United for a safer internet with OSTIA

We’re honoured to be one of the founding members of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), a new UK industry body dedicated to tackling online safety. 

The group brings together advisory bodies and tech companies in a shared goal of making the internet safer and hopes to provide a voice of hope by offering solutions to address key issues in a complex debate so often focused on what can’t be done.

With support from the National Crime Agency, GCHQ, the Home Office, NSPCC, the group will serve as a forum for companies working on potential solutions and create collective influence on policy, regulation and broader support for the sector. 

Our Scotland Lead, Gordon Scobbie, sits on the board on behalf of Yoti and has long been committed to safeguarding and online safety issues. After operating at every level in UK policing from constable to chief officer, he saw first-hand the scale of online grooming and sexual abuse. He now steers our work with the Scottish Improvement Service and is Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees on the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF). 

We caught up with Gordon to hear about what this means for the future of online safety. 

 

How did OSTIA come about?  

The group came out of a 2019 roundtable event that explored online harms, run by Edinburgh-based security firm Cyan Forensics and public sector startup body Public, and chaired by Joanna Shields.  We collectively realised that we had broad agreement between those attending the roundtable that there was a need for smaller technology companies involved in online safety to have a louder voice and the best way to achieve this would be to act collaboratively and collectively.  Several members of this initial roundtable session continued this work and OSTIA was born, being launched in March 2020.

 

What does OSTIA hope to achieve? 

We are committed to making the internet a safer place to be and believe that the tech industry has a lot to offer right now to get us closer to that goal. The UK is a world leader when it comes to innovative technology in this space, and with many small, agile companies at the forefront. Through our collective voice, we want to make sure solutions are known and deployed to help keep people safe online. Our involvement with DCMS has been really helpful in raising awareness of the availability of innovative safety tech and through engagement with regulators such as OFCOM. We’re raising greater awareness in this area of what we are currently capable of implementing, and where this is (and is not) being actively deployed.

What perspective or expertise do you add to the group?  

My background spans 33 years in the UK police force, and in the later stages of my career, I was the National Chief Police Lead for social media and online engagement. I’ve spent the last 8 years in the commercial world, working for technology companies spanning global corporations to smaller start ups. I have a solid understanding of how technology can help keep people safe online and know firsthand the ways it could be used to support law enforcement in the difficult job they have.

 

What role can Yoti play?   

We are a company that puts privacy, consent and data security at the heart of everything we do and we believe technology holds the key to protecting young and vulnerable online. Our digital identity app and age estimation technology are incredible tools that are already being used to keep communities safe on social media, dating sites and sharing economy platforms. Through OSTIA, we hope to further the discussion around online safety with our knowledge in the space and provide practical solutions that can be put into place today to mitigate some of the harms which exist online. Alongside other industry leaders and experts, we’re excited to provide answers to the often unanswered question of what can we do to protect people online. In many cases, the technology has been built. It’s time to use it.

Safer Internet Day with the Marie Collins Foundation

‘Free to be me’ was the theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day, which was marked by new research from the UK Safe Internet Centre that found young people’s online experiences are an essential part of who they are offline.

The freedom that young people enjoy online is found to be building an informed and inspired generation, but it is also making them vulnerable to an unprecedented level of online grooming and sexual abuse.

The internet has largely escaped regulation through fear that restricting access to information is censorship, but as more and more of our lives are lived out online, it can no longer be treated as separate to the “real” world. The very real-life consequences of such unabated freedom are making it a safe haven for criminals who are damaging the lives of our young, digital citizens. 

The reluctance to regulate the internet was most clearly highlighted in the UK government’s fiasco with online age verification of adult content sites. First laid out in the 2018 Digital Economy Act, the legislation sought to create the same safe environment online that exists in the offline world, and restrict adult content sites to over 18s. The legislation was put back three times, and then finally scrapped amongst concerns it risked “dragging British citizens into a draconian censorship regime”. However, it has since been announced that Ofcom will be in charge of regulating the internet in the UK.

 

Protecting young people online

Here at Yoti, we believe much more needs to be done to protect young people online and we develop much of our technology to pursue this cause. Our secure solution to the online age verification enables anyone to be anonymously and remotely age checked with no exchange of personal details. We have also been working with the NSPCC to design a secure way minors can report sexually explicit content of themselves to the IWF for it to be removed from the internet. 

