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What is identity?

The dictionary definition of identity is:
1. The state of having unique identifying characteristics held by no other person or thing.
2. The individual characteristics by which a person or thing is recognized.
3. The quality or condition of being the same as something else.

[From Latin idem - the same]

In a strict sense of identity objects that we might consider identical that share certain characteristics such as shape, size, colour, etc are not the same. In this same way it is clear that identical twins are not the same although they may be physically indistinguishable.

Identity is also in a wider sense an individual's membership of a particular group - such as Gender, Nation, Ethnicity, Social class, Subculture, and so forth.

In terms of systems of security, identity is a core concept of authentication. For example only those individuals who have been authenticated and authorised may gain access to the bank vault or read the Top Secret document.

One's identity may rely on their Name, Address or some Biometric information.

A problem with identity is that people routinely change their identity throughout their lives. A woman will change her name if she marries and takes the surname of her husband and with the increase in divorce and remarriage some people may have a number of different names in their life. People also routinely change address when they move house, the vast majority of people in Britain will have more than one address in their life. However the final aspect of identity, Biometric information is something that should not change during an individual's lifetime.

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Next: What is Biometrics? Up: Contents Previous: Introduction

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