Martin Wilson, CEO of digital identity network He discusses whether banks are the solution to the UK’s identity crisis.
The topic of digital identity made headlines again at the end of 2021 as the UK introduced the digital covid card which was met with serious concerns about data privacy, civil liberties and the introduction of the national identity scheme by stealth.
What many people don’t realize is that they actually give away their identity data online every day. They painfully and repeatedly fill in the same details for name, address, email, phone number and passwords, scan documents, take embarrassing selfies, and share sensitive personal information.
If they think of websites that track their activity and store this data, they visualize images of popular actors as disguised strangers on the dark web. But all kinds of websites, including social media platforms, have a massive amount of data about each of us.
Getting online is the new wild west as most of us don’t know where this data goes or how it is used. It is estimated that we all have more than 200 digital identities on the web right now without any control over what this data is used for or who has access to it.
I think people should be able to safely and easily prove their identity online, with full control over their private data and prevent access by unauthorized third parties.
The best way to achieve this is with a reliable digital identity assistance tool that allows people to prove their identity in seconds. This will enable them to check their ages, create new accounts and log into their favorite accounts quickly and securely, knowing that only they can access their own accounts, with full control over their data and a record of who owns it.
Not only will it remove annoyances like logging into accounts and constantly resetting passwords, but it will also address bigger issues like the fraud epidemic that has seen criminals steal 753 million pounds in the first half of 2021.
Businesses will benefit too, as they will be able to bring on new customers quickly, and secure their knowledge they say, reducing fraud risk and eliminating the need for manual age, address or identity checks.
But the UK is far behind in providing such a service. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, this trusted tool is provided by a platform linked to banks in those regions.
There is a golden opportunity for UK banks to be at the forefront in providing a way for people to safely identify themselves online. Our research shows that they remain among the most trusted institutions as custodians of the things we value; ahead of other third-party providers such as the post office, social media, or even the government. In addition, they are the only institutions that have already certified the majority of UK citizens – 98% of UK adults have bank accounts whose identity details have already been verified.
The infrastructure to provide this service is already in place thanks to the banks 1.5 billion pounds investment in open banking. By supporting a trusted platform, banks can easily and quickly provide a secure and reliable way for people to identify themselves online while protecting their privacy and civil liberties and avoiding the national identity scheme at the same time.
They will enhance the role of banks as custodians of trust, and be a force for good by helping businesses and consumers tackle fraud and build new sources of revenue. Moreover, they can start seeing the return on their investment in open banking.
If we can engage banks and businesses and build a brand that the general public can trust, we can create a ubiquitous digital identity utility that protects people’s data and makes it easy for them to prove their identity online.