What is digital identity verification?

According to the Cambridge English dictionary, identity is defined as ‘who a person is, or the qualities of a person that make them different from others.’ In other words, identity is a set of claims that can be used to describe a unique person. These can include permanent traits like date of birth, ethnicity and fingerprints. Or semi-permanent traits like height, weight, eye color and name.

Verification, or to verify something, proves or checks that something exists, or is true or correct. So identity verification is a process that validates a person’s identifying traits, and verifies them against a real, physical human. 

But where does the digital aspect come in? The word digital relates to computer technology, especially the internet. So when we talk about digital identity verification, do we mean the verification of a person’s digital identity, or the verification of a person’s identity using a digital solution

To answer this, we need to consider how things work in our current environment. After all, we are living in the age of the internet. The majority of the world is digitally connected. And this has created a shift in expectation. 

Users of online services are now connected 24/7 and gravitate towards simple digital user experiences. What was once known as ‘e-commerce’ is now simply ‘shopping’. And ‘online banking’ is now just ‘banking’. Similarly, many of the traits that make us unique are now stored as digital information. Not only do we have physical identity documents, we all also have digital credentials. 

So just as ‘online banking’ has become ‘banking’, can we picture a future in which ‘digital identity’ and ‘identity’ become one and the same? Identity verification, and the verification of a person’s digital identity, could become interchangeable. It’s an interesting question, and one that will be important when we’re looking ahead to the future of identity verification.

But for now, let us return to the idea of verifying identity in a digital environment. To truly understand what we mean by digital identity verification, we first need to understand how it developed. 

Why digital identity verification became necessary

Businesses in every industry today are moving to digital models. From banking, to shopping, to travel, companies are using digital infrastructure to connect people with what they want and need right now.

But many companies are still relying on physical identity checks. For example, face to face identity verification is still often required when you open a bank account, or apply for a mortgage, or a loan, and the list goes on. In today’s online world, this limits access, and doesn’t scale. Traditional methods of identity verification are no longer appropriate.

Digital identity verification is the natural progression. After all, it can speed up the process, and removes obstacles such as geographical boundaries. But it doesn’t come without its own risks and challenges.

If you aren’t verifying identity face to face, this intensifies the question that has existed for businesses since the start of the internet age. How do I know a person is who they claim to be? 

More online services means more consumer data. And the more data there is, the more we see it being mismanaged and misused. We hear about mass-scale data breaches on a regular basis. They seem to have become the norm, rather than the exception.

With so much data being leaked, it’s easy for fraudsters to mimic another individual, use a stolen credit card or take over an account. Fraudsters are taking advantage of the shift to digital to exploit vulnerabilities in identity verification solutions. Businesses are struggling with the problem of how to verify identity online.

So what can we take from this?

Using digital identity verification to your advantage

Well, we know that verifying a person’s true identity is the key to managing risk. Notice the emphasis here is placed on ‘true’. We need digital identity verification services that are advanced enough to verify a person is who they say they are.

And how do we do that? Well, that opens up another question. We can define what digital identity verification is—it’s a process that validates a person’s identifying traits and verifies they really are who they say they are, by using computer technology. 

But perhaps the question we should be asking is... what is effective digital identity verification? How do we use digital identity verification services to get reliable results?

They key is to consider all components when verifying identity. Find out why a remote document-first approach produces reliable results here.

For a comprehensive overview of digital identity, take a look at our Guide to digital identity verification: the technology and trends.

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