5 must-read books for digital identity enthusiasts

digital identity books

For World Book day 2022 we wanted to credit some of the authors whose insights into digital identity have helped to shape the vision behind the Future Identity brand.

Exploring data privacy, identity management, self-sovereign identity, algorithm bias, and digital currencies, here are 5 books we think all digital identity enthusiasts should read.

Identity Reboot: Reimagining Data Privacy for the 21st Century
By Arwen Smit

In this book, rockstar ethics and digital identity researcher Arwen Smit, explores personal data privacy (or lack thereof) in today’s online world. Smit argues that the internet has a gap when it comes to identity, and this has been filled by global companies looking to exploit personal data for profit or power.

Well known controversies such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, 2016 US presidential election and Brexit are discussed, examples which still feel alarming relevant to recent events, from the global pandemic to the 2021 US capitol attack, and the current conflict in Ukraine.

But Identity Reboot goes beyond the existing problem, to look at what we can do. What are the tools to change identity, what can policymakers do, how might technologies like blockchain and AI play a role? All these questions and more are addressed, and Smit positions a framework on how to move forward.

Self-Sovereign Identity: Decentralised digital identity and verifiable credentialsdigital identity book
By Alex Preukschat & Drummond Reed

Momentum continues to build behind Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), a model for individuals to take control of their digital identities, with verifiable credentials built on the blockchain.

Key SSI principles include privacy, consent, access and transparency, which most of us would agree should be protected wherever possible. But actually understanding the building blocks of a SSI architectures, typically involves tackling a good deal of technical jargon.

In this book, Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed do an excellent job of simplifying and breaking down the technologies behind SSI for the reader. Even more importantly, the book delves into real-world use cases in a way that discussions of SSI often overlook. Digital identity experts are featured as guest-authors to explore gaming, healthcare, animal care, insurance, democracy, and many more potential use cases for decentralised credentials.

digital identity bookTechnically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms and Other Threats of Toxic Tech
By Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This book is an eye-opening exploration of how many technologies and apps are (often unintentionally) biased. Sara Wachter-Boettcher argues that the main reason for this is the lack of diversity within tech company investors and product development teams.

Some case studies Wachter-Boettcher covers have been widely discussed, but something about compiling them in this book is very impactful. Lesser-known examples are also included, like the story of a customer whose gym pass inexplicably would not give her access to the Woman’s changing rooms. Eventually, it transpired that as a ‘Dr’ the system had automatically programmed her gender as ‘Male’.

So many of the issues raised in this book have huge relevance for the digital identity sector. From face recognition algorithms not trained to recognise black faces, to apps not designed for use by those with disabilities, and two-factor authentication measures sent to shared email accounts putting victims of domestic violence at risk. The urgency of improving diversity within tech product development is made very clear.

A Framework for Understanding Identity Systems in Contemporary Societydigital identity book
By Kaliya Young

This book is a go-to for a comprehensive overview of identity management. With reference to literally 100s of pieces of research, Kaliya Young outlines 16 ‘domains’ of identity. In other words, categories of interaction throughout our lives which lead to our personal data being collected and stored.

A lot of the time, conversations about digital identity and security group together issues that, in reality, are separate. The challenges around identity management in healthcare for example are different to enterprise data security, and different again to government collection of biometrics.

Young’s view is that each if these areas should be seen as belonging to a different ‘domain.’ Using problems that impact one domain to justify the design of identity systems in another domain can limit the success of those systems and cause harm.

All the domains are centred on the ‘individual,’ and the book is enlightening as to all the spaces where our personal information exists, even in the final two domains, the data broker industry and illicit market – whether we are aware or not!

digital identity bookThe Currency Cold War: Cash and Cryptography, Hash Rates and Hegemony
By David Birch

The latest book from renowned digital identity expert David Birch is an exploration of the future of money. Birch is always ahead of the game when it comes to industry trends, so despite being published a few years ago ‘The Currency Cold War’ hits right at the heart of the current buzz around cryptocurrencies, CBDCs and digital money.

Birch argues that an overhaul of our current monetary system is inevitable, so we need to be prepared. Developing a global digital identity infrastructure is crucial to enable due diligence for e-money payment systems.

But Birch goes way beyond the technical and places digital currency into a much wider political and geographical content. He explores the political power conflicts and private company interests that have, or will, drive the development of new currencies and change money as we know it today.


The conversation on digital identity continues at Future Identity Finance, 26th April 2022, County Hall, London.