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What is digital identity?

The digital identity is a resource that gathers the individual's identifying information. The main difference compared to the traditional model we know is the format. The traditional identification document is printed on paper. The digital identity can be a chip card or an application, for example.

The citizen is able to gather as much information about himself, in one place and in a safe way. The information is not exposed, at the risk of being stolen by a criminal, who will use it to commit fraud, create credit cards in someone else's name, take out loans, etc. In addition to not running the risk of losing your documents, as you do not need to load the printed version every time.

The digital identity can be connected to several services and provides greater security for the verification of the individual. The reason is that the joining of various information facilitates the verification process, as the data can be evaluated and verified in different databases.

The reason is that the joining of various information facilitates the verification process, as the data can be evaluated and verified in different databases.

What are the benefits of digital identity?

The digital identity impacts the lives of everyone who needs to relate to it, not just the citizen. Here are some of these benefits:

  • it does away with false identities and attempts at forgery, as the verification process becomes faster and more effective;
  • prevents duplication of identities due to operational errors or failures, because when there is a new identity request, a wide check is made in all databases that gather information from citizens;
  • eliminates theft, theft and loss of documents, as the citizen starts to transport his document digitally;
  • increases efficiency in identifying criminals, as a comprehensive data system is built to gather all information from citizens;
  • it facilitates the identification of citizens in events, buildings, selection processes, public tenders and all types of registration.

With the centralization of information, citizens, companies and government organizations are able to relate more fluidly, with an easy and fast exchange of information, in addition to increasing efficiency in all types of processes.

The challenges of identity in the world

Countries around the world have been discussing the issue of identifying their citizens for many years. The lack of a universal method meant that each nation developed its own system. Of course, in some places the model adopted works better than others, but we have to consider that each country, culture and people have their own particularities and this directly affects the identification processes.

Some countries in Europe have more unified systems, even if they are not digital. This already makes identification much easier, but it is still not the ideal model. In other countries in the world, such as in South America, for example, there are many types of identities, which are not related or connected.

In other words, a lot of information from all - or almost all - citizens is distributed in different types of documents, but they do not intersect, cannot be confronted or would take a long time to make this analysis.

The division of identification systems, such as individual registration information, driving permission and taxpayer data, makes the citizen identification process more complex. Why separate in documents different information that at some point needs to be found?

Increasingly, citizens, companies and governmental organizations have realized that the integration of these data is fundamental to the economic, social and cultural relations of society.

The challenges of identity in Brazil

As technology advances more and more, we might not notice that, instead of walking toward true innovation, we’re simply transferring the same old bureaucratic processes from before to the digital realm. Most of Brazil’s several document issuing institutions have developed apps where citizens can access a digital version of the physical document — keyword being “several”. Each document has its own separate app, meaning people need to download each one of them in order to have access to the official digital version of each Brazilian document.

This digitalization, then, simply takes the information previously available on paper and puts it in a mobile device; the digital documents are identical to the physical cards. There are virtually no new features, no benefits besides being able to access your documents on your phone as well as on your wallet.

But this high volume of digital documents highlights another problem Brazil faces when it comes to documentation: the extremely high number of documents Brazilians need and the lack of any standardization or centralization between them.

There are three main documents accepted as identity certifications in Brazil: the CPF (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas, or “Natural Persons Registration”), the RG (Registro Geral, or “General Registration”), and the CNH (Carteira Nacional de Habilitação, which is Brazil’s driver’s license).

CPF: HIGH IMPORTANCE, LOW RELIANCE

The first one, the CPF, is extremely important because it’s required of Brazilians if they want to actively participate in society — by entering universities, voting, going into public service, etc. For many Brazilians, it might seem like every adult around them has a CPF number; the reality is much different. Among the 210 million of Brazilians, around 50 million people don’t have an active CPF (because they never issued it or because it was blocked for various reasons); most of these people are extremely marginalized, and their lack of documentation is as much a result as a consequence of this.

The CPF is issued by the Brazilian Federal Revenue Department, a tax organization responsible, among other things, for keeping a database of all citizens who are alive and contributing to society. If a citizen has issued a CPF number and obeys all their civic duties, such as paying taxes and voting, then their CPF is supposed to be regular; in case of any non-compliance, it can be blocked and, in case of death, the Revenue Department permanently blocks the number, stopping it from being used by others in the interest of committing identity fraud.

Around 50 million people don’t have an active CPF

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not unusual for people to suddenly discover they are considered dead by the Revenue Department, or to find out their CPF is blocked when they most need access to government support — as has been happening to many during the COVID-19 pandemic when they try to access the auxiliary emergency fund provided by the government. These people fit the requirements and are entitled to the money, but discover they can’t access it due to problems they didn’t know they had.

The CPF number is usually present in the RG card, always there in the CNH document, but it can also come in its own official card — although this card is pretty much meaningless by itself since it doesn’t feature a photo of the individual, which stripes it of identity comparison value. Because of that, most citizens don’t carry or even have a physical CPF document.

RG: ONE DOCUMENT, DOZENS OF FORMATS

Next, we have the RG, also referred to simply as identity card (“carteira de identidade”, in Portuguese). Accepted as identity proof throughout the entire Brazilian territory, the RG is not actually a federal document; there are several issuing institutions in the whole country and each state has its own RG model.

This means a person from São Paulo has a completely different RG document than someone from Amazonas, for example. And every decade or so, each state’s agencies update their models, which leads to different document formats circulating concurrently in the same state as well. All in all, considering every state and the different formats within each state, the total amount of possible valid RG documents circulating in Brazil is absurd.

