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In the News July 24, 2020

The geopolitics of digital identity: Dr. David Bray and Lord Tim Clement Jones

By Atlantic Council

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, technologists have pointed out how digital identity systems could remedy some of the difficulties that we face as an open society suddenly unable to interact face-to-face. Even those who previously did not consider themselves to be “digital natives” have been forced to adopt a digital lifestyle, one in which traditional sources of identification and trust-building have become less useful.

Lord Tim Clement Jones, a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the GeoTech Center, and Dr. David Bray, Director of the Geotech Center, discussed the issue of digital identity in a recent event at the IdentityNorth Summit. Lord Jones pointed out how technologies for securely connecting an individual’s digital presence to their identity are not new, but have yet to be applied at a national scale, or in a universal manner that would be necessary to maximize their impact. He recognized, though, that certain applications of digital identity technology might be of concern to ordinary people; though he might be comfortable using his digital identity as part of the United Kingdom Parliament’s new system for MPs to vote, the average citizen might take concern with their votes being tabulated digitally, or being connected to other facets of their online identity.

As a result, the experts emphasized how digital identity, in whatever forms it will take, needs to be inclusive of all individuals and experiences, regardless of, for example, their level of literacy or digital accessibility. Though analog identity systems are by no means perfect, to protect from identity theft and misuse of digital identity systems, initial pilot programs similar to the Canadian system in development will need to roll out a hybrid of both physical and digital forms of identity.

Watch the video above to hear more of Lord Jones’ commentary on what precautions must be taken to enable the success of digital identity in a post-COVID-19 world.

The GeoTech Center champions positive paths forward that societies can pursue to ensure new technologies and data empower people, prosperity, and peace.

Related Experts: David Bray and Tim Clement-Jones