Our Country Lead for Scotland, Gordon Scobbie, has operated at every level with UK policing from constable to chief officer, and has seen first-hand the scale of online grooming and sexual abuse. As well as steering Yoti’s work with the Scottish Improvement Service, he is a Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees on the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF). 

 

The Marie Collins Foundation

The MCF does seminal work addressing the recovery needs of children, and their families, who suffer harm online. The charity was set up by CEO Tink Palmer MBE, who, in Gordon’s words, is one of the most inspiring woman he has ever met.

Tink joined us on Safer Internet Day to talk to us about how the nature of child grooming has changed with the internet and about the work the MCF does in rehabilitating victims of sexual abuse. She was joined by Rhiannon, who became a victim of online grooming and sexual abuse at the age of 13. 

She battled in silence with the trauma for two years before her case was picked up by the police. She gave the police permission to use her case in awareness campaigns at schools but continued to battle with a long period of depression marked by two suicide attempts. At the age of 30, she is now a fully-qualified lawyer and is working with the MCF to raise awareness and ensure victims of online grooming are supported to recovery.

Rhiannon is testament to the fact that recovery is possible with the right support, and her and Tink work endlessly to aid this process. The MCF have set up work with practitioners to teach them about how to correctly support victims of online abuse under their CLICK: Path to Protection, a unique training programme for practitioners working with sexually abused children, and the Global Protection Online Network, to facilitate the sharing of good practice and enable professionals to access advice and guidance from a range of experts in the field.

You can find the full interview with Tink below and find out more about the charities work at MCF

 

Please tell us about the Marie Collins Foundation and your role within it?

I received my first internet case in 1998 when I was running a large therapeutic unit for children who had been sexually abused. The police came to see me and asked how such a case should be managed because it was the first one they had dealt with. My reaction was, initially, “I haven’t got a clue”, but a couple of days later, I dropped into the police station and said to police colleagues, “Human nature doesn’t change and the motivations for people to want to sexually harm children remain the same BUT we have a different conduit (ie the internet) and I wonder what differential impact this may have”. Thus my interest in the online sexual abuse of children began.

 

What are the main harms being posed by the internet and new technologies?

The main harms for children are the risks of being victims to sexually exploitative and abusive behaviours by others; to bullying, to blackmail, to encouragement to self harm.

 

Are there any areas causing particular challenges? 

The growth in the number of online sexual offences against children has grown exponentially in the last three years. Such offending behaviour takes the form of the making of abusive images of children, live-streaming the abuse of children, encouraging children to take indecent images of themselves. This is a particular challenge. The most common sites where abusers make initial contact with children are social media such as Facebook and games.

 

How has the nature of grooming changed with the internet?

Before the internet, children were groomed in a four stage process – a) have a sexual interest, b) overcome their own conscience about it, c) get over external barriers and people who are in the way of accessing children, d) abuse the child.

On the internet, there are no barriers around children, who are free agents online. We have a very fast process of grooming, and groomers tend to just scatter gun until they catch someone who’s vulnerable, and then start working on them, praising them, telling them they’re wonderful and then asking them for an image.

 

Have you seen changes or patterns in the nature of online abuse in recent years?

Yes. There has been an increase in the number of cases coming to the attention of police and safeguarding personnel. The number of cases brought to the attention of the police far outweighs our capacity to respond. A second change is that the ages of children portrayed in the images appear to be getting younger. A third and worrying change is that children and young people are increasingly being apprehended for the taking of “selfies” which they then send on to a peer. 

 

How has the concept of “normal” behaviour changed with the internet?

If you think back 40 years ago when people were in their early teenage years, testing out sexuality and relationships was generally done in private. Nobody knew what a fool you’d made of yourself – you got yourself into a situation, but you got yourself out of it. It’s totally different online. 

Young people’s communication online is totally different to their communication offline. Their language is very crude, very quickly. They say they’d never dream to speak in such a way offline but online, their inhibition goes. It’s also incredibly normal to exchange images. It’s hard for them to understand the difference between exchanging images that are perfectly okay to exchange and from images that are a) potentially illegal, and b) could be very damaging to them and their self-esteem once they realise what could be done with those images.

 

What support is there right now for children harmed online?

Very little – that is why the MCF is so unique. There needs to be far more support. There’s a lack of understanding amongst professional safeguarding people – the police, children services, and NGOs – around the differential impact of online abuse, particularly in the way people are groomed.

We know industry is coming on board, for example, Microsoft have released a grooming app, but we’ve been asking for industries to come on board for the last 20 years and we still need far more from them. Children have a right to a safe childhood, it’s the adults that have the duty to keep them safe.

