Written by: Ramesh Kesanupalli Co-founder of ADI Association and Former Founder, FIDO Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed us to a new set of work parameters and many changes in the workplace are here to stay. It has also highlighted some critical issues that we’ve long known about and which cannot be avoided any longer.

The most pressing of these is online fraud, which has increased exponentially as more interactions and financial transactions take place online. But we also have the rise of misinformation and disinformation, which is rapidly propagated through social media and can cause havoc before it is caught and refuted.  

As the founder of the FIDO Alliance, and with over 20 years experience as an executive in the identity and security space, I have seen the problem of identity grow bigger and bigger. At the same time, the response has been one that has left different regions of the world following different frameworks and using different methods to solve the problem. For example, an Aadhaar identity issued by the Indian Government has no validity outside India, despite the due diligence that went into vetting that identity.

There are systemic problems: The ways to check paper credentials in real time are extremely limited. Similarly, there is no easy, global, interoperable way to check if a driver’s license, or other official document or license that is presented is truly genuine.What we need is a global framework, one where a trusted identity from a trusted identity source can be issued and used to conduct business.  

Given the success of the FIDO Alliance, we have been asked whether identity can be standardized in the same way that the FIDO Alliance standardized authentication and turned it into an international standard that is now incorporated into browsers and major operating systems. 

The opportunity to do this came when Soonhyung Lee, CEO of RaonSecure, invited me to work with him on solving the digital identity problem. We were joined by Abbie Barbir from the CVS Innovation group, and Suresh Batchu, the founder and CTO of MobileIron. We launched as the DID Alliance, but then became the Accountable Digital Identity Association (ADIA).

After discussions with government entities, Fortune 500 companies, technology bodies, and industry experts—all of whom are exploring or working on digital identity—we realized we needed to ask fundamental questions: What is the root of identity? What are the problems related to it? And how do we fix these problems with a completely new approach?

After six months of research, we concluded that:

  1. Fraud is not limited to just the digital world, it’s in the real world too.
  2. If we really want to fix digital identity once in for all, we need to have a framework that brings the digital world as close to the real world as possible.
  3. We should use the digital framework to provide ways to assist the real world to reduce fraud, where there can be an efficient and easy way to check the user’s identity and asserted credentials. There has been a lot of focus on security and privacy in the digital world and the decentralization of identity. 
  4. The mIssing piece in the digital world that is in the real world is accountability.
  5. While security and privacy are the fundamental rights of every user, trust and accountability are equally important for a functioning business or society.
  6. Approximately 20% of the global population do not have a presentable digital identity and are left out of the digital economy

Using these insights, we created a framework for Accountable Digital Identity Architecture. And we launched a new industry organization called ADIA—Accountable Digital Identity Association—to manage a new open standard for identity that preserves privacy but also enables accountability.   

This is an effort that needs cooperation and collaboration from all parties and entities both private and government.  And this needs to work at a global scale like a telephone network, where the user is connected to their local service but accessible from anywhere.  Please come and participate by joining the ADIA movement here.

In Part Two of this series, I’ll talk more about the ADIA Specification and the goals that are driving the technology and community.

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