Businesses are becoming more mobile and more digital, which leads to huge improvements for consumers. However, as customers are required to entrust more and more personal information to a digitised company, they increasingly want reassurances that their information is safe and used in a correct manner.
The challenges of establishing digital identity and then also protecting that identity are being addressed in innovative ways that will provide structure and safety as the world increasingly goes online.
Problems with Online Identity
Establishing identity online is a dilemma for online businesses. The easier you make it to log in, the easier it is to fake your identity in order to scam the system. If you make it harder to prove identity, you risk blocking legitimate users and potentially reducing your customer base, as they get frustrated and leave. Businesses lose customers by asking them to fill in online registration forms, but have no other choice if they want to keep their information secure and unique to that user.
Even the simple issue of passwords can become a dilemma – if a customer keeps the same password for a lengthy amount of time it becomes less secure. However, if customers are required to frequently change passwords, they either opt for very simple options which are easy to guess, or run the risk of forgetting their password.
Mobile Connect is a solution that has been proposed by the GSMA to tackle the problem of verifying identity online but still improving the ease of access to digital services. Mobile Connect matches the user to their phone number in a single verification process that is authenticated by their mobile operator. Once verified, the user will be able to access other secure sites using their mobile with their identity pre-confirmed, which should allow them quick access.
Users have a simple and safe way to log in to Mobile Connect that doesn’t require multiple passwords and usernames. Once they are verified, the only information they have to provide to other businesses is specific to that particular activity and transaction. Mobile operators need to verify identity anyway, so the extra steps of authentication that Mobile Connect would require are not difficult for the customer and will greatly improve their user experience on third party sites.
Online banking is a good example of a digital service needing thorough verification, with most common banking tasks now able to be completed online. Complex verification systems make it easier to block fraudsters but are frustrating for the majority of users, who are legitimately trying to access banking functions. For the banks, the challenge is to make internet banking quick, simple and user friendly, but decrease the potential for fraud.
A large percentage of support calls are for assistance with verifying identity, including lost passwords. Having Mobile Connect verification would save banks money, and theoretically reduce wait times for customers calling for assistance. Mobile Connect can be tailored with the banks existing security procedures to ensure safe transactions.
Government services have become more and more digitised, and can require extensive log-in procedures. In Australia, the my.gov.au website has attempted to consolidate multiple government agencies into a single website, such as Centrelink, Medicare, the ATO, and many more. However, remembering your log-in and authentication details, as well as having a long, difficult process to verify your identity for every service you wish to connect, makes the site difficult to access.
Mobile Connect promises to reduce data breaches and improve ease of access to a range of government services by pre-verifying users who can then access services with very minimal further authentication. With many people failing to create a MyGov account or choosing not to link services out of frustration with the verification process, a system like Mobile Connect could ease phone help lines and improve access to services.
The need for a simple, universal identity check will grow as our world becomes increasingly digitised. Whether a system like Mobile Connect becomes standard or another solution is created, both businesses and users will benefit from the easier, more secure system. Getting customers to trust in a mobile-based verification system and getting companies to agree on an industry standard might take a while longer, but for positive impact on users and businesses it’s worth the wait.