Expert Insight: Fixing the broken identity system
John Abbott, Chief Business Officer at Yoti, discusses how digital ID systems can make the world safer and easier to navigate for all
Recently, the Communications and Digital Committee welcomed the new Online Safety Bill proposals, but warned that the draft legislation is “flawed” in relation to keeping children off porn sites. Numerous children’s charities have come together to request that the new manifestos are delivered. It’s the right call. There are clear technical methods available now that can provide age verification to ensure that adult content remains for adults.
We all connect with digital products and services in the real world and online every day, yet the reliance on paper ID documents to prove who we are is still widespread. In a climate of rising identity fraud and social exclusion — 40% of Brits don’t own a driving license, and 26% don’t have a passport — these issues are becoming magnified.
Fixing these problems through digital identity technologies to help people prove their age and identity in a faster, simpler and safer way makes sense, though understandably there are some hesitations from some over how that data is collected and used at a later point.
As a founding member of the B Corp movement, we know that there are ways to build assurance. Take our secure platform for example. Our app is free for individuals and we generate revenue by charging businesses to check the identity details of their customers. We put customers in full control of their information, with personal details encrypted into unreadable data that can only be unlocked by them using their Yoti app. Nobody else can access or decipher it, not even our staff. We don’t desire to, but even if we did we cannot mine and sell user data to third parties or share any details without approval.
Transforming everyday processes with digital ID
Digital ID technology is already in use across the UK in various forms and Yoti is the trusted digital identity platform for the likes of the Government of Jersey, whose newly appointed official identity provider supports their eGov initiative to get more services online, such as filing a tax return, registering to vote and accessing the citizen portal.
In the retail space, attacks on store staff are on an alarming rise, as shown in the British Retail Consortium’s 2020 Crime report. This is why we’re taking part in the government sandbox to enhance the likelihood of preventing young people under 18 years old from accessing alcohol and reduce violence and abuse towards workers in licensed premises when challenging young people for ID. Additionally, by introducing automated age checks, staff save time and can be confident that only over age customers can purchase age-restricted items.
How will this work?
We’ve integrated with the world’s largest checkout providers to allow customers to prove their age in two secure ways. The first is age estimation, and the second is the free and reusable Yoti ID app. Both solutions are built with speed and data minimisation at their core.
Age estimation technology: Here, customers just look into the camera on their own device or a device operated by an organisation, and their age is estimated against a set threshold. There’s no registration, passport, driving license, app, or phone number required and once age is estimated as over or under the threshold, the image is deleted and the user approved or rejected. If a user fails the age estimation threshold, they are prompted to verify their age with the Yoti app instead. It is a facial analysis system, not facial recognition because it doesn’t identify people in any way.
The 18+ age check via the Yoti app: Individuals create a Yoti ID once and can then share attributes from their digital identity with multiple organisations and industries, such as nightclubs, online gambling sites and supermarkets. They simply scan a QR code to share their 18+ attribute, no other personal details are provided. The app already has 10 million consumer downloads and is growing by thousands every day.
We’ve already performed over 500 million age estimation checks and offer unparalleled accuracy across all skin tones, ages and genders. Human age estimation rates sit at around 4.7 years of accuracy while our technology is within 1.5 at the key age-check age groups. This has serious implications for those who rely on Challenge 25 as the threshold to ensure alcohol isn’t sold to those under 18.
Helping young people online
Age verification is also proving popular with social networks. Global social media platform Yubo is using our technology to protect children in its chat forums. It performs checks on users to ensure that they are old enough (or not too old) for the people they meet online. If there is any doubt that the user is using a false age, they are required to prove their age with Yoti.
We’ve also recently partnered with NSPCC and Internet Watch Foundation to launch a tool to help young people get nude images or videos removed from the internet. ‘Report Remove’ can be used by any young person under 18 to report a nude image or video of themselves that has appeared online and the IWF will then review this content and work to have it removed if it breaks the law.
With the government keen to unlock the digital economy, improve access to services, safeguard privacy and combat fraud through expanding the use of digital identities, there is a strong case for building age verification into the Online Safety Bill. Building trust as we go is of particular importance and we’d urge everyone to look for privacy-preserving solutions to resolve many of the everyday problems our communities are experiencing.