Mind the “Trust” Gap: Bridging Physical & Digital Identity
March 3, 2021
Despite ongoing digital transformation, many people still rely on physical, government-issued identification documents. The move that we are in the midst of, from a physical world to a digital one, has created a “trust gap” in the use and validation of identity documents and identity. The gap is the perceived difference between the physical checking of documents with the document holder present and relying on entirely digital means of checking identification.
Identities can be falsified, and the market for fake identification cards is steadily increasing. While a majority of fake IDs are often used in relation to underage entry to licensed premises, criminals can also use these false identities to carry out activities where proving identity is essential. This includes nefarious acts such as such as financial crime, human and drug trafficking and even terrorist activity.
Real or Counterfeit?
Counterfeiters are known to use genuine licenses or identification documents to create templates for false identification cards. Their technology and skill has even evolved to a point in which they can simulate laser engraving, making their counterfeits exceedingly convincing. The success of counterfeits can be attributed to 5 root causes:
- Public awareness: many people do not realize that there is an issue with the falsification of identification cards, and even if they do, they are apathetic toward it. There is a lack of substantial knowledge and consequentially no demand for change.
- Constraints to adopt: Governments work at a methodical pace and are under political constraints that inhibit their ability to adopt change for their identification documents.
- Slow evolution of standards: Unfortunately, the baseline for standards is not managing to stay ahead of the technology used by counterfeiters. Consequently, counterfeits are becoming all the more convincing.
- Price evaluation: Low price constraints that many governments operate under do not allow for advanced security features that would be useful in combating the issue of counterfeit documents.
- Lack of integrated design and advanced security features: Price constraints mean governments often do not tend to ask about which design and security features to incorporate within their documents to make them harder to falsify.
The magnitude of the trust gap that needs to be bridged differs from sector to sector and purpose to purpose. For instance, the gap may vary between an individual applying for a $500 unsecured loan and a $300,000 mortgage.
The key foundation in building trust is the provision of timely, accurate and transparent intelligence on fake documentation discovery across all private and public sector organizations responsible for checking identity. This, however, is a huge challenge and requires multi-party efforts.
What is intelligence sharing and how can it help bridge the trust gap?
From governments to public sector entities, it is crucial to exchange intelligence, information, data and knowledge to push for a wider understanding of the risks associated with physical and digital identities. Where intelligence on false identities is shared, it can be effective in detecting, and more importantly preventing crime. Nonetheless, the sharing of this type of intelligence is fragmented and must be significantly improved.
Customer confidence is often more important than tackling enablers of fraud, particularly when it comes to identity crime. In the UK, this could be due to the fact that the central government is mainly focused on developing a digital strategy while largely ignoring the current threat from physical documents. And although the future is digital, we are generations away from being truly digital. This means there needs to be a larger focus on the threat that persists from physical documents.
Companies and governments must be transparent about the data they use and evaluate and make this information accessible. Governments and industries must work together to realize the threat posed by fake identities and organized criminality and encourage education on the matter to bring about change. They key to bridging the trust gap is trust; however, this can only be gained through transparency and information sharing by all parties.