Innovator Q&A: Angeli Jain of YouTube talks about user identity verification

For platforms user identity verification is a critical step to customer onboarding to maintain a level of security within the platform. She explains why that when you require multi-factor authentication for your onboarding process that you educate your users. Read her thoughts on facial recognition technology and the importance of maintaining a smooth user experience for the verification and authentication process to maintain a certain degree of security and trust when authenticating a user's identity. 

Angeli Jain is Director of Product Management at YouTube and previously oversaw global product trust and safety at Airbnb. Angeli talked with Mike Saski, leader of Mitek Systems global customer success team about why continued growth and success depends on effective digital identity verification, especially during her time at Airbnb. 

An early leader in the sharing economy, Airbnb is a digital marketplace for short-term property rental with over 150 million users. The platform has about 6 million listings at any one time, including lodgings available in more than 80,000 cities and 190 countries worldwide. Airbnb has also expanded into listings for organized activities and multi-day expert-led excursions.

Why is identity verification so important to businesses like yours today?
Angeli: The identity verification process has always been important from a regulatory point of view, especially for financial services and other businesses where money is changing hands. ID verification has also been important for fraud detection and preventing identity theft . So these are essential aspects of security for businesses like Airbnb as well—users need to be able to trust a transaction they make on our platform like they would one they make with a bank.

A new user verification challenge created by the sharing economy is that we need to facilitate trust between people who’ve never met and are often a world apart. So we’re currently focusing a lot of effort on innovating in this space by creating proxies that will help build trust. Also, the sharing economy requires a bridge between the digital and physical worlds— user online identities and offline identities have to match up. So that’s another place where we need innovative identity verification solutions. And, finally, digital identity verification is key to personalization efforts, and we’re going to see a lot more happening in this area as well.

Are we seeing a fundamental shift in how platform businesses are thinking about trust and safety?
Yes, we’re clearly moving into an era where tech companies realize they need to take more responsibility for what happens on their platforms. Trust and safety is no longer a back-office function, it’s becoming top-of-mind for CEOs and other C-level executives. In fact, it’s seen as a growth lever: Build trust and safety into your platform and brand if you want to stay competitive. If you don’t, you’re likely to lose your user base.

So with platforms building in more measures to verify users, is that changing user experience?
In some places, yes. When I think about ID verification, I think of it as layers of defenses, and you want to balance friction and convenience at each of those layers. In a way, ID validation is like an ROI equation: How much friction do we want to add at this layer and at this moment in the customer journey given how much value it returns in preventing fraud and identity theft on the platform, safeguarding brand and reputation, and keeping users secure in their experience?

When it comes to identity verification, we also look at the equation from the user’s point of view. Is a little added friction here giving users an adequate return in terms of feeling safer and more confident? And an important factor in this user experience equation, we’re finding, is transparency and communication. For example, liveness detection when users are taking a selfie for face comparison with the picture on their ID: If we communicate to them why we’re asking them to blink three times—because we’re actually seeing a lot of doctored selfies—it changes how users feel about what otherwise might be seen as just more friction. So with each layer of defense and moment in the customer journey, Airbnb is weighing the added value for trust and safety against the added friction of both the user verification action and the communication involved in helping users understand why we’re asking them for it.

Learn more about Mitek's identity verification software and technology behind our various identity verification methods and identity verification solutions.