Let’s talk about digital identity with Kay Chopard, Executive Director at Kantara Initiative.

In this first episode of series 3, we put your burning questions to Kantara’s newly appointed Executive Director, Kay Chopard. Kay explores why identity is so critical in so many applications; her hope for more promotion of Kantara’s great work and to advance opportunities for collaboration; Kantara’s new mobile drivers licenses (mDLs) work group; Women in Identity and the problem of lack of diversity in standards working groups; and why access and inclusion is one of the biggest challenges facing identity today.

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“Digital identity is going to be one of the most critical issues going forward, for the world.”

Kay ChopardKay Chopard is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Kantara Initiative, a non-profit corporation. She is the former President and CEO of Chopard Consulting based in the Washington, DC metro area and is the founder of the Women’s Leadership Institute. Kay has more than 30 years’ experience in executive leadership in government, non-profit, and business organisations, with leadership positions in several organisations including: Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG), National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). She is an attorney and has served as a prosecutor and maintained a private practice. Ms. Chopard also serves on the Board of Directors of Women in Identity US and volunteers in the leadership of the Women in Identity UK.

Find Kay on Twitter @KayChopardCohen and on LinkedIn.

The Kantara Initiative is a unique global ‘commons’ that operates conformity assessment, assurance and grant of Trust Marks against de-jure standards under its Trust Framework programme, while at the same time nurturing ‘beyond-the-state-of-the-art’ ideas and developing specifications to transform the state of digital identity and personal data agency domains.

Find out more about Kantara at kantarainitiative.org.

We’ll be continuing this conversation on Twitter using #LTADI – join us @ubisecure!


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Podcast transcript

Let’s Talk About Digital Identity, the podcast connecting identity and business. I am your host, Oscar Santolalla.

Oscar Santolalla: Hello and thanks for joining today. We are after our summer break in 2021. We are coming back with amazing conversations, episodes talking about digital identity from many aspects. And now we have a great pleasure to start this new third season with a person who is the leader of an organisation in the identity industry that is very close to my heart. So let’s introduce her.

Mrs. Kay Chopard is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Kantara Initiative, a non-profit organisation. The Kantara Initiative is a unique global ‘commons’ that operates conformity assessment assurance and grant of Trust Marks against de-jure standards under its Trust Framework programme, while at the same time nurturing beyond the state-of-the-art ideas and developing specifications to transform the state of digital identity and personal data agency domains.

Kay has more than 30 years’ experience in executive leadership in government, non-profit, and business organisations in the DC area. She has led several organisations but in identity especially, I would like to mention she was Executive Director of the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group, IDESG, a non-profit organisation developed in a public-private partnership to implement the national strategy for trusted identities in cyberspace, in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST.

She is an attorney and has served as a prosecutor and maintains a private practice. Kay also serves on the Board of Directors of the Women in Identity US and volunteers in the leadership of the Women in Identity UK. She lectures internationally and has authored several articles and white papers on racial and gender diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as a variety of criminal justice issues, including use of technology in the courts, and legal policy around privacy and security in the use of court technology.

Hello, Kay.

Kay Chopard: Hello.

Oscar: Welcome. It’s really nice talking with you, very new Executive Director of Kantara Initiative. And definitely not only myself, many, many of us who are listening to this and our colleagues, many people I know, want to hear, want to know more about you.

Kay: Thank you, Oscar. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and to talk with all your listeners. I’ve just begun and I’m excited to be a part of Kantara.

Oscar: Fantastic. The first question came from myself. Given your background in law, what attracted you to digital identity?

Kay: Gosh, that’s a really good question Oscar. Although my background is in law, I’ve had a lot of experience working around national policy and international policy on a variety of topics. And what I find intriguing about digital identity, a couple of things. One, I think it is one of the most if not the most rapidly advancing technology. It’s becoming more and more clear I think that digital identity impacts every type of industry, every vertical public as well as private. In terms of any solution and any interaction that consumers have, it just becomes so critical. So that was intriguing as I began to see that flourish. I think that years ago, people called it something else, and over time, we realised that digital identity is really going to be one of the most critical issues going forward for the world.

And then secondly, with that comes the opportunity to help form policy that makes a difference in the lives of individual people. And when I say that, it’s because digital identity requires a balancing of privacy, privacy of rights, privacy of data and security, as well as enabling business to get done, enabling people to take control of their lives, to be able to do a variety of things. And so, it just was such a critical issue and had the ability to impact everyone both positively and negatively so the opportunity for leadership in this area, I think, is very big and very important.

