Risk, trust and eID: Exploring public perceptions of digital identity systems

Ruth Halperin, James Backhouse


This paper offers an account of the perceptions of citizens from the U.K. and Germany on the subject of interoperable electronic identity (eID) systems. It draws on a grounded empirical analysis identifying the risks that citizens associate with online identity management systems: information risk, economic risk and socio–political risk. Our study suggests that the perceived risks derive from, and are amplified by, low trust beliefs in public authorities responsible for identity management. Three dimensions of trustworthiness in government were found — competence, integrity and benevolence — constructed from negative past experiences of IT failures, function creep, and political history of oppression. To theorise our findings we propose a model depicting the relationships between trust, risk and behavioral intentions. Practical implications deriving from the study concern trust enhancement and risk reduction strategies aimed at winning public acceptance of eID systems in electronic services.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i4.3867

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