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What Happens When a Community Commits to Strengthen ID Systems Around the World?

Why We Invested in the #GoodID Movement

By Abiah Weaver, Omidyar Network

Answer: Privacy protections and other principles are added to policies and operational guides. Humanitarian organizations set new standards for refugee IDs. Courts hear evidence of harms and place new limits. Inclusion, transparency, and accountability are elevated. Vendor lock-in is challenged. Apps give people control over their data. ID tech and credit scoring get evaluated for risks. The public exercises its voice and rights. Investors increasingly choose trust-first startups. Researchers help answer lingering questions. Civil society groups use lawsuits to challenge technocentric decisions. Multi-sector partnerships put Good ID into practice. Important debates get air time and attract diverse perspectives. And we, at Omidyar Network, are humbled to be part of such a committed movement.

It’s been just over a year since we invested in Caribou Digital and Unfold Stories to launch the Good ID platforms, including several in-person dialogues,, @GoodID on Twitter, a monthly e-bulletin, and the Inside Good ID podcast series. These platforms helped formalize the community of identity stakeholders as a united, steadfast movement. We are in awe of the ways that the community has leveraged these spaces to connect, listen, find solutions, champion Good ID, and lead this progress. And we are making plans so the Good ID platforms can continue to grow and support the movement as it helps government and business leaders design ID programs that include, benefit, and protect everyone.

“In just the last year, more than 200 organizations have joined in calling for more safeguards to ensure that the identity systems managed by governments and businesses truly empower people and remain a force for good,” said CV Madhukar, global lead of beneficial technology at Omidyar Network, in a recent interview. “This includes forward-leaning governments and businesses as well as digital-rights activists, trade associations, humanitarian organizations, academia and think tanks, legal groups, and many others. We’ve worked together to improve the way identity decisions are made; to shift the ownership and control of identity data to the individual; and to strengthen specific policies and technology designs to better protect people’s identities.”

Looking back

Since January, we’ve seen:

  • More than 200 articles and 140 papers, published by the media and members of the expert community, with references to Good ID and what this movement stands for
  • 260+ champions (individuals and organizations) repeatedly incorporating Good ID into their Twitter discussions, reaching on average 1.5 million accounts each month
  • Good ID used as a narrative frame at more than 50 events and 3 virtual conversations
  • More than 1,200 of you participated in these virtual conversations, making 3,000 comments to ultimately reached over 2.2 million accounts collectively
  • As of today, @GoodID on Twitter has more than 7,000 followers

And all of this talk about Good ID matters. A recent survey, conducted by FleishmanHillard, showed us that after learning more about the Good ID approach:

  • 87% of business respondents felt Good ID was “very” or “extremely” important
  • 77% of government respondents felt Good ID was “very” or “extremely” important

The collective action of the Good ID movement is not the only success. We’ve seen immense strengthening within the evolving community itself. At times, our nascent sector has suffered from fragmentation, exclusion of diverse perspectives, competing narratives, disagreement about what to norm, lack of evidence and tools, and other tensions. But there has always been a willingness for more conversation — and that’s why we prioritized the platforms, and later built a stronger case for Good ID with a research-driven message framework in partnership with nearly 40 organizations.

Dakota Gruener, ID2020’s executive director and Good ID champion, recently told Unfold stories, “We have a growing coalition of the willing. When we started, the topic was nascent; we were all starting a journey together. And I think that many of the parameters around what defines good digital identity just weren’t there, or there wasn’t cohesion around those principles. What I find quite exciting is seeing a growing group of organizations, who collectively have weight, standing shoulder to shoulder. Together, we can articulate what Good ID is and is not. We can ensure that our work is convergent and that the movement moves forward together. It’s taken a long time, but it seems we have got the puzzle pieces to come together.”

