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Digital Identity by Phillip J. Windley

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Chapter 2. Defining Digital Identity

In 1974, the family therapist Salvador Minuchin declared that "The human experience of identity has two elements: a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate." This is as good a description of digital identity as it is our psychological identity. A digital identity contains data that uniquely describes a person or thing (called the subject or entity in the language of digital identity) but also contains information about the subject's relationships to other entities .

To see an example of this, consider the data record, stored somewhere in your state or country's computers, that represents your car. This record, commonly called a "title," contains a VIN (vehicle identification number) that uniquely identifies the car to which it belongs. In addition, it contains other attributes of the car such as year, make, model, and color. The title also contains relationships; most notably, the title relates the vehicle to a person who owns it. In many states, the title is also a historical document, because it identifies every owner of the car from the time it was made.

Digital identity management is about creating, managing, using, and eventually destroying records like the one that contains the title for your car. These records might identify a person, a car, a computer, a piece of land, or almost anything else. Sometimes these records are created simply for inventory purposes, but the more interesting ones are created with other purposes in mind: ...

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