Filed Under: Identification and Authentication, Identity

Digital Identity Alphabet Soup

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We’ve been attending various identity conferences over the last few months, including KNOW 2019, the Internet Identity Workshop, and IdentityNORTH in North America, and EIC and Identity Week in Europe. One of the major themes that continues to stand out in all these events is the number of simultaneous initiatives going on around the world to create standards addressing various aspects of digital identity. It’s one of the reasons we created our 3-Domain Identity Model (see here for a refresher on 3DID), to help our clients navigate their way through all of this and to think about where they may play a role.

Interoperable digital identity will only be possible if there is agreement on how the systems will work from a business, legal and technical standpoint. The variety of proposed international and national standards, guidelines and technology protocols leave our clients wondering “Which of these should I use and when?”.

When we look at the solutions being built the picture is equally confusing. Some are built on open standards, while others are based on proprietary developments, and some are a combination of the two. Some are built for specific industries like healthcare, financial services, or government services. To date, the focus of many digital identity solutions has been within the identification domain (i.e. customer onboarding, ID proofing, KYC, etc.), however the general movement of the industry is now shifting towards a broader ecosystem enabling the sharing of trusted or verifiable data centered around the subject (person, organization or thing).

All these factors have led to a fragmentation of the digital identity market. But all is not lost. Several collaborative cross-sector organizations are actively working to get everyone on the same page.

To try to make some sense of all these initiatives, we pulled together the diagram below to give a representative example (not exhaustive) of the ongoing efforts across each of the domains of identity. Some of these have been developed for targeted purposes (e.g. FIDO biometric authentication) while others have a broader approach that crosses all three domains (e.g. the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework).


Comparing identity standards, solutions and services can be difficult. While in general these are all trying to solve similar problems, they can approach it in quite different ways. Any of these initiatives in isolation will not get us all on the same page.

It has been encouraging to see over the last few months, across the digital identity community, the spirit of collaboration continuing to strengthen. The effort has been building for a few years now, but this year has seemed different with many of the key organizations across the spectrum joining forces and recognizing the necessity to meet the needs of all users to solve the lack of trust online today.

In that spirit, do get in touch if you want to discuss any of these things further. We do not have all the answers, but we hope that an open and collaborative dialogue will help us all to move forward.

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