Different versions of our identities

Identity isn’t what it used to be. Not only do we have different versions of our identities for different contexts – think ID document, passport and driver’s licence numbers all being different and multiply that by numerous online user names but we also now enter the metaverse world of avatars and new “skins”.

Article by Arthur Goldstuck, founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za.

On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) has come along to provide the perfect tools to replicate identity. Little wonder that identity verification has become a perilous minefield of identity theft, fraud and fakery.

Traditional authentication methods can no longer prove that individuals are who they say they are. The need and demand for clear solutions that establish a single, trusted identity in the digital age.

Biometrics, like fingerprints, iris scans and even vein detection, is an obvious approach, but we were initially too hi-tech to offer a universal solution. Now they are coming into their own.

For those who have been marginalised before – as in the banking space – biometrics provide far more convenient access and verification says Lance Fanaroff, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of iiDENTIFii, a biometric digital authentication startup.

It also reduces the need to travel long distances, not only for banking but also for distance learning. For example, students in remote areas can access online learning while providers can be sure that the students sitting in exams are who they say they are – at a level of certainty greater than in the “real” world.

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Biometrics as means of authentication

The key to the wider acceptance of biometrics as means of authentication is the pervasiveness of smart devices with cameras, as well as fingerprint identification becoming standard on a broader range of handsets.

According to Fanaroff, technology has driven the change but is helped along by organisations adopting a shared interest in secure identification, and the availability of more databases against which biometric data can be validated.

Previously many organisations had to maintain their own identification and verification processes, which was costly, imprecise and prone to exploitation”

The benefits multiply when one considers the prevalence of AI facial generators and “deep fakes” that produce authentic-looking videos of a prominent person speaking. AI is also the antidote.

“This is the next frontier”, says Fanaroff. “Our technology extracts 3-D facial recognition, which provides biometric liveness by simply taking a selfie, cross-matching the data points with those drawn from an identity document and finally, matching the data with government databases to provide a triangulation of trust.”

“Any business that needs to verify if it is in business with the right person, a real person and right at that time, needs to be able to assure the genuine presence of an individual online. So that what we’re able to take biometric authentication into a 30-second reality check.”

Ensuring authentication

iiDENTIFii’s algorithms and patented light technology are also tailored to ethnic groups, ensuring authentication regardless of geography and ethnicity. It thus meets stringent requirements of regulatory acronyms like Know Your Customer (KYC), The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication- Related Information Act (RICA), Fica and AML.

It is integrated into Standard Banks DigiMe, launched two years ago to create a safe and secure banking experience on a mobile device. deployment of such solutions is not without its challenges.

“Many companies may have implemented inadequate solutions and left their key assets, their data and intellectual property, vulnerable and at risk. It is well known that the pandemic forced a significant change in many industries, including financial services, telecommunications, health and telemedicine, education, gaming and crypto – all of which hold valuable information that is priceless in the hands of certain individuals.”

The information itself needs to be protected and then the identity of individuals associated with that information must be protected. Ultimately privacy and security are inextricably tied to identity management.

This article was published in the Sunday Times and is available online to Sunday Times subscribers.

Posted: March 7th, 2022