Our approach to security and privacy

Just as the right to identity is a fundamental human right, privacy is too.

We created Yoti to give everybody a secure, privacy-friendly way of proving their identity, online and in person. Privacy and security, therefore, aren’t just our priority but our raison d’etre.

Our free Yoti app is built with privacy and security at its core and harnesses data minimisation techniques that enable you to share less data. 

We have a rigorous approach to security and have built an innovative database architecture designed to protect against data breaches or cybersecurity attacks.

To ensure that we are held accountable, we are advised by our Guardian Council, an independent board of expert professionals and dedicated advisors from data privacy, human rights, online harms and last-mile technology sectors.

Our mission is, and will forever be, to be the world’s trusted identity platform. This is not a journey we make on our own but with policy advisors, think tanks, researchers, academics and humanitarian bodies.

As our sixth core business principle states, we are transparent about what we are doing and why, so in light of this transparency, we have answered your questions on how we protect your data.

 

Is Yoti recognised?

Yoti is certified to meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 27001, the global gold standard for information security management. 

We’re also a SOC 2 Type II certified company. We were externally audited over a six month period and we received a flawless report for the operation of our security controls.

The architecture of our security systems has also been reviewed by Cigital (Synposys) and we regularly undergo penetration testing to look for any potential vulnerabilities in our security operations.

 

How do you keep my data secure?

We have taken a radical new approach to protecting personal data. Instead of storing your information as a single record on one big database, we store each individual piece of your data separately.

Imagine the Yoti database as a bank vault. Each piece of your data is split up, turned into unreadable data through encryption and stored in a different safe. 

Only you have the key to access these safes, which is stored on your phone and not on the Yoti database. 

When you unlock your app with your five-digit PIN, you activate your key which then pulls all of these individual pieces of data together and turns them back into readable text. 

For extra security, Yoti also encrypts your key. To gain access to your safes in the vault, your key must match our Yoti key.

 

Can Yoti be hacked?

The Yoti database is protected by high-level security and firewalls that are extremely hard to penetrate. In the unlikely situation that somebody did hack the database, the fact that you have your own encryption key means that your data would appear as random gibberish to a hacker.

Imagine the bank vault with the safes again. In Yoti’s system, even if hackers broke into the vault, they still wouldn’t be able to open all the individual safes – they would need the keys from every user’s phone.  

 

What is encryption and how does Yoti protect my data with it?

Encryption is a mathematical code that turns text into meaningless strings of numbers and letters. We use AES-256 encryption, which is trusted by governments and organisations such as Apple as being virtually impossible to break. 

The number refers to the length of the encryption key and means a hacker will require 2256 different combinations to break a 256-bit encrypted message. We use this encryption for both storing and sending data, so it can’t be intercepted. 

 

Can Yoti see my data?

Once we verify your account, we can see your data for seven days for security purposes. This allows us to recall any documents that may be flagged up for fraudulent purposes and protect the Yoti ecosystem. After this period, we send your data to the central Yoti database where it is stored as encrypted text. Only you can turn this back into readable text with your encryption key. 

 

What happens when I share data?

A business will request the information they need from you, which you can accept or deny with your Yoti app.

When you accept a data share, the specified information is sent to the agreed third party  and both parties will get a receipt of the information exchanged.

Yoti can’t see the information you have shared, we can only see the type of attribute (such as ‘name’ and ‘address’), the company and the time and date. 

 

How is this any better than using my passport?

The Yoti app allows you to share just the information strictly necessary for a transaction. 

For example, to prove your age to buy alcohol in the UK, you can just share the fact that you’re over 18 and nothing else. If you were using a passport, you would have to share your photo, name and date of birth.

We will have already verified your details against the ID document you used to open your Yoti, so the business can have confidence that the details shared are real and accurate without needing to have a copy of the ID document themselves. This protects you against identity fraud and means you don’t need to send ID documents insecurely via email.

 

How can I be sure that identities are verified correctly?

When you create your Yoti Digital ID, you’re required to take a quick scan of your face during what we call a “liveness test”. This is to prove you’re a real person. We also ask you to scan an official ID document using your phone’s camera. 

We then use a combination of expert AI and manual checks to accurately extract the information from your document. Our team of super recognisers verify the document is genuine and that the photo on the ID document matches your face scan. They are the 2% of the population that have superior skills in recognising faces and work in our security centre, which is a highly secure environment where phones are prohibited and only security personnel can enter. 

