Internet ID ≠ Digitized Government ID

Mathieu Glaude
2 min readMay 31, 2021
As per the title of this blog.

The world continues its migration towards digital-first solutions. As the common saying goes, software is eating the world.

When attempting to digitally innovate around identity, it’s quite common for organizations to simply create digital replicates of physical identity methods/documents. Instead, we should be asking ourselves questions around how the properties of digital utilities can allow for new ways of doing things.

This way of thinking isn’t new. Take the fax machine for example. In the early days of the Internet, there were many businesses attempting to disrupt by enabling faxes to be sent over the Internet. Rather, when understanding what standard protocols existed for moving bits across the Internet, one would likely have opted for a far different product (e.g., email, chat).

Let’s go back to digital innovation around identity. In the physical world, trust is often built around Government-issued Photo IDs. Personal identity is given to you by the government in a lot of ways; that is, in an administrative sense, and not your philosophical sense of being, and who you are. Rather, the fact that I can say that my name is Mathieu Glaude, and my age and so forth; those attributes or characteristics of you are attested to by the government, based on an administrative process of registration and their authority to manage that. That’s explains why when I go a doctor’s appointment they will identify me through a government-issued health card.

Now, must the same be true online? There’s been a boom of companies offering OCR services that digitize driver’s licences and passports. But in reality, Government IDs simply contain identifiers with some legal PII on it. Do these identifiers really need to be at the centre of your online interactions, where being anonymous or pseudonymous can be acceptable? For certain Internet-native use cases such as gaming, knowing that someone owns a Twitter handle is more valuable than knowing someone’s legal name or date of birth. If I’m hiring a freelancer to build my website, do I need to know their name and citizenship if I have proofs that they have previously successfully built websites or passed website building courses?

Credibility and reputation can be built with strong levels of assurance in many ways. For many Internet-native use cases, Government-issued IDs won’t be required to build strong assurances around someone’s identity.

At Northern Block, we’re making it simple to build trusted digital interactions based on the specific use case.

If you have an idea or use case in mind, we’d love to talk to you:

Mathieu Glaude, CEO Northern Block

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