The power of Digital ID

Robin Tombs, CEO at digital identity provider Yoti, explains the power of a digital ID
Robin Tombs
A woman is facially scanned by her phone

With the pandemic shifting many businesses and more operations online, it’s fair to say that we’ve witnessed a number of lasting changes to how companies do business. Today, you can book personal doctors appointments, workouts and parents evenings online. You can even experience virtual house viewings too. 

We’re also starting to see the roll out of more digital services in the professional world. Most recently there have been changes to the way Right to Work checks are conducted. During lockdown, the government adjusted the way these important checks could be completed - with identity documents provided digitally and checked via video call - a system that became incredibly popular with employers. In April this year, new legislation came into effect, meaning employers could outsource Right to Work checks to a trusted and secure certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP). This process now enables employers to ensure that new hires have a right to work in the UK quickly and easily online, via a Digital ID app (such as the Post Office’s EasyID) or in person at a Post Office branch. Right to Rent and DBS checks can be completed this way too. 

With more businesses moving online, regulators are increasingly asking companies to retain evidence of different Know Your Customer (KYC) checks for the ever-growing number of online customers. These secure digital checks are a way of identifying and verifying a customer’s identity and again, can be carried out by trusted and certified third parties. 

Digital ID is gaining traction

Digital identity verification, in its simplest terms, is a way for people to share their personal information online. Instead of having to present physical ID documents, such as a passport or driving licence, they can share details, such as their name and date of birth, digitally. This not only offers a more private and secure solution, as there’s no need to scan, photocopy or even send valuable documents in the post, but it also speeds up the identification process, improves the customer experience and removes geographical boundaries. 

With a reusable Digital ID app, individuals have their ID on your phone and their data in their hands. Their personal data is securely encrypted in their Digital ID app which only they can access and unlock (with their unique biometrics). They have greater transparency over what data they are sharing with a business and only they can share it - better protecting them from the risks of identity theft and fraud. 

With a Digital ID, individuals can just share specific information too, such as their age or “over 18”. This is much better than showing their whole ID document or filling in a web form which is asking for everything from their address to their mother’s maiden name. This data minimisation approach is better for everyone: individuals are more protected and businesses are not holding onto more data than they need. A number of businesses have already embraced this new way of checking customers’ details - including UK cinemas who accept Digital ID as proof of age for age-restricted films. This saves young people from carrying their passport to the cinema - something many parents will be relieved about. 

This modern form of ID is also much more inclusive. Believe it or not, not everyone has access to a photo ID - a sad fact for over one billion people on the planet. There are people who may not have access to their document for a range of reasons; leaving them excluded from accessing essential goods and services. There’s also the 400,000 British passports that are reported lost or stolen each year. Not only is losing those documents frustrating, but it’s also a hassle (and cost) for people to replace. It puts them at much greater risk of identity theft and fraud - which is on the rise with over 226,000 cases recorded in the last year. 

The time for action is now, not later

Identity and age verification play a pivotal role in keeping our society safe. If you know someone is the right age you can prevent underage sales or entry and ensure you give people an age-appropriate experience. If you know who you are dealing with, it creates greater trust between parties, and businesses can start to mitigate the risks of fraud. 

As the government presses forward with its plans to digitise more processes and more businesses embrace this new standard of verification, expect to see more applications for Digital ID. From financial services, healthcare, retail and beyond, the possibilities for Digital ID are far reaching. 

It could be in the form of safeguarding your business in Challenge 25 circumstances when selling alcohol or other age-restricted goods. Or it could be in age-gating your online business (social network, dating site or gambling network) to provide a more age-appropriate experience. Or you could fast track remote onboarding services to provide a smoother customer experience. 

Whilst legislation might be a key driver for digital identity adoption right now, it’s not the only reason more businesses and consumers are looking at this technology. There’s a growing desire from businesses for better experiences for their customers and this technology can speed up processes that historically have taken up significant time and effort. Consumers too are demanding more privacy, protection and are looking for ways to make their lives easier. Isn’t it time you caught up with them? Digital ID might just be the next best thing you invest in.   

Written by
Robin Tombs
CEO of Yoti
November 17, 2022