In the age of digital identity, does one remain in control of one’s own identity?

In the age of digital identity, does one remain in control of one’s own identity?

Identity theft is a thing of the past, but today, with the proliferation of digital networks and online platforms and services, it has actually taken a new turn. Indeed, many fraudsters are looking for new and sophisticated ways to deceive their victims and impersonate them. This confusing situation affects individuals as well as businesses.

Digitally, identity fraud is changing the scale

The disease has become real “business” for cybercriminals. In 2019, the Directorate General of Border Police (DCPAF) thus detected 3,510 cases of identity fraud linked to document fraud, an increase of 27% compared to 2018. In 2019, 8,881 people with false documents were arrested by the PAF. for 16,194 false documents.

Another disturbing fact has emerged: fraudsters are more organized and use more sophisticated methods, based on identity theft, and errors that are difficult to detect (image quality, font error, etc.). .). In addition to individuals, companies are also becoming victims of this phenomenon. The Cosmic Lynx criminal group, thanks to its sophisticated method of identity theft by compromising professional emails, has targeted more than 200 organizations in 46 countries.

Identity fraud affects many areas such as tax, banking and credit, insurance, fines and reporting, health, etc.. This situation is becoming more and more difficult to control, so much so that Interpol is concerned about it, especially in relation to organized crime and the financing of terrorism.

However, these days, the user must verify his civil identity or his digital profile with a public authority, administration or online platform no. “incalculable” times, which are not without danger. The identity hosted by one of the GAFAMs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) is certainly very important, but if it is stolen it creates serious problems and interferes with the identity of citizens. You have to read the testimonies of people who have had their identities stolen to understand the magnitude of the ordeal they went through.

In the 21st century, in the era of the information economy, identity assumes a very high market value and comes at a high price. Anyone with personal data therefore wields real power and becomes richer. With digital technology, identity theft has reached another level.

Something that is difficult to calculate

The phenomenon of identity theft or theft is difficult to measure because it is multifaceted and cross-border. In France, department 4001 [1] counts only facts, suspected crimes or offenses, brought to the attention of the police services and military units for the first time and recorded in the order sent to the judicial authorities. It includes three categories: false identity documents, false documents about traffic, other false administrative documents. Between them, for 20 years, these types total 14,000 and 16,000 procedures per year.

Procedures can be related to many identity fraud cases but we assume that most cases are not the subject of procedures. Credoc Examination [2] of 2009 estimated that more than 210,000 people are victims of this crime every year in France, and that the result of the problem is “Too neglected by the authorities”. Identity theft is not itself a crime under French law. It can only be related to other crimes, such as theft. The penal code punishes “taking the name of a third person” only if the victim is found guilty of a crime due to the acts committed by the robber. [3]

An ancient thing

Identity theft is nothing new. The case of Martin Guerre is one of the first legal cases of identity theft tried in Toulouse in 1560, and therefore recorded. Martin Guerre, who had left his family and his village, filed a complaint against Arnaud du Tilh who assumed his identity for three years, even lying to his wife. [4]. At this time, it is the memory of physical appearance and memories of past events that provide proof of identity.

Since Antiquity, knowing the identity of their citizens or citizens has allowed the cities of Greece and the Roman Empire (census), the monarchy (law of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539, the law of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1667) or the French Republic ( the decree of the Legislature of 1792 to formalize civil status, the establishment of the family register under the Third Republic in 1871) to control, rule, confirm and exercise power.

So identity has gone through several stages: biologically by inheriting DNA passed on from parents; by census; through civil registration; digital using a username and password.

Towards a self-governing digital identity

So, in the age of digital networks and the proliferation of online platforms and services, who can you trust, if not yourself? This is the belief of supporters of independent identity, a model of digital identity management where an individual or a company, in control of their identity, has the exclusive ability to manage their accounts and personal data, without the intervention of third parties. administrative authority.

The European Union wants to create a European digital identity wallet along these lines. Disappearance of services, digital exchanges and telecommunications are driving the need for remote identity verification and authentication. In this context, companies and organizations face three challenges: safe operation and the fight against fraud, provide a better user experience (simplicity, speed, efficiency) and comply with regulations.

This question of the European portfolio is also discussed in trilogue with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before voting on the new version of the IDAS regulations. [5], which is used for electronic identification, trust services and electronic documents. At the moment, the titles that continue to be secure are almost always forgotten when the rendering process is flawless, but they cannot be used online. The new European regulation therefore aims to establish a system of cooperation between the various systems established within the Member States to promote the development of a free digital trust market.

The new version of eIDAS is ambitious because it provides for the creation of a secure digital marketplace for individuals who will be able to access digital services with the same level of security and identification, everywhere in Europe. The user experience will also be easier and more efficient for citizens who will continue to control their personal data. Finally, companies and organizations will be able to secure their exchanges with their customers and partners while reducing the risk of fraud. This is a new digital revolution for Europe, as is the question of freedom and leadership.

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[1] “Information 4001 is an administrative document, important for the functioning of the services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In terms of transparency on its activities, it must be available to the public.. Available in open data here since-january-1996/

[2] Research center for observation and observation of life conditions.


[4] This extraordinary story was the subject of a film made in 1982 by Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye.

[5] Electronic Identity Authentication and Trust Services.