opens doors to careers in… just about everything: gaming, education, health care, government, commerce, enterprise, research… The list goes on forever.

But I totally get why they answered that way. 

Digital identity may be part of everything online, but so are a lot of other technical bits and pieces that make the Internet function. After all, there are only so many hours in the day to learn ALL. THE. THINGS. Still, digital identity has the unique characteristic of being about YOU. So not only is this a career field with limitless possibilities for you, it’s also important for you to know what happens with data about you when surfing the web.

So, let’s take a quick look at a few ways that digital identity impacts different industry sectors, and most importantly, how digital identity impacts you. 

Digital Identity and… Research

The expansion of the universe aside—even though that’s still hotly debated by scientists—there is no such thing as limitless growth. Whether you’re considering the question of how to continue to sustain life on Earth, how to sustain the needs of a business, or how to sustain your own lifestyle, you have to understand what types of resources you have and what resources you’re spending. And that understanding requires data. Lots and lots of data.

Here’s the thing about data, though. Who should have access to it? At a personal level, you probably don’t want everyone to have access to your financial information and budget, but you probably do want people to know what pronouns you prefer. You don’t want *everyone* to have access everything, but you do want *some people* to have access to some things. And you need to be able to specify who gets access to what.

Congratulations, you’ve now entered the realm of digital identity

Digital Identity and… Education

OK, so let’s switch over to education. The educational sector is about students, faculty, and staff. It’s about parents, school boards, and support groups. It’s about teaching and learning specific things, but it’s also about students needing access to online learning materials. Even if your school doesn’t support remote learning, though, you may still need access to online books and journals that your school has paid for you to have access to.

Or, let’s get fancy again! Maybe you need to switch schools, or you’ve applied to college. You and your current school need to transfer your transcripts digitally. That means there needs to be systems that identify who is a student at a given school. They need to also identify who is a teacher. Perhaps the school needs to create accounts for someone to pay the bills. Different types of people need to be identified so they can be offered only as much access as they need, and nothing more.

Oh look. You’re back in the realm of digital identity—knowing who’s who, and using that to decide who should have access to online information.

Digital Identity and… Commerce

But wait, there’s more! Even if you’re done with school, don’t have a budget to speak of, and you aren’t a scientist to worry about big data sets, you probably still buy things online. And it’s really disturbing if someone else accesses whatever accounts you have and buys things with your information. To make it worse, now the bad guys stole data about you, created new accounts with new online services that look legit, but mess with your credit score or spend your money.

Or, let’s look at it another way. In the United States alone, several organizations that study this kind of thing suggest that nearly $900 BILLION was spent online in 2020 alone (Google it, you’ll see). This is what’s called a lucrative field and EVERYONE wants a piece of that pie. They want to target information so it has the most impact on you, because that impact means you spend money with them, or you support their cause, or you follow them to a website equivalent of a back alley where they can steal your information. Protecting against fraud is crazy important, and managing digital identity is a critical piece of that.

Geez… does this realm of digital identity ever end?!

Wrap up

OK, so at this point you’ve probably got the idea. If there is any question of needing to control or restrict online access to ANYTHING, then you’re talking about a site, service, or industry that depends on digital identity. To break that down even further, if you have to login, there is something on the other side that’s handling digital identity. Once you understand that, you can think a bit more about what that means for your personal identity, and it also gives you a target to build a career that spans everything.

Posted by heather

Leave a Reply