What is a Digital ID?

A Digital ID, sometimes called a digital certificate, is a file on your computer that identifies who you are. Some software applications use this file to prove your identity to another person or computer. Here are two common examples:

  • When you bank online, your bank must be sure that you are the correct person to get account information. Like a driver's license or passport, a Digital ID confirms your identity to the online bank.
  • When you send important e-mail to someone, your e-mail application can use your Digital ID to "digitally" sign the e-mail message. A digital signature does two things: it lets the recipient know the e-mail is from you, and it tells them the e-mail was not tampered with from the time you sent it to the time they received it.
A Digital ID typically contains the following information:
  • Your public key (for more information see What is a Digital ID key pair?)
  • Your name and e-mail address
  • Expiration date of the public key
  • Name of the company (the Certification Authority, or CA) who issued your Digital ID
  • Serial number of the Digital ID
  • Digital signature of the CA
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