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What is Digital Identity?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Digital identity refers to the ways and means that identity is created and perceived in the digital world, i.e., online. It includes unique descriptive data, as well as information about relationships. That is, it defines a thing both in and of itself and in relationship to other things. Both a person and a company can have a digital identity and while a person always has a concrete identity in the world, businesses may have a storefront identity and establish a digital presence as they establish an online presence in order to do business online. Alternatively, the digital identity may be the one and only identity. Barnes & Noble® is an example of the first type of business; Amazon® is an example of the second.

Digital identity is also important in terms of online credentials. There are many websites for which an individual creates a username and password and — upon returning to that site at a later date — one confirms one’s identity by re-entering them. For companies, dated digital certificates that are issued by a Certified Authority (CA) play a role in the Public-Key Encryption system that allows secure communication on the Internet.

For a company, digital identity is also created by the URL used, the company logo, the website design, and the text and features on the website. Using, or failure to use, social networking such as Twitter® or Facebook® also contributes to a company’s online identity, and the kinds of exchanges that occur there are important as well. Further contributions to online identity occur through a company’s choice to use or not use PayPal®, Google Checkout®, wishlists, and other features that make interactions convenient for customers. Professional networking on sites such as LinkedIn® or XING® further contributes to the formation of the company’s digital identity.

For an individual, online identity consists of one’s self-expression not only through what is said in tweets, posts, emails, blogs, websites, and other online interchanges, but also through representation of oneself with account names, screen names, avatars, and display names, and with artwork, web design, and photographs that one displays or shares on one’s own site or on sharing sites. One’s friends, favorites, followers, and those one chooses to follow — as well as those one chooses to retweet, share, or like — all contribute to the digital identity as well, as does the number of friends or followers one can lay claim to.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for EasyTechJunkie, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By w00dchuck41 — On Aug 01, 2011

@MedicineBall – Okay, the police thing is both ingenious – and a little bit creepy. I hope they know what they're doing. I guess they must use digital identities to catch a lot of criminals, but I think that they would have to have young sounding women to answer the phone. People usually don't meet up without hearing each other on the phone.

I'm glad I don't do any digital dating – it sounds really complicated. I've always avoided it just for the fact that I can't tell who I'm talking to. Like you said, you never know.

By MedicineBall — On Aug 01, 2011

@w00dchuck41 – I'm not sure how you know that unless you created a few yourself. Honestly, people create social website profiles for their favorite TV show characters – I don't see how it's any different.

The internet is a mass of information – some of it true and some of it false. The only way using digital identities becomes a problem is when somebody gets hurt. Online dating websites are dangerous, even with pictures. Any can grab some photos off of PhotoBucket or Google and upload them as their avatars.

On the other hand, I know that digital identities have been used in police work. Police have been catching pedophiles and other internet creepers by creating profiles as bait. It's ingenious.

Everyone should just use their common sense. Don't meet up with someone off of an online dating site alone, be cautious of spam and have fun. I think that the internet is a great resource – it just shouldn't be your exclusive source of information.

By w00dchuck41 — On Jul 31, 2011

@MedicineBall - The thing is, I know that some people have started creating websites using made up characters. They create a character, like a stay at home mom, and then build a website around things that stay at home moms would like to read about -- posting information under the mom character's name.

So far, these digital identities have been well received and I think that we'll see a lot more of it in the future. Either readers don't know about it – or they just don't care. If they can find good and interesting information, I seriously doubt if they care who they get it from.

By MedicineBall — On Jul 30, 2011

The funny thing about digital identities is that you can never know who is behind them. When you chat with someone online or meet someone in a game, there is no way to actually know if they are who they say they are.

Online role-playing is a perfect example. Millions if not billions of people create personas online every year. They make up a personality and story for their characters, then they meet up with other people's characters and "live" out adventures.

I personally don't think that these digital identities are a bad thing -- it's like any other escapism. Video games, books and movies are all just like it. It's a way of relaxing and taking a break from the stress of your everyday life.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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