Digital credentials are the digital equivalent of paper-based credentials. Just as a paper-based credential could be a passport, a Driver's license, a membership certificate or some kind of ticket to obtain some service, such as a cinema ticket or a public transport ticket, a digital credential is a proof of qualification, competence, or clearance that is attached to a person. Also, digital credentials prove something about their owner. Both types of credentials may contain personal information such as the person's name, birthplace, birthdate, and/or biometric information such as a picture or a finger print.
Because of the still evolving, and sometimes conflicting, terminologies used in the fields of computer science, computer security, and cryptography, the term "digital credential" is used quite confusingly in these fields. Sometimes passwords or other means of authentication are referred to as credentials. In operation system design, credentials are the properties of a process (such as its effective UID) that is used for determining its access rights. On other occasions, certificates and associated key material such as those stored in PKCS#12 and PKCS#15 are referred to as credentials.
Often however, digital credentials, like digital cash, are only associated with anonymous digital credentials. Such credentials, while still making an assertion about some property, status, or right of their owner, do not reveal the owner's identity. Still, the basic concept of credential must be disassociated with either anonymous or identified.
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... Anonymous credential systems are related to the concept of untraceable or anonymous payments ... privacy-sensitive applications, such as anonymous payments, voting, and credentials ... The original idea for an anonymous credential system was derived from blind signatures, but relied on a trusted party for credential transfer—the translation from one ...