Sometimes language is confusing. The terms we use are not consisently defined and used to mean different things. And therefore we end up with Alice down a rabbit hole on an unplanned adventure that we just didn’t want.
Identity is one of those words. Especially digital identity. We try define by talking about identity vs identifiers, foundational vs functional, and many others. And yet, at least in the humanitarian space, identity leads us into discussions we don’t need and usually don’t want.
Technically speaking, in the humanitarian space, when organisations register a person they are creating a functional identifier for the person. However, what if we just called it a profile. Like a profile you create when you register at your favourite online shop. We’re invited to ‘create a profile’ to enable faster checkout (and many other things).
A profile would unlikely lead us down the identity rabbit hole, but would it lead us down others? (If you can think of any, please let me know in the comments below.)
‘Profile’ feels a lot less legal, less formal. Technically (and legally) speaking it is still a functional identifier, but it feels different. It is a different ‘story we tell ourselves’. Therefore, would the change of category name unlock any new paths forward? Would it help agencies think about data sharing, data governance, data portability differently? Would it help us enable those we seek to help to have access to their data?
Perhaps it’s worth a try?