Stories and insights from the world of digital identity
Over the past few months our Social Purpose team has been busy carrying out research across Africa, South East Asia and the United Kingdom to better understand digital identity needs and opportunities in these locations. We’ve been speaking to experts around the world and attending digital identity and humanitarian events to get a sense of who is doing what, where. Our findings have led to the development of an exciting user-focused, evidence-based Social Purpose Strategy which we are proud to be launching today, along with an updated section of the Yoti website. The primary focus of much of the digital identity sector is on the design, adoption and use of large-scale digital identity systems and how users interact with them. This includes national efforts, such as the Aadhaar ID system in India. Most of this research begins with the technology and works its way down to the people who use it, an approach which has given us something of a knowledge deficit. What we’re missing is an understanding of why people might want a digital identity, how they interpret or understand digital identity, their concerns and what tools and approaches might be missing in their local context. While we know there are approximately 1.1 billion people around the world who would benefit from some form of (likely digital) identity, we know far less about their own personal motivations for wanting and using one. And without a fuller understanding of these kind of bottom-up issues, we have little chance of developing the most useful and appropriate solutions. We need to dive deeper and find out more if we want to increase our chances of adopting the right kind of identity – a Good Identity – in our sector. While we remain committed to helping solve the problem of the 1.1 billion, our new Social Purpose Strategy is designed to help us better understand digital (and broader 21st century) identity perceptions, motivations, challenges, opportunities and concerns among grassroots communities and migrants around the world. With a particular focus on emerging markets, the Strategy is made up of a number of key activities, including: Helping local researchers and policy makers to better understand the opportunities and issues through our exciting new annual Fellowship Program, launching in the next few weeks. Empowering local innovators and thought leaders by providing a support program for developing world innovation hubs, universities and business centres. Running competitions and challenges in support of local innovation efforts. Providing an open-source digital identity solution that is simple to use, free and completely offline. This has been designed specifically for grassroots, last-mile nonprofits and socially-focussed groups. Our Strategy has one key purpose: to help further the positive social impact of digital identity solutions globally and to ensure digital identity becomes a force for good – for everyone, everywhere. You can download a copy of our Social Purpose Strategy (PDF) here. The updated section of the Yoti website can be found here.
As Director of Regulation and Policy at Yoti, I’m delighted to see techUK highlight the importance of secure digital identities in their new white paper ‘The Case for Digital IDs’. They argue that as the UK pursues the ambition to be the world-leading online economy, the need for digital identities is becoming ever more apparent. Secure and robust age verification for retailers Without secure identity solutions, individuals cannot easily and safely connect to digital services. If they need to verify their age online, they currently check an 18+ tickbox or manually enter their date of birth – both of which are open to abuse and can be easily falsified by minors. This is something we’ve worked to resolve with Jägermeister, who have integrated Yoti into their online shop. Individuals can now use the free Yoti app to prove their age when buying age-restricted items on the new www.jagershop.co.uk. A secure and robust age verification solution for both consumers and retailers. Yet when we wish to buy alcohol from the supermarket, or prove our age at a nightclub, we are forced to show physical ID documents, which can be easily lost or stolen. Last year the DVLA revealed that Brits spent £18.6m on replacing lost and damaged driving licences, and approximately 10,000 passports are lost per year at bars and clubs. While digital identities are starting to be adopted by online retailers, UK bricks and mortar retailers must also have the support to adopt new technologies in physical stores. These technologies can help improve the customer experience, as well as meet the needs of regulators. Being able to use a digital identity to prove our age in a supermarket will allow us to buy age-restricted items without intervention or assistance from retail employees. This is not only quicker and less of a nuisance for shoppers, but can greatly reduce friction between them and retail staff. Customers will spend less time at self checkouts and employees can assist with other tasks, improving the overall shopping experience. The ever-improving quality of fake IDs also makes it extremely challenging for retail staff to confidently check someone’s ID. Digital identities will remove the pressure staff face when required to confirm someone is over 18. Digital identity technology doesn’t get fatigued on a long shift and cannot show favour to personal friends or bias against individual customers. Utility, greater data privacy and social inclusion As techUK point out in their white paper, digital identities are the key for consumers to unlock the full benefits of digital innovation. Not only can they be used to give us a simpler and safer way of proving our age when buying age-restricted items without having to show physical ID documents, they could also be used to securely interact with government services online, prove our identity to businesses and swap verified details with online buyers and sellers. Simply put, all you have to do is create your digital identity