Digital Identity’s New Frontier

After the world went digital last year, the digital identity crisis began taking on new life. Most fintech players are involved in digital identity in some way, and Experian is no exception.

We recently spoke with Eric Haller, Experian’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Identity, Fraud & DataLabs, to get an idea of how digital identity is changing.

In the interview below, Haller offers his expert opinion and shares how enabling technologies such as AI and the blockchain are impacting how firms think about digital identity.

Digital identity has been on the radar of financial services firms since the dawn of online services. How has this past year of digital acceleration changed how firms approach digital identity?

Eric Haller: The pandemic has shifted segments of the population to the web that weren’t as engaged online as they were prior to the pandemic. For this segment, shopping “face to face” felt safer in many ways. But with a biological threat surfacing, the risks of shopping in the physical world traded places for online risks. All of a sudden, online services seemed much safer.

This plays out in our research where we saw a 20% increase in online shopping this past year with 43% of consumers believing they will even increase their online activity over the next year. And with this shift, 55% of consumers say security is their top priority in a digital experience.

Tell us about the role that AI plays in enhancing digital identity verification for banks.

Haller: To validate someone’s digital identity, literally hundreds of data elements are evaluated to assess whether an individual is a bot, an imposter or the person they claim to be. And all this data is collected, analyzed, and acted on in milliseconds. AI allows for these complicated links and behaviors to be tied together in a variety of ways quickly, efficiently, and accurately to assign the correct conclusion to each customer.

If everything goes well for a legitimate customer, the experience is smooth sailing and both the consumer and merchant conduct “fraud free” business. Most often, there is no fraud. It only happens a very small percentage of the time. But it’s important that if it is a bot or an imposter, that the models in place are precise.

The blockchain seems like a valuable enabling technology when it comes to proving identity. Is this an idea you’ve seen gain popularity? Or is it more of just a fad?

Haller: The portability of a trusted identity in a digital ecosystem integrated with a blockchain could serve a lot of value for consumers and businesses. But it requires quite a bit of effort to get both those that want to share their identity and those willing to invest in accepting it participating in it.

If there were a lot of businesses that would accept a particular blockchain based ID, consumers would put in the effort to have on and use it. If there were a lot of consumers with it, businesses would put in the effort to invest and accept it.

Which side grows with scale first? There are many chasing this ideal. I wouldn’t characterize it as a fad — just very ambitious and challenging to achieve.

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