To make sure fake and fraudulent documents aren’t being used, the security team check against the Keesing database of global ID documents and the CIFAS (Cross Industry Fraud Prevention Service) database. We also have connections with other fraud watchlists and are a member of the Association of Document Validation Professionals.

 

Will you ever sell my personal data?

No – we will not, and cannot, sell your information to third parties for marketing or any other purpose. We give you the tools to securely share your information with a chosen organisation. That organisation pays for the check and you have a receipt of what you have shared, but we don’t have access to your personal data.

 

Can I delete my personal information from your systems forever?

Yes. If you no longer wish to have any of your personal information on our database, you can delete your account by logging in to the app and tapping on More > Settings > Delete my account. We will ask you to take a photo of yourself so we’re sure it’s you deleting your account. We will delete this photo along with the rest of your data when we have verified it’s you. Once you delete your account, your information will be permanently deleted from our systems.

If you just uninstall the app without deleting your account, you do not delete your data.

 

More questions?

If you have any questions about privacy or security at Yoti, please drop us a line and we will be happy to clear up any doubts.

DataKind UK’s #7 Data Science and Ethics Book Club at Yoti

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting the seventh Data Science and Ethics Book Club, organised by our friends at DataKind UK.

This was the final book club of the year and the topic up for discussion was AI and race. This is a hugely important conversation to advance as our lives become increasingly digital and influenced by algorithms and machine learning.

 

The reading list 

The main book that anchored the evening’s talk was Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin, which provides an accessible but deep understanding about how technology can replicate and exacerbate racial inequality. This was complemented with the journal article Sebastian Benthall & Bruce D. Haynes, Racial Categories in machine learning

 

There were also a few quick reads on the list: 

And some short watches: 

 

The talking

It was a relaxed evening of interesting debate and exchange of ideas. After some brief introductions and nibbles, we split into small groups to discuss the readings. The conversations were helpfully prompted by some of the DataKind UK volunteers with questions such as, is technology neutral? 

There were some really insightful examples put forward that looked at everything from traffic lights to the splitting of the atom. The attendees brought ideas from a range of different perspectives, backgrounds and organisations.

For more about what was discussed on the night, have a read of DataKind UK’s article here.

 

DataKind UK

DataKind UK are a charity that use data science for social good. They manage teams of pro bono data scientists and technical experts to deliver on projects with their nonprofit partners. 

We fully support their work and have hosted previous events in which they have spoken about their social good efforts. You can read more about their projects and their experience setting up an Ethics Committee here and keep an eye on their Eventbrite page to join the next book club sessions in the New Year. 

 

Get in touch

We invest a lot of time and effort in supporting other socially-minded organisations. We regularly invite organisations to use our Park area for Meetups, talks and workshops. If you would like to use our space, please get in touch with our Social Purpose team – we’d love to hear what you’re working on.

How we built privacy into the Yoti app

Just as the right to identity is a fundamental human right, we believe privacy is too. 

Yoti was built to give everybody a simple and secure way of proving and protecting their identity, online and in person. 

With the free Yoti app, you can create a digital ID that allows you to prove who you are in the most privacy-friendly way. It is built with data minimisation at the core and allows you to share less data to prove your identity or age. You’re in control to show only the details you need, to the businesses and people you trust. 

Today, our design team take us through the innovative design of the app, built with privacy at its core.

 

First things first

We don’t have your ID document details unless you have chosen to add them to your account. This is totally your choice. If you don’t add your ID document, you can use other features on the app such as our password manager or get an estimated age, but you do not have a digital ID.

We make sure it’s really you

When registering your account, we ask you to take a quick video to prove you’re a real human being. If you want to create a digital ID, you can upload an official ID document. This is either checked automatically or sent to our team of expert super recognisers who check your document is real and that the photo matches up with the image from your video and the information taken from your document. 

This video is called a liveness test and is where we ask you to move your face according to instructions on the screen. If this test fails, you may be asked to say a few words so our security centre can check you’re a real person. From this video, we take a face scan which is your biometric template. We can then compare any future image you take to this template if we need to prove it’s really you. 

We enable you to share less data

Unlike a physical ID document, we store your personal information as individual pieces of data. We call these attributes – individual pieces of information that identify you as you, such as your name, date of birth etc. 

By storing them separately, this allows you to show them separately, and only share the minimal amount of information needed. 

With your Yoti, you can prove your age by just sharing the fact that you are over 18, nothing else.