once and you can use it time and time again. Digital identities are not only more convenient, they’re also more secure. They let us share specific identity details, instead of disclosing unnecessary, sensitive personal information. This gives us greater data privacy and ownership to help fight identity fraud. With data breaches hitting the headlines every week, it has never been more important to protect our personal details. Furthermore, some people are socially excluded because they do not have access to a physical document. A young person who doesn’t drive or can’t afford a passport would find it extremely difficult to prove their age to buy energy drinks or to access an age-gated online chat room for young people. Money and age should not be barriers to proving who you are. A PASS card (proof of age card), such as CitizenCard, can now be used as an anchor document to set up a digital identity. And using age estimation technology Yoti Age Scan, individuals will be able to prove their age in US supermarkets by simply looking into the camera at the self checkout. Digital citizens Digital identity technology is creating greater convenience to many citizens. The States of Jersey and The Improvement Service in Scotland have both adopted digital identity technology to transition more government services online and give their citizens a simple and secure way to prove their age and identity to businesses. It is encouraging that airports like Heathrow are embracing digital identity technology to help passengers have an easier and more convenient journey, and that the FCA is keen for financial services companies to embrace digital identities as part of the KYC process. Now that the Home Office has just launched a smartphone app with identity document verification for EU citizens applying for Settled Status, we will maybe see some changes for other sectors. Clearly if a digital identity smart phone app is secure enough for immigration, the same approach should be secure enough for age restricted purchases. It makes sense to create parity in the acceptance of digital and physical ID methods for age and identity both online and offline. And parity in enforcement. We need to remove barriers to the UK developing, deploying and adopting world-leading digital identity solutions and ensure the UK builds on its world firsts – the PAS 1296 standard for age checking and the BBFC audit framework for age proofing compliance under the Digital Economy Act. Between 20 and 25 million adults are expected to be age verifying digitally to access adult content. Hopefully soon there will be parity and we will also be able to use our identity apps at self checkouts and on nights out. This will also lower the cost of digital identity for the public purse.
Just in time for Safer Internet Day, we’re excited to announce our partnership with social networking app Yubo. Founded in 2015, Yubo is a platform for young people to form friendships online. Its mission is to create a safe space for teenagers and young adults to socialise and share content in a safe, responsible way. With over 20 million users, Yubo understands the immense challenge of ensuring that the community remains safe for everyone. They’ve been working to ensure that only individuals who are the correct age can access the app. That’s why Yubo has chosen Yoti and our age estimation technology Yoti Age Scan to help protect young people online. Using artificial intelligence (AI) for good, our technology will estimate the age of individuals and flag accounts where there is suspicion or doubts about a user’s age. Owners of flagged accounts will be able to use the free Yoti app to verify their age and identity. Individuals will also be able to verify their name, so that Yubo can highlight verified users to others increasing trust across the community. Using AI to estimate ages on Yubo Using a form of AI called neural network learning, Yoti Age Scan accurately estimates a person’s age by comparing an individual’s face to many thousands of other age-verified faces. Since adopting the technology in December 2018, Yubo has conducted over five million age checks using Yoti Age Scan, which would not have been practical or cost effective to do manually. Yoti Age Scan can estimate age within 2 seconds and the service can already handle over 1m checks per day. How Yoti age estimation works in collaboration with the Yubo App Yoti Age Scan is private and anonymous. There’s no need for individuals to register in advance or provide any documents as evidence of their identity. Yoti Age Scan simply estimates their age, deleting the image immediately after. Making Yubo safer for young people We’re delighted that Yubo has chosen to use Yoti Age Scan to help with this vital step to protect young people online. Yoti Age Scan can estimate someone’s age with a high degree of accuracy, and Yoti gives people the chance to verify their age in a private and secure way. Our work with Yubo shows how Yoti’s technology can help make the internet a safer place for young people. Clearly legislators, regulators and parents are all concerned to ensure children and younger teenagers only see content that is age appropriate, and do not mix online with unknown older adults. AI technology like Yoti Age Scan will help to address some of these requirements. COO of Yubo Marc-Antoine Durand agreed the technology will help further enhance the safety of the platform. “We’ve selected Yoti’s age estimation technology, Yoti Age Scan, to give us a simple, private and secure way to make the app safe for our users; a vital step to help safeguard young people online. “We are excited to develop a partnership with Yoti and use their identity verification technology to further enhance the safety of our platform for our users.” Yubo is the first social media site to use Yoti Age Scan to help ensure individuals can only access age-appropriate content. We continue to see more uses for our Yoti Age Scan technology, as a growing number of businesses are adopting it to provide age-restricted goods and services, both online and in person.