Oscar: Excellent. And now that you started recently as Executive Director of Kantara Initiative, I would like to hear also what are your main goals having now this position, and if the mission will remain the same for Kantara?

Kay: That’s also really good. And I want people to know, I believe that the mission of Kantara, which is to improve trustworthy use of identity and personal data through innovation and standardisation and good practice, that mission is not going to change. That’s an important mission and we need to stay focused on that. What I’m hoping to do for Kantara is because the organisation does a lot of good work, I really want to elevate that. I’m not sure that it’s always clear what our message is, or we haven’t really been good about bragging about our own work.

I think that the workgroups and our assurance programme are really stellar programmes. But I have heard as I’ve talked to others, in some ways, it’s kind of the best kept secret. So I really hope to elevate our profile to make sure that people are aware of what we have to offer, of the expertise that we have. And also, I very much believe in collaboration and working with others. And I really want to make sure that we continue to work collaboratively, as there are more and more organisations in this space.

But also, because this is something that’s so critical in so many different places, in healthcare, in government, in people accessing benefits, or being able to conduct business. There are just so many different places. And I want to make sure that we’re at the table and participating and that we’re offering the expertise that we have to really bring to bear good privacy practice and good standardisation of data and doing all that we can to contribute to making the experience for users and the work of corporations and small businesses and government agencies more seamless, and yet very secure and very robust. So the mission will definitely stay the same.

Oscar: Yeah, I agree with you doing, it’s interesting you tell of course, making more known the big work, the mission work that Kantara is doing. And you mentioned bragging, yes, so brag more about what we do, what we’ve been doing. Of course, that’s good, because how we’ll reach more people, more people will be able to, as you said, collaborate and collaborate with other organisations and people who are not, for instance, I’ve never been working with any standard organisation until, because of working at Ubisecure, I was suggested to join Kantara, join this working groups. And yeah, it’s not long ago. So before that, I didn’t know. I haven’t heard too much of such organisations. So it’s – I agree with you that it’s important to keep the message being shared and amplified.

Kay: Yes. And I think your experience is common. And it’s one of those once you get involved, you can really appreciate the good work and why this is a really helpful organisation. So thank you, I appreciate you sharing your experience.

Oscar: It’s my pleasure. You mentioned of course, collaboration with other standards organisations, the standards is a big component in Kantara. I personally have work in the consent and information sharing group, interoperability group now. Particularly with consent received, I work with that. Another big standard is User Manage Access, UMA, you have also the Trust Mark programme. That has been like the main – depending who sees, but yeah, some of the main big projects on standards going on. So what is next? Is there anything that is coming from Kantara?

Kay: Yeah, I think, well, one of the things that I think is coming, we issued a report about mobile drivers licenses, and privacy, really tried to make some recommendations about best practices. And so we’re standing up another workgroup that is going to focus specifically on mobile drivers licensing and working towards standards for that, because it has the ability to do good things, but it could also be abused. So it’s important to make sure that while the security is there for that kind of technology that we also make sure to protect privacy rights and hopefully use it in a way that’s beneficial to both the person whose mobile drivers license it is and for those who want to be able to use it for identity. So that’s our next big thing, I think.

Oscar: OK. Yeah, interesting. I have not heard about that, so it’s interesting, so mobile driver licenses, OK. So your position or Kantara’s position in mobile driver licenses is of course positive otherwise it would not start one working group. What else you could say about mobile driver license?

Kay: I think that one of the areas, obviously, that Kantara is focused on is privacy rights, and protecting privacy, and being able to make sure that digital identities are trustworthy, that what’s happening with personal data though is used appropriately. So I think that that will be one of the focuses of this workgroup. And as we’re trying to look at going forward, as we see more and more use of this type of digital identity, what are the standards we can put in place to assure that we are using it correctly and protecting all those privacy rights as well.

So that said, I do not claim to be an expert on this topic, but we have folks who are coming together who really have a lot of expertise. And I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of things come out of their discussions and their work. And I’m hopeful that it will be very beneficial to the field as a whole.

Oscar: Sounds super interesting this new working group project, mobile drivers license. I also was curious to hear now that we are, depends how we count it, but around one and a half year into this pandemic, so do you feel that pandemic has somehow changed Kantara’s plans?

