While the PIN has been at the heart of best-practice data security for decades, it is no longer the most secure available mode for transactions. The multitude of login details, passwords, and PIN numbers required for financial service platforms can represent a significant barrier to engagement for many marginalised groups.
Vince Graziani is the CEO of IDEX Biometrics, a fingerprint identification technology company. Speaking to The Fintech Times, Graziani discusses how biometrics can play an essential role in digital ID, significantly limiting exposure to potential fraud and criminality.
Over the last few years, digital ID has evolved significantly from a security-focused concept into a critical digital tool for customer engagement and delivering personalised digital experiences. Today, consumer demand has changed as a result of the pandemic. Organisations now need to deliver services that are quick, easy, digital, and secure.
Digital identification, or digital ID, represents information that is stored in a digital format to prove the identity of a person or an organisation. In the age of digital transformation and increasing demand for data privacy, digital ID can help create trust between the customer and the company. All the while, allowing companies to adapt the way they execute their processes.
The number of users of digital identity documents is growing globally. According to a study from Juniper Research, it is expected that this number will increase by more than 50 per cent over the next few years: from 4.2 billion in 2022 to 6.5 billion in 2026.
While the evolution of digital ID has provided businesses with the ability to meet these demands and ensure robust access control, it is yet to be fully optimised.
No more PIN… the journey to digital transformation
Users have long been accustomed to PINs. Personal identifying numbers: assigned to an individual by a bank or an organisation to authorise transactions. A more complex and seemingly secure PIN is often difficult to remember, especially as users set up more accounts. Digital ID’s added layer of both convenience and security initiated a shift away from PINs.
Despite digital ID being deployed to aid data privacy concerns, it isn’t entirely protected from hacking and fraudulent misuse. Today, 84 per cent of consumers care about the privacy of their data. They want more control over how their data is being used. This privacy concern calls into question digital ID’s trustworthiness in its current state.
When data is stored on servers or in the cloud, hacking risks increase as well as the potential for identity theft and harassment. When customers are exposed to fraud, organisations run the risk of losing consumer trust and damaging their reputations.
If digital ID holds the key to more convenient and secure transactions but has inherent security risks through current deployment methods, is there a suitable alternative?
Enter, biometric smart cards.
As an industry, biometrics has evolved with the direct purpose of allaying data privacy concerns around tracking, monitoring, or owning data. And, as such, a host of key players are realising its benefits and subsequently developing biometric cards that integrate fingerprint sensors into smart cards.
Once a user places their fingerprint onto the sensor, the image is captured, encrypted and stored only on the card. Security is also built into the sensor, meaning the fingerprint image is encrypted and cannot be hacked or manipulated. This offline solution means data is not transferred onto bank servers or the cloud.
Ultimately, biometric smart cards represent a shift in data ownership – one that empowers users to store their private information with total agency and control, and in a way that minimises risk of data being retrieved illegally, thanks to its encryption.
In essence, it represents digital ID 2.0… and, more broadly, the death of the PIN.
Bridging the digital divide for an inclusive digital economy
The need for an upgrade to digital ID’s current role in the global digital economy is made even clearer when looking at the situation through an inclusivity lens.
Despite efforts to improve levels of financial inclusion, barriers that prevent access to financial services for communities across the globe remain unsettlingly common. Marginalised segments of society continue to be impacted, including low-income minorities, refugees, and those suffering from dementia, literacy challenges, or impaired vision.
The PIN has been at the heart of best-practice data security for decades. However, it is no longer the most secure solution. The multitude of login details, passwords, and PIN numbers required for financial service platforms can represent a significant barrier to engagement for many of these marginalised groups. Also, a lack of familiarity with mobile banking applications means that older people may need greater reassurance of their security in an online environment.
Digital ID has the potential to reverse many of these systemic challenges, removing barriers faced by those with limited access to the digital economy. Examples already being seen around the world include the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development project. This recently pledged to bolster Nigeria’s digital economy by enabling people living with disabilities in the country to have their biometrics captured. As a result, the inclusion gap is closing, and access to identification is becoming democratised.
Similarly, in Europe, a consortium of six countries – Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia and Norway – led by the Nordic-Baltic eID Project (NOBID), is set to embark on a new pan-European digital wallet pilot. The digital wallet will allow citizens across the continent to verify their ID, access public and private services and store sensitive digital documents in one secure location.
What’s next for Digital ID?
Digital ID is already a step forward for consumers around the globe who require universal access to secure transactions. Biometrics represents one step further in this evolution. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, demand for biometrics technology is growing across various industries and sectors. Globally, the biometrics market was valued at $39.62billion in 2021. It is now projected to reach $136.18billion by 2031.
The convenience, security, and inclusivity of this mode of digital ID are more than just the final nail in PIN’s coffin. Its broad set of use cases spans access control, payments, crypto, and digital wallets. All with the knowledge that a person’s entry to these domains is dictated by their own identity, and nothing else. No remembering, no passcodes, no leeway for that person’s credentials to fall into the wrong hands.
Society is heading towards a safer and more convenient way to prove our identity that also helps to eradicate fraud and puts the power of identity back into the hands of the consumer.