But that’s not all: besides the models and the whole formatting being different, each state has a completely separate database from the others; there is no connection at all between the identity cards being issued in one and in another. And every decade or so, each state’s agencies update their models, which leads to different document formats circulating concurrently in the same state as well.

What does this mean, exactly? That a person who already has an RG from São Paulo can request another one in Amazonas and use both of them as identity cards as it suits them, with no problem whatsoever. It’s possible for a Brazilian citizen to issue different RG documents in all 26 of the country’s states and have them all be considered equally valid.

CNH: STANDARDIZATION (FOR THOSE WHO DRIVE)

And then we also have the CNH — which, being a driver’s license, is obviously only obligatory for those who want to drive. It is issued by the local agencies of a federal institution, Detran, which does have a national database. Therefore, it’s a pretty trustworthy form of ID certification, since the physical card includes all the essential information, a photo of the citizen, and both the RG and CPF numbers as well as the CNH number itself.

Remember we said these are the main ones, right?

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Brazilians also need to carry, depending on their circumstances and needs, a document to certify they are students, another to access the federal healthcare system (Sistema Único de Saúde — SUS), another to access their private healthcare services if they have them, another to access government services and benefits, address certifications and, among many others, their passports. And, for some highly specialized professions, also their respective association documents. And these are still not all of them.

Having access to a digital version of each one of these documents certainly seems practical — and is actually practical, to an extent. However, it's still quite a rough experience, not only because you need to go from one app to another, but because it transfers all this lack of centralization and standardization to the mobile realm. Thus, it reinforces the extreme fragility of the Brazilian current identification system.

All of this makes it extremely difficult to accurately verify a Brazilian citizen’s identity. One single person can hold a dozen different RG cards, for example — one in each state —, CPF numbers might be considered irregular for unknown reasons, and people might try to use non-official documentation as proof of identity.

Another problem is the fragility of the document itself, especially in the case of the RG. Since each state has its own format, there’s no standard for where information should appear in, what’s supposed to be the issuing organ, or how the document number should be formatted.

As you can imagine, this is a playfield for fraudsters, since it makes it harder for anti-fraud companies to develop automated solutions capable of identifying all possible fraud scenarios and strategies. The only possible way to completely verify whether a RG document is legit or not is with documentoscopy, which requires highly specific skills and is a very manual, time-consuming demand.

But this fragile, antiquated, and bureaucratic scenario — and also in spite of it — pushes innovation forward among the disruptive companies that are working toward bringing true change to how Brazilians see identity and identify themselves. One of the most promising digital identity solutions is MeuID (“MyID”, in a free translation), developed by Brazilian regtech idwall.

MeuID aims to put each person in control of their data and their identity, thus being able to prove they are themselves in a quick, frictionless, and truly innovative way. With MeuID, idwall wants to allow people to have all the most relevant data centralized in a completely secure, transparent, and trustful space. Besides strengthening identity validation and data privacy, this also opens up the way for people to have quicker, easier access to services, places, and products.

World Identity believes there are matters and features that must not be excluded from any digital identity solution that truly wants to change how we all view identity — we can read it below. To our understanding, MeuID fits into all these requirements.

More than ever, trust is essential for digital interactions

Be it between people, be it between people and companies — to happen successfully: for users to be willing to share data, for organizations to use that data, so that the bureaucracy can be reduced and everything happen with more fluidity and dynamism. With all this, more complex and interesting relationships for both sides can be created.

At World Identity, we believe that digital identity is driven by what shapes digital interactions: trust, agility, security, and user-centrism. In order for this to effectively become a reality, the development of digital identity solutions has an important role to play.

That’s why we propose a digital identity model that has transparency, trust, and inclusion as its basis. We believe digital identity solutions must always:

  • put the individual at the center of all interactions;
  • be built on a well-defined and clear structure;
  • be a part of a broader digital identity system;
  • act collaboratively within its ecosystem;
  • deliver the greatest possible value to the user and all parties involved.

And how do digital interactions happen in this new concept of identity? They must be focused on privacy and security, based on intelligence and effectiveness. Such interactions are, then, only possible when there is an understanding that the user must be at the center of them; with a digital identity, individuals can control and choose the interactions they want to have with companies and institutions.

It is not possible to build a digital identity in our proposed model without the explicit understanding, trust, and engagement of the user. Therefore, implementing the concepts of Privacy by Design and Privacy by Default, for example, becomes essential.

Following Privacy by Design, the concern with data security must be present from the very first step in developing the solution. It can’t be seen as an afterthought, as an add-on, as an additional feature; it’s something fundamental without which the solution can’t function. Personal data privacy must not come after the requirements of technology or functionality, but be truly intrinsic to the product.

Meanwhile, under the understanding of Privacy by Default, you must define the settings that best preserve users' privacy as the default. If they choose to share a higher volume of data than what is strictly fundamental, they have the option to change it — all with clarity and transparency, so that people can clearly understand what it is they are modifying and agreeing to.

In addition, digital identity must be simple, intelligent, and secure: simple in the way it allows the user to have easy and dynamic interactions; intelligent in how it uses the least amount of data possible to enable digital interactions; and secure because it preserves, stores, and handles personal data always keeping the user in control of their information.

We are working toward turning this goal into reality. Do you want to also be a part of this worldwide change? Then it is essential to implement the most innovative measures of security and privacy of personal data in the treatment of information. Thus, it is possible to build solid digital relations based on trust, while also ensuring compliance with personal data protection laws.

At World Identity, we believe digital identity solutions affect us all — people and companies alike — and are a fundamental piece of the future we’re journeying to. You are invited and welcome to walk alongside us. Take the first step by clicking the button below and sharing with us your ideas, concerns, challenges, and any other thought about digital identity:

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