 

 

The Yoti vault protects against privacy breaches and cyber attacks

This innovative approach to storing data as attributes makes it incredibly hard for a hacker to access your information because we encrypt each attribute and store them separately on the Yoti server. In the highly unlikely situation that the database got hacked, they would not be able to locate and decrypt each user’s shareable data attributes.

Imagine it like your ID is put through a shredder and each piece of data is stored in a different safe in a vault. Only you have the key to all of these safes, which is your master key that is stored on your phone. 

GIF of how attributes are taken from an ID document and stored in Yoti database

Only you hold the key

When you unlock your app with your five-digit PIN or biometric template, you activate your master key. This master key is stored on your phone and is the only way of pulling together your attributes and turning them into readable text. Yoti also encrypts your master key for extra security.

 

We use advanced biometric technology to keep you safe

We use biometric (and non-biometric) technologies to carry out anti-spoofing, fraud prevention and security checks. This is the most effective way of verifying that you are a real person and that you can only set up your own genuine digital identity. It allows us to keep our users safe and make sure that only genuine identities are on our platform.

We double check that you’re the one calling the shots

To take certain actions, like deleting your account or changing your PIN, we ask you to take a selfie or redo the liveness process. We then compare your image to the biometric template to check it’s really you taking the action. 

 

We’re clear and transparent

We tell you what we’re doing and why in the app, in our privacy policy and in FAQs. Our customer support team are also incredibly friendly and super speedy at replying so you can get in touch at any point if you need any help.

 

You can always opt out

Our Research and development team use some user data to develop, test and improve our age estimation technology and our anti-spoofing, fraud prevention and security checks. We do this to keep our community safe but if you are not comfortable with this, you have the option to opt out in the app.

Go ID-free

We’ve also built age estimation technology so you don’t even need an ID document to have an estimated age on your account. This technology can be used to allow anonymous proof of age in situations such as buying age-restricted goods at self-checkouts or proving you are over a certain age to access age-restricted content online. For all the technical bits, take a read of our Age Scan whitepaperYou can also read about our commitment to building facial recognition responsibly and our support of the Safe Face Pledge.

He who eats bread with you

B Corps are companies that use business as a force for good. The “B” stands for benefit, and refers to benefiting workers, benefiting the community and benefiting the environment. It is truly a revolution, driven by the nonprofit organisation B Lab, who are reminding us what companies can really do.

Although the word “company” today may make you think of balance sheets and revenue, it actually originates from the French word compagnie: ”a society, friendship, intimacy; body of soldiers”. 

If we look further back, we find the Latin phrase companio: “he who eats bread with you”.

Companies were originally about people and sharing, which is exactly what Yoti has been about from day one.

 

The backstory: day one at Yoti

Before we even had a name, we understood the complex ethical questions we would likely come up against. We knew that if we were going to ask people to trust us with their most personal information, we would need to set up an ethical framework to guide us and help us answer these questions. 

We came up with our seven founding principles which continue to feed into everything we do.

We knew we’d also need an independent board of trustees who could hold us to these principles and advise us with expertise from relevant fields, such as human rights, data privacy and last-mile tech. 

And so was born the Guardian Council

While we were setting up our foundations in the summer of 2014 and had finally settled on a name – Your Own Trusted Identity (Yoti) – B Corps had just crossed the pond from the US and launched in the UK. Their mission and framework really resonated with the kind of company we were striving to build. We were awarded our B certification in July 2015 and became one of the first founding UK B Corps.

And we have been driving good ever since.

 

The mission

To qualify as a B Corp, a company must have an explicit social or environmental mission. A certified B Corp is legally required to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment, as well as its shareholders, in all decisions 

Yoti’s mission is to give people a safer way of proving who they are in the physical and online world. Our free consumer app and platform for business is designed to protect society from fraud – and help people know who they are dealing with, using less data.

 

The practicalities

A company must amend its articles of incorporation to adopt B Lab’s commitment to sustainability and treating workers well, as well as meeting B Lab’s comprehensive social and environmental performance standards.

The key areas assessed are:

Governance

We have a strong ethical framework that is built on our seven ethical principles. Alongside the Guardian Council, we have an Internal Ethics and Trust Committee that oversees the development and implementation of our ethical approaches and ensure we develop in the right way. 

We have made public pledges to the Safe Face Pledge, Biometrics Institute: 7 ethical principles, 5Rights framework, the Articl8 member code of conduct and the Fair Tax Mark.

