Real World Identity

How far do you have to go when checking your customer’s identity?

This morning I read an article on the Danish Computerworld telling about a ferry line now dropping a solution for checking if the passenger using an access card is in fact the paying customer by using a lightweight fingerprint stored on the card. The reason for dropping was by the way due to the cost of upgrading the solution compared to future business value and not any renewed privacy concerns.

I have been involved in some balancing of real world alignment versus fitness for use and privacy in public transport as well as described in the post Real World Alignment. Here it was the question about using a national identification number when registering customers in public transportation.

As citizens of the world we are today used to sometimes having our iris scanned when flying as our passport holds our unique identification that way. Some of the considerations around using biometrics in general public registration were discussed in the post Citizen ID and Biometrics.

In my eyes, or should we say iris, there is no doubt that we will meet an increasing demand of confirming and registering our identification around. Doing that in the fight against terrorism has been there for long. Regulatory compliance will add to that trend as told in the post Know Your Foreign Customer, mentioning the consequences of the FATCA regulation and other regulations.

When talking about identity resolution in the data quality realm we usually deal with strings of text as names, addresses, phone numbers and national identification numbers. Things that reflect the real world, but isn’t the real world.

We will however probably adapt more facial recognition as examined in the post The New Face of Data Matching. We do have access to pictures in the cloud, as you may find your B2C customers picture on FaceBook and your B2B customer contacts picture on LinkedIn or other similar services. It’s still not the real world itself, but a bit closer than a text string. And of course the picture could be false or outdated and thus more suitable for traction on a dating site.

Fingerprint is maybe a bit old fashioned, but as said, more and more biometric passports are issued and the technology for iris and retinal scanning is used around for access control even on mobile devices.

In the story starting this post the business value for reinvesting in a biometric solution wasn’t deemed positive. But looking from the print on my fingers down to my hand lines I foresee some more identity resolution going beyond name and address strings into things closer to the real world as facial recognition and biometrics.

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2 thoughts on “Real World Identity

  1. Doug Newdick 21st March 2012 / 06:46

    Hi Henrik,

    I work on exactly these issues professionally. From my perspective managing and confirming identity is a very tricky business, and should be done with a clear understanding of the business benefit. When talking about private enterprise, the drivers are often about reducing the risk of fraud. or compliance (e.g. meeting Anti-money-laundering legislation). When we talk about public sector the benefits are harder to quantify, but are usually more important. There we are often talking access to personal or sensitive data or valuable services. In these cases we need to understand why would we want to check that the person is who they say they are, versus the value in understanding that it is an authorised person (whoever they are) that is accessing services. As we transact online more and more, online identity verification will become more and more central, and careful amangement of the information and processes will become more and more crucial. Businesses will need to understand the subtleties and complexities of managing identity and identity information. In the case above I can quite understand their position. What benefit does the company get from knowing that the card-presenter is the same person who purchased the card? Probably very little, they will reduce a small amount fo fraud (that probably didn’t actually affect them anyway), and they will potentially inconvenience many customers.


    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 21st March 2012 / 08:41

      Doug, thanks for the hands on comment. I agree that online identity verification is an important issue as well.

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