What is an Identity?

In times past, it was not uncommon for a person to be born, live, and die in basically the same area, never traveling very far from home. Today, however, people travel all over the world, frequently relocating to someplace far from where they were born. Because of this, it is now much more important to be able to prove your identity to others.

For instance, where once people knew their banker on a first name basis, now we seldom know the person whom handles our banking. As a result of this, when it comes time to open a new bank account, you are expected to show proof of your identity.

This need to prove ones identity has not only changed the way we handle business, but has also opened the door to identity theft.

How Do We Prove Our Identity

There are three basic types of identity, which are used to a varying degree, namely Biometric Identity, Attributed Identity, and Biographical Identity.

  • Biometric Identity: Biometric Identity is used to refer to factors about a person that are unique to the individual. This includes fingerprints, voice, retina, dna, and facial structure.
  • Attributed Identity: Attributed Identity covers the parts of a person's identity that are given at birth. This includes names, parents names, addresses, and place of birth.
  • Biographical Identity: Biographical Identity is used to refer to things that grow and change over time. Some examples of biographical identity are employment history, educational history, mortgage information, credit history, and birth registration.

How This Information is Used

Each of the items described above provides an identifier, which, when used in combination with other identifiers, can help prove ones identity.

In some cases, a token of identity is provided, which provides a physical record of these identifiers. For instance, a drivers licenses is a biographical token of identity, showing that you have successfully passed the driving test.

Usually when it comes time to prove your identity to a bank or other institution, a combination of identifiers is used.

For instance, to open a bank account, you may have to provided a valid drivers license, social security card, and piece of mail from the power company.

Problems with Relying on Tokens

This process of relying upon multiple tokens is in many ways flawed, because it puts emphasis on tokens that were never really intended to prove ones identity.

For example, a power bill is just that, a bill of how much you owe the power company, yet many places, including the department of motor vehicles will accept it as a valid identifier. This is one of the reasons that identity theft is so common and prevalent.

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