Indeed, a multitude of new and sharper ideas have emerged from a more connected community in the past year, particularly how to realize goals of transparency, accountability, inclusion, privacy, user value and control, and cyber-security. The community can take pride in the way they have collectively defined Good ID to ensure an ID unlocks opportunities fairly, enabling everyone to engage in society on their own terms and safeguarding them against misuse.

We, at Omidyar Network, have certainly learned a lot from this open conversation. We shared some of our reflections in the point of view on Good ID we released earlier this year. It’s also important to express our appreciation for the way this community reinforced and challenged the nuance that accompanies Good ID, such as:

  • Good ID must be explained in clear and simple terms
  • the conversation should start with “ID” and not automatically “digital ID”
  • timing is important; ID program decisions must reflect the socio-political issues of our time, not just tech trends
  • the Good ID approach is always applied in context-specific ways, and is not an off-the-shelf product
  • defining bad ID is an important step in finding new norms that represent Good ID
  • all champions must raise concerns with ID tech vendors, governments, and data-collecting businesses, not just each other

“At Caribou Digital, we’ve been privileged to support (the) Good ID efforts. And we see supporting digital identification towards agency, privacy, and a strengthened social contract as critical to building inclusive, digital economies,” said Research Director Emrys Schoemaker. “We’ve been privileged to support conversations around digital identification at this important time in our increasingly digital age.”

Leaning forward

We are excited by this progress but we cannot emphasize enough that the work of the movement has only begun. The Good ID Movement still faces daunting challenges, like how to norm a laundry list of best practices among government and businesses issuing ID as well as to establish viable, consumer-controlled alternatives. And how to move beyond the promise of Good ID to real changes in design and practice.

It is ever more important that the community continue to evolve, expand, stay united around foundational values, share learning faster, debate key issues constructively, and act when opportunity strikes. It’s also important that privacy and security champions seize moments to talk to people they disagree with, offer constructive solutions, encourage positive moves, and help others succeed.

In the next few months, the Good ID platforms will adapt to better support the community by:

  • leading the exploration of big ideas, growing the group, and steering the conversation toward shared solutions
  • featuring more engagement opportunities and calls to action
  • supporting additional virtual convenings
  • sharing more stories about the people and places impacted by Good ID
  • making a stronger case for Good ID with a research-driven toolkit

We want to thank Caribou Digital and Unfold Stories for creating these spaces and helping to bring the community together at a pivotal time.

Governments and businesses are accelerating new ID programs. Behind these decisions are often important objectives: fulfill the right to legal identity, facilitate economic opportunities, include everyone in formal society, and target services appropriately. But the technologies presented to them are relatively new and untested, and the risks are still coming into focus. Naturally, this dynamic can create vulnerabilities for people at the heart of the ID program, as well as countries and companies. The Good ID platforms and movement champions are helping leaders close their knowledge gaps so that they can prioritize important protections and ensure everyone has a safe and trusted form of ID that they want to use.

“We are humbled by the warm reception this project has had, and the way it resonates with audiences around the world,” said Unfold Stories CEO Marisol Grandon. “Unfold Stories is, at heart, a company committed to storytelling for good, and we’re very pleased to have this important role in providing spaces for genuine, constructive debate around Good ID and its potential to transform lives. The more we learn, the clearer it becomes. #GoodID is not just a theoretical, philosophical discussion; it’s a movement for change with real consequences for real people.”

We hope identity stakeholders worldwide will continue to contribute to the Good ID platforms in this new phase; your engagement ensures they truly reflect the community’s view and present the very best resources to decision makers. These platforms exist to promote uses of ID that are worthy of the public’s trust. We welcome more articles that promote behaviors, choices, and features that lead to Good ID. We’d also love to see more stories and case studies of Good ID in practice — that is, examples of countries and companies where ID is not only a force for good, but is good.

Please help unlock the full potential of Good ID by sharing your learning, viewpoints, projects, events, and other resources on the Good ID online platforms — and @GoodID.



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Omidyar Network is a social change venture that reimagines critical systems, and the ideas that govern them, to build more inclusive and equitable societies.