Capturing Digital Identity

Dec 25, 2021

In 2022, the TSA will start supporting state IDs in your Apple Wallet. With your credit cards in your Apple Wallet as well, why do you need a physical wallet? (Although, surprisingly, only 6% of iPhone users use Apple Pay).

Tech companies have been trying to take control of digital identity since the internet was invented, but few have succeeded. Google forces (strongly encourages) users to log into their Web browser. Apple IDs are mandatory. Facebook and Google have made login easier with their "Log in with" products.

Why is identity so sought after? It's about data and convenience. Data gravity keeps users stuck to platforms. Convenience is one-click checkout and the race for owning the checkout page for e-commerce on the internet (see Bolt, Fast, and more). The lowest friction services grow the fastest. In the B2B world, Auth0/Okta want your corporate identity. A new host of services (Oso, Authzed, Aserto, etc.) are attacking identity not from authentication (who are you?) but from authorization (what can you do?).

Crypto is at the current frontier for digital identity. While some might think that cryptocurrencies provide anonymity, they instead provide a public audit log of every transaction that's occurred. Crypto exchanges like Coinbase already need to do Know Your Customer (KYC) and collect identity information for their users, but plenty of blockchain analysis companies are building their own KYC databases off of public information.

After two years that forced us to put even more of our life online, it only seems like more and more of our identity will become digital. It's possible that the digital identity landscape will remain fragmented in the future, but if convenience is any indicator, there will only be a few who we trust.