The news this week of the latest digital ID theft by Russia hackers reignited my interest in just how many digital IDs there are in use today and how many are left to steal. The 1.2B figure from this latest breach seems like a big number, but against a complete population of digital identities, it could be a relatively small percentage - maybe 1-2% of the total, using conservative estimates. How difficult would it be to model and forecast digital identity, creating a digital identity census of sorts? How could we put this data to a useful purpose to understand the costs and complexity in managing digital identity risk? What are the implications of change and growth in this little corner of the IoT and digital universe? And where do digital identities and 3rd platform technologies intersect, how have things changed over the past 50 years of IT, and how will the growth of digital identity affect what we're willing to pay for in exchange for privacy protection?
These are all good questions that could be informed by better understanding the Digital Identity Universe, or the DIU.
So how big is the DIU? Or how many ways are individuals known digitally? Here are 2 simple, back of envelop models with a set of assumptions to consider. For the sake of this simple exercise, the first model is called the Primary Identity Channel Model (PICM) which tries to determine the DIU based on a given set of identity channels and an estimate of the average number of digital identities per channel. The second is the Percentage of Population Model (POPM), which makes assumptions on percentages of the population that have a specific number of digital identities. Both models assume a world population of 7.2Billion individuals.
Primary Identity Channel Model
Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin
Personal and work numbers
Deposit/savings, brokerages, insurance, retirement
Payer, provider, online health center
Federal, State, Municipal
eBay, Amazon, 3 more (very conservative)
System ID and badge
That's an average of 24 digital IDs for the average individual. If we assume 35% of the world population is in the average, the world wide DIU sits at about 55 billion.
Percentage of Population Model
- 75% of the worlds' population has at least 1 digital ID = ~5.25b
- 50% of the worlds' population has up 4 more digital IDs = ~14.0b
- 25% of the worlds' population has 8 more digital IDs = ~14.0b
- 10% of the worlds' population has 30 more digital IDs =~21.0b
- 2% of the worlds' population has 50 more digital IDs = ~3.5b
Using this simple way of thinking, the DIU reaches approximately the same range - 50-60 billion, or an average of 6.9 to 8.3 digital identities for each of us on the planet. Have a preference in the models- PICM or POPM? Have another will get us closer to a reasonable total? How would you improve the assumptions and/or the math to forecast the DIU?
Getting some great feedback. Watch for updates.....