For the first few weeks of my life, I didn’t exist. At least, not in the eyes of the US government.
I was born at home in a small town without a maternity ward. No one in our town hall knew the protocol for creating a birth certificate for a baby who’d been born without the aid of a doctor. My hippie mother yelled. My lawyer grandfather gathered affidavits and established precedence. Weeks later, we received an embossed birth certificate numbered 001. It was official: I existed.
It’s that birth certificate that started the paper trail of who I am. It allowed me to get a social security card at age 10 and a passport soon after. It allowed me to get my first formal job and open my first bank account at 14. It laid the path for my driver’s license at 16 and was the cornerstone beneath my right to vote at 18.
Then the world moved online. And on one hand, that has been awesome. My life has been simplified. I can access my accounts and benefits from almost anywhere in the world. But, on the other hand, the construction of my identity online and how it is secured—that’s been an afterthought in the brilliant architecture of the share-friendly world of the internet.
And that’s what the latest episode of Fortune Favors the Bold—our branded podcast created in partnership with Gimlet Creative—is about: this crazy, amorphous thing we’re calling a “digital identity”. My guess is that most of us take it for granted, in part because it’s built upon so many little elements—some seemingly inconsequential, like email addresses and social media usage, and some absolutely critical, like birth certificates and government ID. And yet, our digital identity is probably the key to our current and future access to all the most important elements in our lives: our rights, our money, our benefits, our dignity.
“You 2.0” examines why digital identity is so crucial and how it is being shaped as the physical world of birth certificates converges with the digital world of commerce and work. You can find this and other episodes on all major platforms including Apple Podcast, Google Music Play, Stitcher and wherever else you listen to podcasts.