Today we’re celebrating Safer Internet Day! A day where organisations around the world promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for young people. In line with this year’s theme, ‘Together for a better internet’, we’re joining the conversation and working to make sure children get the most out of the internet in a safe and secure way. Technology for good All over the world, children are increasingly using the internet – through their own devices, at even younger ages. The media are quick to jump in and talk about the negative impacts for young people. But when used correctly, the internet can be a valuable tool for learning – one that young people are readily embracing. According to new research commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre: 70 percent of 8-17 year olds say being online helps them understand what’s happening in the world. 67 percent say the internet is a safe space for them to learn about topics they don’t understand and are too nervous to ask about. 48 percent of young people say being online makes them feel like their voices and actions matter. 43 percent of young people feel empowered by being online. This is why it’s so important to give young people all the tools they need to make sure their privacy and safety is protected. The challenges Despite the benefits, children are naturally more vulnerable when they use the internet. They’re less experienced and often less capable of knowing how to identify a risky situation where they could be exploited. According to the UK Safer Internet Centre: 52 percent of young people said someone they knew shared a photo or video of them without asking. 39 percent have felt anxious or not in control in situations where their consent has been breached. The research found a clear trend that many young people are struggling to understand online consent and how to navigate situations where there are breaches of consent. Tackling the issues Despite the challenges, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre Will Gardner found the results of the research to be encouraging. “…young people have a strong sense of what is right online, and are harnessing the internet to make a positive difference for themselves and others. “However, our research shows without clear guidance for navigating the complexities of online consent, the gap between young people’s attitudes and behaviours is striking. “Safer Internet Day provides a unique opportunity to address this gap, by listening to young people’s experiences, leading by example, and encouraging conversations about our online lives.” This year, the UK Safer Internet Centre is working with over 1,600 UK organisations to help organise events and activities for Safer Internet Day. This includes schools, police services, industry bodies, celebrities, charities and more. We believe in the importance of educating children on how to use the internet safely, which is why we support Safer Internet Day. Today, we’re hosting a talk on internet safety at Yoti HQ by Lorin LaFave, founder of The Breck Foundation. Our regular CoderDojo will also be held today, featuring an introduction for kids and parents on how to stay safe online. More Yoti initiatives Here at Yoti, we’re working on a number of approaches to make the internet a safer place for children to navigate. We believe current age verification and parental consent methods don’t do enough to protect young people from accessing age-inappropriate content. Most websites merely require a tickbox or simple ‘double email’ confirmation as parental consent. These measures are open to abuse and could also allow malicious people to pose as children and groom vulnerable young people online. Yoti Connections is the new way to prove that you’re connected to someone. You can share a connection you have in the real world or digitally. It lets you prove to other people that you give permission for a friend, family member or professional to do something on your behalf. Young people (over 13) can get parental consent to access certain websites by requesting to share their connection to their parents. As well as safeguarding, this can also help protect people from fraud. Yoti Connections allows people to prove that they’re connected, using Yoti’s ID verification to deter against fraudulent claims. Our latest technology, Yoti Age Scan (YAS), is another initiative to help children navigate the internet in a safe way. YAS is a secure, anonymous age-checking service that accurately estimates a person’s age by comparing an individual’s face to many thousands of other age verified faces. After the age is estimated, the image is deleted. It can be used when selling age-restricted goods and services, both online and in person. This could be used on a site with live chat or live streaming, ensuring children under 18 years old can’t access an 18+ site, and vice versa, over 18s can’t access a website intended for under 18s.