Kay: I think the pandemic has affected everyone. It has in some ways changed how we had to do business. Just in terms of conferences are now virtual much more often and many of the meetings that we would have with folks have to be virtual. So you automatically have a little bit different way of doing business. But that said, if anything, I think that the pandemic highlighted how the mission of Kantara is even more critical. It really made it more pronounced about the importance of identity and digital identity. But also, I think it also illustrated how there are certain populations around the world, most of them perhaps disadvantaged populations, marginalised populations, where digital identity during the pandemic was important for them to be able to conduct business, get services, whatever it might be, and yet it was very problematic often.

So it really highlighted perhaps some of the places where there were weaknesses, where the systems needed to be strengthened. I think it highlighted the importance of protecting privacy. So it sort of took all of the issues that already existed, and further highlighted and enhanced them so that we’re all in this industry looking at it and realising, “Wow, we knew this was an issue. Now we see even more why it’s so important for us to address that.” So in that sense, yeah, business was maybe done a little bit differently. But I think really what the pandemic did was help us get more focus and insight into things that we recognised were probably issues but hadn’t fully delved into. And I don’t think it really changes our plans on the long run except that it helps us to be a little bit more fine-tuned in what our focus is.

Oscar: You are one of the leaders of another very superb organisation called Women in Identity. You are part of the leadership team. So tell us a bit about the work you do. Do you think that there is enough diverse representation in standards working groups?

Kay: Those are kind of two different topics. But yes, well, number one, I don’t think there’s enough diversity in standards working groups. But before I talk about that, let me just tell you a little bit about my role at Women in Identity. I think you mentioned in the beginning, I’m based in Washington, DC, and the Women in Identity really started out of the UK in many ways. And many of the leaders are still there and based in European countries. But in the US, I became the US ambassador to try to encourage members of the identity industry to participate.

And I think one of the most important things to know is that the Women in Identity organisation is very focused on diversity across the board, not just gender. And I think one of the things that I have learned even more than, and I kind of have this sense but I have realised over time, that it is really critical that we recognise we’re sort of all in this together, right? So the members of Women in Identity are also very diverse. So that means that there are women and men, there are people of colour, there are people who are disabled, there are people who are from the LBGTQ+.

So there are all different kinds of folks. And I really think that’s what makes the organisation stronger. They sort of walk the walk, and talk the talk, they don’t just talk, they really have tried to implement that and how they run the organisation. Of course, it’s fully volunteer, so almost everything, I mean, what I do for them and everyone else there are all volunteers and give up their time. And it’s really because we believe in the importance of diversity in the digital identity space.

And I think that one of the areas that is weaker is diverse representation in the standards work groups. And that’s one of the things actually that is intriguing about Kantara because our work groups obviously are working on standards, they’re really working on things that then they hand off, they give to, has the ability to go to standards organisations and that’s where it’s really important to have diversity.

That said, that’s not an easy thing I think to make happen. And I think there are a lot of reasons for that. I mean, I think that’s the other nice thing about Women in Identity, and why I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion is truly not about blaming anyone or saying this didn’t work, or that didn’t work. You saw in my bio, I’ve been the CEO of a variety of organisations, primarily non-profits and I had my own company. But many times I tried, as the CEO, to make sure that I was hiring diverse groups, and you know, all of these kinds of things. And I tried and some things didn’t work, they crashed and burned. It seemed like a good idea. It did not have the effect I wanted, which is I wanted to have a diverse workforce.

So I think one of the good things that I’ve learned and that I think the organisation pushes is that this is not a checklist and this isn’t just that you do a couple things and it’ll all get itself fixed. It’s not. And some of that is the culture that affects everyone – men, women, the whole nine yards. And I think that the standards working groups, in some ways, have a little bit of their own culture. So I’m really hoping that we can work together to find ways to have that diverse representation. Because what happens is, the products that get developed using those standards, they have to be available for a diversity of users, right? They have to work for everyone.

And so a lot of times, if we could start on the frontend with the standards that we put together, and we make sure that we’re developing them in a diverse and inclusive way, then it’s more likely that what happens at the end, when these standards are deployed to technology, to digital identity, there’ll be fewer problems, right? So I think one of the things that Kantara does well is really trying to look at the future state, right? Really trying to focus on what’s coming down the road, and thinking about those things, and how to begin to address them, and getting ahead of the curve, if you will, which is not always an easy thing.