 

Customers

The Yoti app was built to give individuals a simple and secure way of proving and protecting their identity, online and offline. It is free, and will always be free, for the user.

The app lets you share details with people you don’t know but may be interacting with online, for example on dating sites or classifieds. It also has a password manager to help you keep your passwords safe and age estimation technology that allows individuals to prove their age without needing to add  an ID document to the app.

We have also teamed up with CitizenCard to give young people access to a low-cost identity document to prove their age, which has taken the price from £17 to £9.

Community

We’re fully committed to supporting Sustainable Development Goal 16:9 –  to provide a legal identity for all – especially to the 1.5 billion people who have no way of proving who they are.

Following an extensive period of research and evaluation of social sector needs in the UK, Africa and South East Asia, in early 2019 we launched a brand new Social Purpose Strategy. The key pillars are Digital Identity Toolkit, a Digital Identity Fellowship Programme and our offline ID solution, Yoti Keys.

Yoti has also donated £17,200 to charity in 2018/19 and commits 1 percent of revenue and 2.5 percent of profit to the Yoti Foundation.

 

 

Team

We have a brilliant team of over 270 people who we endeavour to support in many different ways.

To build a culture of self-development, we give every UK employee a LinkedIn Learning license and an annual budget of £750 for training. Everyone at Yoti also gets five ‘selfie’ days a year to focus on volunteering or personal development opportunities.

We offer a multitude of free activities such as yoga, boxing, meditation, anime, running, among many, to help them achieve the life side of things.

Environment

Through the use of digital ID, we’re striving to combat the huge number of lost physical ID documents – just under 40,000 out of 50 million in the UK are reported lost or stolen each year. 

Our electronic signature platform, Yoti Sign, helps companies save on printing thousands of pages by enabling them to sign documents digitally. 

We also have a dedicated Green Team of volunteers who are responsible for managing, implementing and promoting our environmental principles and mission.

The B Corps report in all its glory

For ALL the ways we are striving to drive good, please have a look at our B Corps 2019 report in all its detail and colour. 

You can find our official B Impact report here.

Yoti is proud to be an accredited Fair Tax Mark business

We’re on a mission to become the world’s trusted identity platform and protect society from the growing threat of fraud. While building trust means ensuring our technology is robust and secure, it’s also about doing the right thing as a team of individuals and company.

Yoti’s ethical framework and principles shape every area of Yoti, from our development practices right through to our approach to taxes, which is why we’re proud to be an accredited Fair Tax Mark business after passing our annual review.

The Fair Tax Mark is an independent certification scheme, which recognises organisations that demonstrate they are paying the right amount of corporation tax in the right place, at the right time; have a transparent tax policy at the heart of their business; and are committed to following both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Paul Monaghan, Chief Executive, Fair Tax Mark said: “Yoti is taking corporate responsibility around tax transparency seriously and has made a commitment to not use tax havens or shift profits for tax avoidance purposes, instead committing to paying the tax it owes at the right time, and in the right place.”

Robin Tombs, CEO, Yoti said: “We believe paying corporate taxes is an important contribution to wider society rather than simply a cost to be minimised. Whilst many businesses pay the ‘right’ taxes, there is a concern, often fuelled by some high profile companies paying low corporate taxes, that businesses are not a force for good in society. At Yoti we have a set of principles and independent Guardians to help us to operate in the right way. This includes being honest and accountable, seeking to do the right thing and being transparent in what we are doing and why.

He continued “We believe the Fair Tax Mark helps show anyone using Yoti, working for the team or doing business with us, that we are committed to transparent and fair tax practices, including paying the right amount of tax, at the right time and in the right place.”

In becoming a Fair Tax Mark business, Yoti joins other accredited organisations including Lush, Timpson Group, SSE and the Co-operative Group.

Paul Monaghan continues: “It is estimated that €600bn of corporate profits are shifted annually to tax havens, with corporate tax revenue losses globally of €200bn per year – which equates to approximately £7bn of missing revenues in the UK.

“Paying the right amount of tax is about fairness and ensuring a level playing field for business.”

You can read our fair tax commitment here.

More women in tech!

A few weeks ago, we were invited to an event for Ada Lovelace Day at the Francis Crick Institute. 

The line up was brimming with inspiring female role models and speakers from companies like Made.com, Snapchat and Microsoft.

But much more importantly, the room was packed with 200 motivated girls aged 16-18, looking for a springboard into a career in tech.

