Identity and Data Privacy – Predictions for 2021

2021 is going to be a significant year in Identity and Data Privacy. Since the GDPR went into full enforcement in 2018, we’ve seen  many countries rapidly change or update their Data Privacy laws. Although intended to protect the individual, the number of Data Privacy Rights has increased dramatically. And, this is compounded by the fact that emerging technologies are putting a huge burden on identity and Identity systems.

The world is also experiencing an acceleration of technologies that rely heavily on Identity and Identity systems.  As a result, I predict there will be a need to use Identity systems to facilitate new ways for people to access services:

  • carry out financial transactions with cryptocurrencies,
  • validate vaccination and health status due to Covid-19,
  • help big tech better moderate objectionable content.

These are my predictions for the year ahead – share your feedback below!



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Immunity Passports will become ubiquitous

As a result of Covid-19, many countries are looking to how they can relax travel restrictions. A cruise company recently confirmed that they will not be accepting passengers unless they have been vaccinated.  This is very likely to be the case for many other travel companies in 2021.  This raises the issue of Data Privacy because some of these companies will now be collecting confidential, protected health information from the customers which they need to manage going forward.

Technologies are being developed right now to create things like Identity Passports through which travellers can present a negative COVID test result or proof of vaccination.  This will then be tied to their identity to determine the right to travel. This will put a significant burden on identity systems as we seek to combine health information with travel information. Identity is going to be critical in making sure that organizations can have confidence in any tests results or new data provided.


Links between Cryptocurrencies and Identity

An essential part of bringing cryptocurrencies to people worldwide is the ability to have users create and maintain digital wallets. A fundamental purpose of digital wallets is to allow the unbanked or underbanked access to digital currency systems. As a result of this, Identity and Identity verification systems will grow in significance to cryptocurrencies.  Identity and cryptocurrencies will be tightly bound together and initiatives aimed at getting people to use digital currency in the digital wallet will depend very much on adoption of the underpinning identity systems. Data Privacy and Data Protection will become the central point for developing trust in these digital money systems.


Emerging technologies and Identity

Emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality will require more information about individuals as they move around, interacting with these systems. It will be vital that users are correctly identified and ‘marked’ appropriately so that, for example, their access to certain types of services can be restricted if needed. Identity plays a big part in this, and we will see increasing amounts of data collected about individuals which need to be protected to ensure their privacy rights.


Big Tech, Identity, and Content Moderation

Content moderation by big tech companies has become a hot issue in the US and the EU. Governments are looking very closely at ‘Big Tech”s role in moderating content and support for law enforcement when investigations relate to their customer base. As a result of this, and as we’ve seen recently in the US Capitol attack, the big tech companies are being asked not just to moderate conversations but also to track people that are causing harm or planning harmful events.

This is likely to result in more regulation around the responsibilities of ‘Big Tech’ in this area. In many different scenarios, I can see that this will cause a considerable uptick in how tech organisations identify users – particularly if it is to be used for law enforcement reasons.

It will be interesting to see how 2021 evolves. But whatever happens, it is likely that Identity and Data Privacy will play an increasingly significant role.





Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds, “The Data Diva,” is a world-renowned technologist, thought-leader, and advisor to Multinational Corporations for handling global data privacy, an internationally published author, highly sought speaker, and top media presence about global data privacy, data protection topics.




 January 28, 2021