Let’s not treat identity verification as security theatre

Written by on January 16, 2017 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

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I’ve worked on identity verification in the UK, both from the customer side and now on the service provider side. Despite the rich data available to organisations to verify the identity of customers electronically, many still insist on seeing a passport or driving licence and some sort of proof of address.

I always find this security theatre somewhat curious because it’s clear that the people who take and copy these documents have no idea whether they are genuine or not; and why should they because they are not expert trained to examine documents and make a judgement on their authenticity. Having a copy ‘on file’ indicates they have taken steps to verify the identity of a customer but have they really addressed the business risk perspective?

In a recent article Dave Birch referred to the gas bill as “a uniquely trusted document” and he’s right; produce a paper (not self-printed) utility bill as proof of address and you’re good to go despite, as Dave points out, they can be purchased online for a small consideration (apparently for theatrical, educational or novelty purposes!).

The authenticity of these documents can be suspect but who even has a paper utility bill these days? All my utility bills, bank statements, tax documents are available to me (securely) online which is safer than bits of paper arriving through the post. It’s hardly a convenient way for consumers to verify their identity and address.

In the last few months I’ve had to ‘prove’ my identity to a bank, a solicitor and a couple of fintech startups. No prizes for guessing which two verified me seamlessly electronically. All businesses need to grasp the opportunity to improve their customer verification processes, both from a business risk perspective and from a customer experience perspective.

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @sevendotzero

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About the Author

About the Author: Jonathan has been working in payments for 18 years covering digital money, identity verification, telco billing, finance systems and consumer payment services; in both startup and corporate environments. Most recently, his experience is in developing alternative consumer payment models. "I'm passionate about removing the friction and frustration from payments. The convergence of payments and mobile technology and its impact on consumers fascinates me." You can follow Jonathan on Twitter at @sevendotzero .


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