This brilliant event was set up by Workfinder, a startup seeking to revolutionise work experience for young people, regardless of their background, by connecting them with exciting companies through their app. They put us in contact with Anisa and Farzana, two girls from local schools who we had the pleasure of spending a week with here at Yoti HQ.

They gave us some brilliant insights into the minds of a teenager and did some great work publicising Yoti to a young audience. Plus, they even managed to do some coding!

But don’t hear it from us. Here, in their own words, are their reflections on their week of work experience at Yoti.

Monday 

Anisa

This was my first day at the company and it did take me some time to find the place. But once you know where it is you won’t be lost. I remember that there is a small Sainsbury’s opposite the building! As soon as I got in  I was wholeheartedly welcomed by the staff and then escorted to the floor I was going to be working in. My ID card was made in front of my eyes and it was so cool to witness! 

I was then equipped with a laptop to work with (I was not expecting it to be a MacBook) I was then instructed to complete all my login details which didn’t take too long. After that, I was handed over my first task which was a privacy task. So, I was asked to make a note of what could be improved in the Yoti privacy information and for this I had to be very critical as it was going to benefit the company. 

Farzana 

After lunch, we then met Hannah who set out an HR task for us to create a presentation about involving more women within STEM and the significance of it. As a person who has worked around this area and is very interested in this area this task became very fun and interesting for me. After finishing our presentation ideas, we played table tennis in the “Park” area and then we have met our primary host, Leanne. 

Tuesday 

Farzana 

It was easy for me to find the place as I remembered all the shops near the office so I arrived before my start time. 

My task for the days were to create a poster for an event, create a powerpoint for the STEM campaign and design a job description for any role of my choice.

I was able to complete all my tasks within the given time and I thoroughly enjoyed the poster task as I learnt many new skills and was able to put my creativity into action. 

Wednesday

Farzana

I was set a market research task by two members of the marketing team. The task involved me coming up with the ideas of how to publicise Yoti to a younger audience. I came up with a video and poster which will be executed via social media and public billboards. 

After I completed my powerpoint I had lunch with some of the team members which was lovely! We conversed about schools, future, cultures and so much more. Once lunch was over I continued with my task as I was going to display my ideas. 

Then I presented my ideas in my first meeting and was given good feedback and suggestions on how I should physically showcase my ideas.

I then created an advert in the form of a poster within 30 minutes which was quite challenging but taught me how to manage my time. 

My second meeting was in a large meeting room with many members of staff and it was my first time doing such a thing! 

My presentation went really well and I explained how Yoti can be advertised to attract a younger audience. 

Thursday

Anisa

The task I was set was based around research. I was asked to look for different companies which use Yoti and note down the way in which they advertise it. This was to help the company aware of the different styles that Yoti is presented in so they can ensure that all key points are featured and explained well. 

I then began working on a powerpoint to portray my findings. I presented my ideas to one of the product design members who explained the process of creating a new product, which was very interesting!

Friday

Anisa

We were introduced to Ed who set a Coder Dojo task for us [a coding workshop for 7-17 year olds held at Yoti once a month]. It was to use the website Python which contains different modules and create codes which generates something in a program for example drawing a specific shape. It is quite interesting how these codes can make the slightest changes for the program and what each function represents in the program. Not only that, it was actually really fun! 

Farzana 

From this experience I was able to gain so many new skills as well as adopt a new perspective. I was able to understand the different types of tasks employees at a tech company are assigned with, as well as gain an insight into how new products are formed. 

We would like to say a huge thanks to Anisa and Farzana for choosing to spend your week of work experience with us. We learned lots from you guys and we hope you learned a thing or two from us too.

Women in leadership at Yoti: key takeaways from our inspirational leaders

Here at Yoti, we have some pretty inspiring role models – not just right up at the top, but all throughout the company. Last Thursday, two such women put on an insightful and inspiring session on women in leadership, absolutely leading by example.

In a very relaxed round table, we learnt from the personal experiences and insights of our Director of Regulatory & Policy Julie Dawson, our Privacy Officer Emma Butler, and our Chief Marketing Officer Leanne Marshall. We want to thank them for their unabashed honesty and pearls of wisdom that they shared, and for being a constant source of inspiration for us.

For starters, it was extremely refreshing to hear from the outset that none of them set out knowing what they wanted to do with their lives. That sounds like a dramatic statement but is often something we hear ourselves saying when we feel lost and are so frequently asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”.

