Identity management and the future

iStock_000036298684LargeResearch by Professor Liesbet van Zoonen of Loughborough University

In collaboration with Professor Pamela Briggs of the University of Northumbria, Professor Sandra Wilson of the University of Dundee and Professor Aletta Norval of the University of Essex

New research conducted with citizens in the UK and US has broadened our understanding of current attitudes towards identity management and how citizens will engage with new identity management technologies in the future.

The research, led by Professor Liesbet van Zoonen of Loughborough University, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and accredited to the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research.

‘Without having valid means of identification, it has become almost impossible to be a citizen or consumer. It is crucial for us to manage our identities in ways that are easy, efficient and secure,’ said Professor van Zoonen.

‘There is an important societal agenda in relation to identity management set against a background of civil liberties.

‘Citizens regularly express concern about the amount of personal information held electronically while in contrast, there is a growing appetite for identity sharing through social networks and customer profiling. 

The research by Professor van Zoonen and her team shows that an important condition for the acceptance of identity management technologies is the amount of choice and control that users will have over them. This includes the data that is being shared, but also the aesthetics of the technologies and the feelings they evoke.

This is a unique and very user-centric approach to how people perceive identity systems, which will make it possible to develop better solutions with higher public acceptance.

Jury Report of the Novay Digital Identity Award 2013

This is an important addition and innovation to existing studies of technology acceptance, which are usually limited to cognitions and perceptions.

These new insights help us to understand how the public will respond to identity management technologies, services and practices in the future.


The IMPRINTS team has co-hosted a policy seminar on future threats and opportunities for identity management, which was attended by over 60 people from government, industry and academia.

They have provided evidence to the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament on two occasions, the first on the barriers to real time data analytics and the ethical concerns that surround the use personal data and the second on the increased usage of biometrics for public and commercial purposes.

A performance art competition was hosted by the research team in collaboration with Heath Bunting and Simon Farid, who produced a number of performances.

They also hosted an international design HackJam that was attended by more than 100 students from designs schools across the UK and abroad.

Professor Van Zoonen is now a key consultant for the Dutch government, who is developing a new e-ID scheme.

Lastly, the IMPRINTS project was nominated for an award by European Identity Management industries.

Future Impact

It is expected that research by Professor van Zoonen and her team will inform the development of trustworthy identity management technologies, services and practices by both government and private developers. It is also expected to inform governance policies for the regulation of identity management.

Further Information