What Do Consumers Need To Consider When Adopting Privacy or Identity Apps? — Part 1, Functional Questions

With all the concerns surrounding privacy and data use in the surveillance economy, consumers are exploring ways to control their own data. One of them being the adoption of identity apps. Smart individuals will want to do so without causing new problems for themselves, such as dealing with private keys or taking back their data from one set of tech vendors only to end up under the control of another. To avoid these and other potential problems, you should ask the following functional questions when considering a privacy-protecting identity app (we’ll cover technical questions in our next post):

What can I do with this app?

The big question! At a basic level, an identity app needs to give you the ability to store some data about yourself and use it in situations where you need to prove your identity to someone else like a bank or employer. Obviously, the more the app does, the more likely you are to get value from it every day. Some identity vendors can connect you to marketplaces that allow you to sell selected data or participate in opt-in offers from third parties. Others allow you to connect to private browsers and search engines to avoid your data from being collected passively through those other apps. Other apps have even more options. Look at what each app offers in terms of features, how you’d use it to improve your privacy and make your life simpler.

Can this app leverage my existing identity stores?

For example, can I either connect or replicate my government IDs, such as a driver’s license or passport with my identity app? Or can I only enter data manually? How does the identity vendor verify the accuracy of my data?

By which third parties is the app recognized?

All identity apps are still pretty new. One key factor to consider is where those apps are being used and which partners do the app vendors have. In some cases, you’re taking a leap of faith that businesses will begin to accept identity verification through these apps. As we mentionned in the first bullet, if the app has other features like private search, you’ll get value today while businesses begin to adopt these solutions themselves.

How does this app vendor make money?

Remember that a huge problem with Facebook and other tech vendors is that they sell your data in return for you using the app for free. Given that most decentralized or blockchain-based identity apps are based on architectures that do not give app vendors access to your data, they are not able to sell or use your data directly. But it is important to avoid a future situation where the vendor adopts a business model that makes you uncomfortable. Therefore, it is worth asking about identity vendors — how do they plan to make money? Do they sell licenses for their software? Do they charge businesses who use the app to connect with consumers? Do they operate a marketplace?

Now is a great time to take control of your personal data. With a little research, you can find one that helps you protect your privacy without negative consequences.