Difference Between Identification & Authentication

Close-up of identification card on doctor's blouse.
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According to Merriam-Webster, "identification" refers to two things -- either the act of finding out who or what someone or something is or a document that proves who someone is. Authentication is the act of proving that something, such as a passport, is real. Both identification and authentication are used together in identifying someone. Knowing the meanings of the terms is beneficial for law, corporate security and natural science students, who will encounter these words during their education and in the professional world.

1 Identity and Identification

Identification is used to prove a person's identity. "Identity" refers to who someone is. "Identification" can either refer to the process of proving identity or the actual document itself, such as a passport, student card or driver's license, that is used as proof. For example, at the airport, you are asked to show your passport. Therefore, you are going through a process of identification with your passport being used as a piece of identification, or ID, to prove who you are. Another example of identification, which you encounter at school, is showing your student card at the library or before an exam.

2 Authenticity and Authentication

Authentication is the second step when it comes to proving who someone is. This term refers to the process of ensuring that the identification you have provided is authentic, meaning that it is not a copy or fake. For example, after you have provided airport security with your passport, it will be scanned to ensure that it is genuine and valid. Additionally, the word "authentication" is also used in terms of precious stones and antiques. For example, you can bring a diamond to a jeweler to get it tested for authenticity to determine if it is real.

Based in Gatineau, Canada, Kat Walcott has been writing entertainment and informative articles since 2008. Her work has appeared in major publications including Her Campus, Equals6 and Uppercase. She holds an honors diploma in social science from Heritage College and is currently majoring in communication studies and minoring in sexuality studies.