And I find – it’s fascinating to me that Kantara is – that’s their focus and that has been their focus since inception. And it’s important to have people looking at that. And I’m hopeful that as we begin to embrace some of these other things, in terms of diversity, we’re going to see a difference in the standards that are developed but then what we see in the products that are available, right, for users. That was maybe a convoluted answer, sorry.

But I think it’s a good question to ask, I think you’re right on the money. I’m kind of excited because this is sort of right in Kantara’s sweet spot. So I’m really looking forward to working with the members of the organisation to see you know, what kinds of new and even better things we can be doing.

Oscar: Yeah, I’m sure absolutely that particularly in Kantara, being you the leader and believing so much in diversity, there’s going to be results. Definitely not in, as you say, not in the short term, but because it’s about the culture, things have to change gradually. But yeah, it’s – I’m sure, we will get the result there with your leadership. And of course, you know, in other organisations as well, this is very important that is standard organisation also in companies. What would you say is today the biggest challenge that digital identity is facing?

Kay: I knew you were going to ask me something like this. And I think there are a couple of big challenges, which I’ve kind of talked about, in some ways already. But I think privacy and protecting privacy, and what that looks like in digital identity continues to be a big challenge. I think the pandemic only highlighted that more. And what I’m seeing is there are a lot more organisations now, including lots of other non-profits who are working in the digital identity space, which is good. And some of them are focused on specific industry verticals, which is also good.

But I think that there are different ideas, thoughts, approaches to how do we protect the privacy of individuals and their digital identity. Not only how do we protect, but how do we give them some control over the data that they’re actually sharing. And to me that also goes to privacy in many ways. So I think that that is going to continue, and probably even more so going forward.

The other piece that I think is another challenge, and I’m assuming people are recognising this. But I think as I mentioned a little bit earlier, the pandemic has highlighted how disadvantaged or marginalised populations really struggle with having digital identity. And in some countries, we’re seeing where some of those disadvantaged populations, which tend to be more diverse, don’t have access to being able to have a digital identity and that cuts them out of a variety of things that they just can’t access and can’t use because they have to have that digital identity.

So in the US, we see this where folks who most need to access services, to access the courts, to be able to conduct business have the most struggle with it. And I think it’s really highlighted that digital divide, if you will, that separation. And it’s just really emphasised those below a certain socio-economic level, for example, it’s an uphill battle for them to be able to use digital identity and yet the pandemic forced all kinds of industries, all kinds of government entities, in all kinds of ways that happened quickly because of the pandemic. And consequently, many of those from lower socio-economic status, or whatever it might be, it really, in some ways made life harder for them.

And I hope that we recognise that as an important challenge, right? It shouldn’t be that way. We should find ways to make that better. And I think for those in the industry, in some ways that’s sort of an ethical obligation we have. I mean, we can talk about privacy and security. We can talk about data privacy, all these different things. But I think we have to recognise that the work we do impacts real people. And because it has a disparate impact, it’s on us to find a way to make this right, in my opinion. I think that’s a big challenge. I don’t think there are easy answers. I think we’re going to grapple with this for a while. And I think people have found ways to do better. But I think we have to keep striving for that. It’s just important. You know, it can’t be that digital identity is for the haves and not the have nots. We have to find a way to do it better. And I just think that’s very challenging, because there aren’t any easy answers.

But as I said, I think all the things that we’ve talked about are still big challenges, right? And I think the whole privacy, and the trustworthiness of data, standardisation and good practices, those are all still important challenges. I don’t want to take away from those. But I think that recent experiences just highlighted some things that probably were not nearly as evident until we’ve had the recent experiences. And who would have thought this could ever happen? I mean, I didn’t think it would. So it’s sort of amazing. I think what we have to look at this as it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to do better. It’s an opportunity for us to do more good things.

One of the things I like about the digital identity industry space is, and this probably sounds very altruistic, but we have the ability to change the world. We have the ability to make it a better place. And how exciting to be part of an industry that really can make a difference in every person’s life around the globe. That’s amazing. That’s phenomenal. So I’m excited to be a part of that.

Oscar: Of course, of course. I like how you say this the altruistic way. I think this helps in that everyone who is one way or another in the digital industry has to embrace that. And how to solve these problems, the two that you mentioned, the privacy, and especially the second one that is giving digital identity to everyone, which is even I think has been more challenging. Thank you a lot for that, Kay.

