Data Privacy

A welcome statement on digital identity and privacy from Omidyar Network

The Omidyar Network – an investor in – has recently put out a thoughtful and considered Point of View (POV) covering digital identity in the modern world.

It states that “Identity is vital to participate fully in our modern digital society and economy. Yet, designed and implemented unchecked, digital identity technologies could have unintended adverse consequences for the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

It goes on to explain that the growing digital economy “will bring massive opportunities as connectivity increases and distance evaporates as a barrier for engagement and trade.

Transactions will increasingly occur without the two transacting parties ever meeting. Access to state benefits and a range of other services have the potential to become easier, faster, and more inclusive.

At the same time, the digital economy will introduce new barriers to access and engagement for those who lack identification or are unable to establish identification for want of digital access.”

To ensure all can access this on an inclusive and secure level playing field, it suggests the shared and thoughtful development of the necessary checks and balances”.

The Omidyar Network says that its hypothesis is that digital identity leads to empowerment only if three “foundational precepts” are considered: Identities must:

1. be available and useful to individuals

2. be non-discriminatory and designed for inclusion, meaningful user-control, and privacy

3. provide for recourse and accountability for harms caused

In terms of key system and technical requirements to make this happen, the POV lists informed and meaningful user consent and control over data, including opting out after permission has been granted, and limited data collection and use only for a specified purpose, as well as the importance of privacy by design, system security and openness.

Under system governance, a critical point is that “privacy must be recognized as a fundamental human right”, of course, fully supports the points of view highlighted and additionally already meets the principles expounded across technical design and system governance.

Julian Ranger, our Founder and Executive Chairman, said: “Omidyar mention that they “recognize the tension between the business model and incentives of a firm and the considerations noted above”, but at we believe that good design can minimise – or in our case eliminate – that tension.

Our “do not see, touch, nor hold” architecture, coupled with a clear and strong individually-controlled consent access process and certificate, ensures we meet all the considerations – and we will continue to ensure that we do so.”

You can read the full POV here.