SSN is Dead. The Future is Facial.

October 20, 2017 Parker Crockford

SSN is Dead. The Future is Facial.

The Social Security Number is dead.

But don’t take our word for it – take the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator’s. “I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness”, he said at a recent Washington conference. “Every time we use the Social Security Number, we put it at risk”.

The Equifax hack proves it. For years, Social Security Numbers (SSN) have been the key to verifying someone’s identity. Now, they’re just another commodity on the dark web. They can't be renewed. They can't be replaced. And worst of all, consumers have no ability to control the use of their identity to gain access to the services they need -- from banking, through to car rental and healthcare.

It’s time for something new. But what?

Biometrics-based identity verification could be the answer.

In an online world, your digital identity is lots of different things – from your IP address to your Facebook profile. In the past, it was your SSN that bound all those elements altogether and enabled you to prove who you were. But in a post-Equifax era, when that unique identifier has been leaked, it’s now a whole lot less reliable. What you can still count on is your face.

Businesses are increasingly looking to biometrics, and facial recognition in particular, to prove you are who you say you are. It’s a truly unique identifier that gives far more certainty than a number – or even a fingerprint. For smart fraudsters, it’s not that hard to lift your prints (you leave them on almost everything you touch, after all), but it’s a lot tricker to fake your face. That’s why the likes of Apple are moving away from TouchID and towards facial recognition. It’s also what inspired our new facial liveness feature, which we’ll be demo-ing at Vegas M2020.

Onfido’s facial liveness feature proves people’s identities by prompting them to film themselves repeating numbers and performing randomised movements. Our machine learning technology then compares the face in the video against the face on their identity document. It beats asking for a static image of a face, which can be cheated by simply taking a photo of a photo. It even beats liveness tests based on eyeball tracking, which can be outwitted by a fraudster holding a photo with the eyeholes cut out in front of their face. Facial Check with Video means that identity verification checks can’t be spoofed – unlike the SSN.

As banks and financial institutions push to improve their security measures in the wake of the Equifax scandal, new biometric technologies are the obvious solution. In fact, we think they could replace credit bureaus altogether.

SSN is dead. The future is facial.


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