Digital identity consists of an identity assertion and the characteristics, sometimes called attributes, that are collected or observed through our computerized relationships. It is often as simple as a user name and password. Digital identity is similar to the more complex concept of identity in the real, analog world. However, the differences create profound issues as well as potential for managing our privacy and relationships on the Internet.
The potential comes from the separation of the person from their use of computers, of the Internet. There are many computer-based activities where anonymity and complete privacy are possible in a way that they are not in the real world. The issues come out of society’s need to link a digital identity to a real person for accountability and trust in activities like e-Commerce, as well as in conformance to laws.
Federated identity, as developed through initiatives like Microsoft’s .net Passport program and the open standards under development in the Liberty Alliance, can help people deal with the multiplicity of these identities and attributes while protecting their privacy.