Digital identity refers to the ways and means that identity is created and perceived in the digital world, i.e., online. It includes unique descriptive data, as well as information about relationships. That is, it defines a thing both in and of itself and in relationship to other things. Both a person and a company can have a digital identity and while a person always has a concrete identity in the world, businesses may have a storefront identity and establish a digital presence as they establish an online presence in order to do business online. Alternatively, the digital identity may be the one and only identity. Barnes & Noble® is an example of the first type of business; Amazon® is an example of the second.
Digital identity is also important in terms of online credentials. There are many websites for which an individual creates a username and password and — upon returning to that site at a later date — one confirms one’s identity by re-entering them. For companies, dated digital certificates that are issued by a Certified Authority (CA) play a role in the Public-Key Encryption system that allows secure communication on the Internet.
For a company, digital identity is also created by the URL used, the company logo, the website design, and the text and features on the website. Using, or failure to use, social networking such as Twitter® or Facebook® also contributes to a company’s online identity, and the kinds of exchanges that occur there are important as well. Further contributions to online identity occur through a company’s choice to use or not use PayPal®, Google Checkout®, wishlists, and other features that make interactions convenient for customers. Professional networking on sites such as LinkedIn® or XING® further contributes to the formation of the company’s digital identity.
For an individual, online identity consists of one’s self-expression not only through what is said in tweets, posts, emails, blogs, websites, and other online interchanges, but also through representation of oneself with account names, screen names, avatars, and display names, and with artwork, web design, and photographs that one displays or shares on one’s own site or on sharing sites. One’s friends, favorites, followers, and those one chooses to follow — as well as those one chooses to retweet, share, or like — all contribute to the digital identity as well, as does the number of friends or followers one can lay claim to.