- Elgar European Law series
Chapter 9: Digital identity and electronic payments
Strictly, identity is ‘the quality or condition of being the same in substance’. In other words, it is the ‘condition or fact that a person or thing is itself and not something else’.1 Digital identity is the quality of sameness as mediated by the Internet. It is the ability of an individual (or legal person) to prove that they are who they claim to be. The importance of the quality of identity arises from the desire to treat the Internet as a secure domain. Identity, in other words, is an element of cybersecurity2 which, in turn, can be defined as the safety of the Internet as a platform for those who use it. In everyday life, identity is proved by various means. A good but not always conclusive proof can be in the form of a formalized document such as a passport or a national identity card or a more complex one such as a face-to-face interview often conducted by immigration or passport authorities. Sometimes, presenting similar documents, such as birth certificates, driving licences or utility bills can have the same purpose as can presenting witnesses. What is common with these forms of identification is that an individual presenting the document is usually also present. This is never the case on the Internet. Increasingly, proof of identity on the Internet is becoming important for activities ranging from electronic government (e-voting and similar) to commercial transactions. The strictness of the proof of identity is proportional to the sensitivity and importance of the transaction
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