Digital Identity: Contemporary Challenges for Data Protection, Privacy and Non-Discrimination Rights

Big Data & Society (2019); DOI: 10.1177/2053951719855091

6 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2019

Date Written: June 13, 2019


The World Bank estimates that over one billion people currently lack official identity documents. To tackle this crucial issue, the United Nations included the aim to provide legal identity for all by 2030 among the Sustainable Development Goals. Technology can be a powerful tool to reach this target. In the digital age, new technologies increasingly mediate identity verification and identification of individuals. Currently, State-led and public–private initiatives use technology to provide official identification, to control and secure external borders, and to distribute humanitarian aid to populations in need. All of these initiatives have profound implications for the protection of human rights of those affected by them. Digital identity technologies may render individuals without legal documentation more visible and therefore less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. However, they also present risks for the protection of individuals' human rights. As they build on personal data for identification and identity verification, data protection and privacy rights are most clearly affected. The prohibition of discrimination in the digital space is also of concern as these technological advances' societal impact is not yet fully understood. Accordingly, the article argues that emerging digital identity platforms will only contribute to the protection of human rights if the providers adequately mitigate any risks of potential discrimination and promote high standards of privacy and data protection.

Keywords: biometric data, blockchain, data protection, digital identity, non-discrimination, privacy

Suggested Citation

Beduschi, Ana, Digital Identity: Contemporary Challenges for Data Protection, Privacy and Non-Discrimination Rights (June 13, 2019). Big Data & Society (2019); DOI: 10.1177/2053951719855091, Available at SSRN:

Ana Beduschi (Contact Author)

University of Exeter ( email )

Law School CSSIS
Rennes Drive
Exeter, Devon EX4 4RJ
United Kingdom

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