We’re very pleased to welcome Gordon Scobbie to the team, as Regional Business Growth and Partnerships Executive for Scotland. Gordon has a wealth of experience within the public safety and security sector operating at every level within UK policing. He also created a national policing portfolio to respond to challenges of the digital age, and set up his own company in 2013 to focus on social media and digital transformation. His experience and knowledge will be invaluable as we work with the Improvement Service in Scotland to help deliver digital services to citizens. We caught up with Gordon to chat about his previous work and his new role at Yoti. You’ll be heading up our work in Scotland. Tell us a little bit about your background and how it will be relevant for your new role at Yoti. Policing in Scotland gave me the opportunity to work in partnership with other agencies across the public, private and third sectors, as well as the Scottish government and local authorities, to help keep people safe. Understanding these key relationships and how things get done in a Scottish context will be really helpful as Yoti looks to deliver on some exciting new projects in Scotland this year. Building on existing relationships and forging new ones is something I’m very much looking forward to in the coming weeks and months. What will your role involve? I will have a focus on delivering some key outcomes for Scotland but will also be spending some time across the UK where my background, knowledge and skills can add value. This will also include matters where government policy and legislation hasn’t quite moved with the digital age and where my background can help influence decision makers on the importance of Yoti in this space. What excites you most about working at Yoti? I like that Yoti really understands the importance of integrity, ethics and values in a digital age, particularly at a time when the public are becoming increasingly worried about intrusion into their lives by technology companies. Working for a company I believe in and that shares my personal values is so important to me.
Here at Yoti we’re committed to social change. Whether that be gifting the use of our identity platform to registered non-profits, or lending out our office space to charities for meetings and public events, or assisting humanitarian organisations with identity needs in the developing world. We like to think that doing good is core to everything we do. So it might come as no surprise to hear about something we’re particularly proud of – Yoti Selfie Days. In short, everyone at Yoti gets five days a year for personal development or to support charitable and socially-focused causes. They get to choose who they spend their time with, and when, often based on personal interests or issues dominating the news at the time. Not only is this a great opportunity for our team to develop their own interests and make wider use of their skills, but it’s also a great opportunity for charitable and socially-focused causes to get help and support where they need it most. For example: Do you need help designing a new website? Curious about apps but don’t know where to start? Need help putting a project or marketing plan together? Struggling with your social media strategy? Have a report you need help writing or copy editing? Want to launch a simple website or app but don’t have the skills? Need help with financing or budgeting? Thinking about business plans or financial sustainability? Confused about online security, privacy, data protection, GDPR? Do you have particularly crazy spells where you could simply do with another pair of hands? At Yoti we are blessed with an incredible pool of talent – over 250 staff and counting – all of them willing to support worthy causes such as yours with any of these needs, and more. They’re quite literally waiting for the opportunity to help. Today we’re excited to announce that we’re accepting applicants for our 2019 Selfie Day cohort. If you’d like someone from Yoti to spend some, or all, of their available days with you please complete this simple form to register. All opportunities will be made available to Yoti team members throughout the year, and we’ll put anyone in touch who likes what you do and thinks they’ve got what it takes to help. We like to think of this as a win-win and we’d love to hear from you if you think we can help. Ken Banks Head of Social Impact at Yoti