Identity verification: how does it work, and is my data secure?

Have you ever been asked to take a selfie when signing up to a new bank?

This is known as identity verification. From opening a new bank account, to applying for a new driver’s license, it’s becoming an increasingly common way of authenticating someone when they sign up to a new service.

However, with 1.4 million cases of identity theft recorded last year, identity verification plays an important role in preventing the use of fake names and addresses and protecting personal information online.

So how does it work?

Identity verification is an authentication process that checks if someone is who they say they are. There are a number of different ways you could be asked to verify your identity, from scanning your passport to snapping a quick selfie. However, this will depend on the service you’re signing up for.

For example, when you open a new account on Airbnb, you may be asked to submit a photo of your ID. This can include a passport, driver’s license or identity card. Once scanned, the service analyses the alphanumeric data and other unique information displayed in the document, in order to check that it matches the details associated with the new account.

Other services like Monzo could ask you to take a selfie or a short video to confirm your identity. This works by analysing your face’s geometry, and matching the video to the ID document you’ve provided to confirm that it belongs to you.

How do I know if my data is secure?

While your personal information will largely be used to verify your identity, it can still be used for other purposes, like developing and managing products and services, or to detect fraud.

However, most services that collect your data have a series of policies in place to keep your data secure. For example, Lloyds Bank have a privacy notice that protects your personal data from being shared unless it is absolutely necessary – for example, when it is in the interest of public safety. Services like Monzo have also confirmed that the videos are solely taken to verify new accounts, and are only seen by a restricted number of employees.

As well as having a strict privacy policy in place, services like Airbnb also encrypt your data using an encryption tool called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This converts your information into a series of complex numbers, meaning that even your data is shared, it cannot be read by hackers or the general public.

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