One final question that I have in this Q&A special episode of Let’s Talk About Digital Identity, we ask for one final idea for people who are listening to this, especially for business leaders, business minded people who are listening to us, what is the one actionable idea that they should write on their agendas today?

Kay: Well, in my opinion, many of the things that we’ve talked about, as I’ve mentioned some of these things are cultural, some of these things are things that we don’t even recognise, and it sort of permeates all of our work. So the one thing that I would say is for every business leader, and for anyone who listens to your podcast, start with yourself. I think you start by learning about what is all this diversity and inclusion. It’s a lot of talk, you see it everywhere. People are trying a whole bunch of different things.

I think in some ways, what you do is you start with yourself. There are a lot of things to be learned. You know, read a short article, there are books on this, you can read books. I’m happy to give you my reading list. There are lots of things where you take the time to read something for yourself, where you learn something. And then you start to look in your own work life, right?

So you start to look at when you’re participating on a product team, let’s say, pay attention to some of the dynamics. Who is part of that team? And who is clearly not there? When you have your meetings, who does all the talking? Who gets interrupted as you’re talking? Who seems to have their ideas co-opted? How are members of the group treated and how are their ideas treated? And some of that is just making observations, paying attention in ways that maybe you hadn’t before. And I think the more that you can educate yourself, the more that you can learn, the more that you take a critical look at how business gets done in your organisation. That’s how we begin to affect change. And I think it makes us sensitive to some of the big challenges and issues that I mentioned before. But I think it starts with you.

So that would be my challenge for the business leaders listening that they put that on their agenda. It doesn’t require a big lift, but it requires being intentional, and deliberately educating yourself, deliberately paying attention to some things that, because our work lives are so incredibly busy, that sometimes we overlook. So I encourage people to take a step back and pay attention and learn from what they see to maybe make changes in their own lives and their own organisations. Because as I said, I think we have the ability to change the world. I really do. And it starts with you. So I hope that folks will do things like that.

Oscar: It’s really good one. Thanks for that. Start with you and learn more and then put all these in action to make changes, to impact the industry, impact everybody who needs from our industry. Thanks a lot, Kay. It was a fantastic conversation with you. Thank you for answering all these questions that we compiled from the audience and other people. And please let us know how people, if they would like to learn more about you or get in touch with you, what are the best ways?

Kay: Thank you so much for asking that. So the Kantara website has a lot of information, much more detailed than what I gave you. It talks about all the workgroups, like you talked about your participation, Oscar, that’s an excellent group, and there are some others as well, we would love to have more people involved. The website is kantarainitiative.org. We also have a LinkedIn page, we often post things about our work, some of the things that we’re doing. We’re on Twitter. So I hope you’ll follow us. As well, I have a LinkedIn page and a Twitter account. And as you can imagine, there not a lot of Kay Chopards, so I think if you look for that, you’ll probably find me.

And certainly, if people want to reach out to me directly, you’re welcome to do that. My email is Kay, [email protected] But I would really encourage people to take a look at the website, because I think, as I kind of mentioned early on, in some ways we’re the best kept secret, there’s a lot of really good things happening. And of course, our assurance programme is I think, very impressive, it’s really well done. And I think it really provides an amazing service to the industry, to companies who want to be able to do certain types of work. And we have really good people who work in that programme. It’s really kind of the crown jewel of the organisation, in my opinion. And there’s information about that and what we have to offer.

And I should also point out that the programme takes a variety of steps to ensure confidentiality, so companies don’t need to worry that to go through that assurance process that they are having to reveal any type of proprietary information beyond the very narrow assurance programme, the assessors, the review board, all of these folks. We take that very seriously. But it really is an amazing service. I hope people take advantage.

So take a look at the website. And I hope that you’ll reach out and follow us and like us. I look forward to meeting the folks and thank you for including me in this. I really hope this was helpful to your audience. And I was a little nervous when you put out on social media, “Ask Kay anything.” But these are great questions and I really appreciate the field asking some of this. I’m sure there were other questions that we didn’t have time for but this was a great conversation Oscar and I really appreciate your experience and all you had to offer as well.

Oscar: Thanks a lot Kay for this fantastic interview and all the best.

Kay: Thank you, all the best to you, too.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Let’s Talk About Digital Identity produced by Ubisecure. Stay up to date with episodes at ubisecure.com/podcast or join us on Twitter @ubisecure and use the #LTADI. Until next time.