Marketing Brand Strategy Data & Privacy

As web3 arrives, our digital identities will evolve once again

By Linda Xiao | Director of Creative Technology & Strategy, NA

Momentum Worldwide


The Drum Network article

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November 17, 2022 | 6 min read

For The Drum’s Data & Privacy deep dive, Linda Xiao of agency Momentum Worldwide envisages how our digital identities might change once more as web3 arrives.

A man in silhouette against a background featuring a blue lighted circle

Will web3 bring another revolution for our digital identities? / Ben Sweet via Unsplash

To better understand web3 and where the internet is headed, we need to understand where we’ve been.

Think back to your first interactions with the internet – likely during the early 2000s. Going online to Ask Jeeves, creating an email address and maybe even chatting using AIM. That was web1: the age of static informational web pages. Unless you were a web designer or a large corporation, you were not likely to have a personal web presence.

All that changed under web2, the age of social connection, when big tech started to lower the barriers to participation online. There was no single moment when web1 ended and web2 began, and we’re in a similar limbo now, heading toward web3, the age of the ownership economy. As we shift toward this next evolution of the internet, the age-old issues of data, privacy and identity management have become more important than ever.

The new age of privacy?

The irony of the current vision of web3 is that while data democratization will enhance transparency and credibility, it can hurt individual privacy unless more attention is drawn toward privacy management. While it seems to be a good thing that our data is now moved out of the hands of big tech, the public and transparent nature of web3 and blockchain tech mean that our privacy concerns could only escalate.

In web2, we readily give our data away to companies and platforms that directly profit from our data. In return, we get personalization or special access to make this trade seem worthwhile. When we post content, it makes money for big tech. We work to attract engagement and eyeballs, but the platforms are realizing all the value because they own the medium.

Our followers are not our owned audiences, so we can’t download them and move them with us to other platforms. Similarly, we do not own our own identities. Rather, we rent space for these identities on platforms, and we cannot take them with us across the internet.

In web3, there’s a promise that everyone will have control of their data that will live on the blockchain. By filtering down value creation and distributing it more economically, we’ll ideally be putting ownership back in the hands of creators.

The average person spends about seven hours per day on the internet, according to We Are Social. Since we spend so much time on it, we care a lot about it, hence the move toward a more democratic internet. In web3, we’ll be able to ‘own’ pieces of the web, which should in turn create opportunities for fractional governance and knowledge sharing. We should be able to really ‘own’ our identities for the first time ever, with unique and verifiable forms of self-sovereignty and reputation that can be as ‘real’ (or as anonymous) as we want.

It’s expected that this will lead to greater privacy, since web3 allows us, theoretically, to track and own our data through the blockchain. However, that data will be in the public domain and anyone can track it. This goes back to the definition of privacy, and the determination of when the trade-off is no longer acceptable.

The identity problem

Privacy is a spectrum; people shift their preferences depending on their personal context. People are comfortable giving away personal information to have digital identities that live on popular social media platforms. Privacy and identity are directly correlated; if our privacy is exposed, so is our identity. This means that identity can also be a spectrum, and the level of anonymity becomes a by-product of owning our own identities in web3.

Over 60% of gen Z care more about their digital identity than their physical identity, according to research by Squarespace. Many say that this digital identity layer can be held within a web3 wallet.

As users become more familiar with web3, many will create different wallet identities for different purposes. Those wallet identities can range from ‘real’ to ‘pseudo-anonymous.’ Many will be difficult, but not impossible, to trace back to their origins, and that’s the beauty of the web3 ownership economy. You’ll have the freedom to create and take credit for your own ideas and content, while still being accountable for your actions. You won’t have one sole identity, but many identities, and can wear as many hats as you want. Everyone’s actions are trackable because we allow them to be visible on a public blockchain, but not everyone will need or want to know exactly who anyone is.

When we gain so many benefits from this new ownership economy, does our tolerance on the privacy spectrum shift toward leniency?

For more on how the world of data-driven advertising and marketing is evolving, check out our latest Deep Dive.

Marketing Brand Strategy Data & Privacy

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Momentum Worldwide

Momentum Worldwide is a global experience agency partnering with and transforming the world’s most famous brands since 1987. Built on the simple truth that it’s not what brands say, it’s what they do that matters, the agency blends creativity, technology, strategy, design and execution to change the world and impact culture.

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