The future of identity part I: What does it look like?

March 18, 2019

When it comes to identity verification: Have we evolved enough?

ai and biometrics The future of identity? That’s such a loaded question because the future is always so unclear. Will we as consumers truly take our digital selves seriously? Will global standards be born out of necessity? Will technology rise to the occasion or will regulation govern it? “Convenience.” “Immediacy.” “Risk.” “Trust.” “Fraud.” We associate these words with our idea of the future of identity. When we look back at identity … of course we see how we’ve evolved. But when we look forward: Have we evolved enough? 

Then there’s the notion of how to protect our identity; how to verify we are who we say we are when it counts. Given what little we know about the future of identity, I believe the trick is to stay on track and work towards a more secure future of verifying identities.

Here’s how I think about the (near term) future of digital identity verification: 

Letting go of yesteryear’s technology 

Data is our gift and our curse. Whilst, as consumers, it’s made life more convenient and our communities more connected and “global,” as individuals, it’s made us vulnerable. 

For instance, we use passwords that protect us from vulnerabilities, right? Wrong. Not only do we forget the plethora of passwords assigned to the glut of accounts we have when trying to retrieve them, but we're also throwing meat to the fraudster wolves waiting in the cyber shadows. The average consumer has 26 online accounts and up to 10 different passwords, that they actively use. So, when promoted to answer “personal” questions to “private” information about ourselves in order to remember a password, we leave a crumb trail of clues to the always-on fraudster who has even more information to build that “digital identity.” So yes, be wary of knowledge-based authentication [KBA] security questions and answer; they can be easily hacked and phished out. 

Rising to regulation

When it comes to regulating fraud, Europe is leading the way with the US is quickly following behind. China and Korea are also prime examples of Asia’s commitment to introducing new regulations that demand transparency and imposing record-breaking fines. 

When it comes to global commerce, operating within the strongest parameters has become a necessity. More than one billion people worldwide don’t have an ID, though, prompting the UN and World Bank ID4D to aim to provide everyone on the planet with a legal ID by 2030 – adding as many individuals to the bulk of us who transact online and who will need verification. Many of these IDs will be digital. Businesses and IDV vendors are going to need the technology and breadth to process them. In fact, just look at the national eID programs that have already been launched or initiated, globally, in: Algeria, Belgium (mobile ID), Denmark, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Ecuador, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Iran, Japan, Senegal, Thailand, Turkey and Afghanistan. France and Singapore are among other countries slated to adopt its own national eID scheme in the near future. 

Digital driver’s license projects are also gaining momentum in countries like the US, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. The push for more regulation and compliance won’t stop there. 

Harnessing the tech tailwinds 

Technology is the second major factor affecting the future of IDV. Vendors will need to keep a nose-to-nose pace (at the very least) in the technology race – and they’ll have to negotiate intuitive seamlessness and state-of-the-art engineering with appropriate levels of safety and security to produce the overall experience that customers value. 

  • Consumer adoption of mobile phones: More and more people are going mobile, with more personal data stored on mobile phones. In 2018, 73% of internet use was via mobile and that percentage is predicted to rise to 76% in 2019. Like it or not, our smartphones are becoming an extension of our identity, making it easier to transfer our personal data from our mobile phones than from anywhere else. And when it arrives, fifth generation [5G] technology standards will bring with it a big shift in video capability, which will also influence the future of digital identity verification with thinner SDK wrappers. more seamless sessions, better customer experiences and safer platforms. 

  • Positive friction: checking both customer experience and safety boxes. Absolute “frictionless” IDV is a notion of the past; the future entails a combination of a convenient customer experience with safety. The item or feature that accomplishes both simultaneously will forge its way into the future. Businesses and vendors need to make online life simpler, more efficient and safer for everyone. In terms of speed, identity verification processes need to operate at a sub-5-second processing time. In fact, consumers are more open to business that use AI if it makes life easier for them. We also predict a rebirth in manual review as a second touch to help drive approval rates and the overall customer experience (which will eradicate the costly need for businesses to build their own in-house document review teams). (Read more about "positive friction" here.)

  • Biometrics: If you ask most people, the reason they love Touch ID on their iPhone is because the feature makes mobile actions fast, easy and convenient. But Touch ID checks the safety box as well. As I just mentioned, if a feature can marry customer experience with safety, the future will see success. Customers are embracing face compare in regard to continuous verification flows because it’s less burdensome than verifying a government-issued ID (and don’t forget, it’s more cost effective to businesses). 

The ability to verify an individual’s identity anywhere on the globe is already becoming a mandatory expectation. We’ll most likely see the implementation of a transferable digital identity as the digital world globalizes alongside marketplaces who integrate services like delivery, payments, contract handling, insurance and finance. Users will be able to arrange everything if not with one click then at least from one hand. Smart technology — assisted by machine learning and artificial intelligence — will facilitate the process. Customer-centric, secure technologies, and fruitful relationships with vendors as well as trustworthy relationships among the business and consumer communities, will determine the progress of the ever-evolving IDV space. (Find out how we've partnered with other businesses to help them build better relationships with their customers and combat fraud.) 

Whether our future IDs are encrypted forms of our birth certificates or a government-issued barcode activated by our retina, no one knows. But this digital age demands fast, secure and convenient. Companies who can deliver on this trifecta will be the ones to make life simpler, more efficient and safer for everyone.