Is digital an extension of physical?

by: Eric Lindeen

A fascinating conversation I had with a millennial at ID360, an identity conference sponsored by the University of Texas Center for Identity, has me wondering about the future of identity and the future of our nation. The question that jump-started the debate is whether consumers should be able to change identities, or maintain multiple identities, at their own convenience.

Think of it as witness protection on demand. As absurd as the idea might sound—shedding your identity if it becomes soiled—we have been training a generation to consider this acceptable. Even if the training has been unintentional, it could have serious implications for banking, more so than whether millennials will abandon branches.

From a young age, children now learn two behaviors that are technically illegal. When a six year old signs up for a game on their parents’ iPad, they accept the terms and conditions claiming to be an adult. At first they might ask mom or dad for help, but they quickly learn that the page of legalese is something to be skipped over. Second, they often create a fake persona to protect their real identity from child predators. By the time they reach 12, most kids have used dozens of “fake identities”.

Older folks see these accounts as logins or signons, simply an account name. We also see our online footprint as distinct from our physical footprints. Digital Natives, however, seem to see the digital world as an extension of their physical life. As a result, it can be more difficult for them to distinguish between digital and physical identities.

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