Our speakers have dabbled in lots of different projects and roles along the way. Both Emma and Julie have both spent time abroad, putting some of their language skills they learnt at university to the test teaching English in California or as an interpreter in mountain deserts and glaciers in Chile. Between them, they have worked in anything from small charities to big corporations or even founded their own ventures. Time out for maternity leave or sabbaticals has led them to explore different horizons as they have continued to develop a multitude of skills in contrasting contexts.

So once we learnt that everybody carves their own path in their own way, we got to the nitty gritty. Here are some of the key takeaways that we came away with.


Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes

There are lots of different ways to demonstrate leadership, and you don’t always have to be specifically leading a team to do it. It is as much about taking the initiative or inspiring other people to act as it is marching troops to the battlefield.

As well as being a leader of people, Emma spoke about how you could also be a leader in your field of expertise or a thought leader. Reflecting on what kind of leader you want to be and then taking note of how people you admire do this is a great way of stitching together your own quilt of leadership qualities and skills.


We all need a mentor

Emma, Julie and Leanne all spoke of different role models that encouraged them to take the next step on their journeys. Whether this is a work colleague, a partner, a friend or someone you have just met, we all need support and advice at times. And why not learn from someone with more years of experience and wisdom under their belt?


Be confident in your abilities

None of us feel like we are smashing it all of the time, no matter how great we are. Women can often be less confident than men and many of us second guess our abilities, which can paralyse us in the face of taking action. Strong opposition from others can sometimes be a catalyst for thoughts of self-doubt to creep in but don’t forget, you are in that role for a reason, be confident in yourself.


Lift others up with you

Despite the fact that women account for over half of the people on this planet, they are hugely underrepresented in higher positions in the workplace, along with other non-privileged groups that stray from the dominant, white male demographic. We must strive to champion under-represented groups and visibilise voices that don’t ring so loud in today’s society.


The importance of a work-life balance

A good work-life balance doesn’t fall into place overnight and all of our speakers said that it became more important to them later on in their careers. Women typically have care-taking responsibilities and having a family often changes the focus and your needs.

The message was not to settle for an arrangement that doesn’t work for you. This means standing strong on what you need to maintain your version of a work-life balance, which for the speakers meant more flexible working hours.


You can’t change people but you can change how you react to people

We will all come across a whole host of different people, not just at work but in our private lives too. And the likelihood is that they will see things differently to us which can sometimes be challenging to work with. Rather than trying to change someone, a much more productive use of our time is changing how we react to them.


Empathy can create a more inclusive workplace

We see the world from our own point of view and often forget that people have different experiences to our own. Women can often struggle to be seen as assertive, and many feel like they have to change their behaviour as a consequence. By listening to the experiences of people from different genders, ethnicities and backgrounds, we can all strive to create a more open and inclusive environment.

 

We had some brilliant feedback from the evening and we hope you find these insights just as valuable as we have. We hope to host many more events on these topics so watch this space for more wisdom and discussion.

Yoti supports the seven ethical principles for biometrics

We believe that our technology should keep people safe and work for everyone equally. So, we support the seven ethical principles for biometrics, released by the Biometrics Institute.

These principles enable anyone working in the biometrics industry to show they’re committed to addressing ethical issues raised by new technology – biometrics in particular. Here are the seven principles.

 

Ethical behaviour

The first principle states that companies must act ethically even beyond the requirements of law. Ethical behaviour means avoiding actions which harm people and their environment.

We’re proud to be one of the UK’s founding B Corps, which means that we are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. B Corps focus on balancing purpose and profit, and using business as a force for good.

That’s why our age estimation technology, Yoti Age Scan, uses artificial intelligence for good. It simply estimates your age by looking at your face. It doesn’t store the image it captures to estimate your age or any of your personal information.

 

Ownership of the biometric and respect for individuals’ personal data

This principle requires personal data, even when shared, to be respected and treated with the utmost care by others.

One of our founding principles at Yoti is to encourage personal data ownership. We believe personal data should be exactly that: personal. Individuals shouldn’t have to share an excessive amount of sensitive, personal details simply to prove their age. That’s why Yoti Age Scan does not require individuals to register in advance or provide any documentary evidence of their identity.

 

Serving humans

Technology should serve humans and should take into account the public good, community safety and the net benefits to individuals.

We agree that technology should be developed and used for good. Social networking site, Yubo, is already using Yoti Age Scan to be able flag any accounts where there is suspicion or doubt about a user’s age. It’s a vital step towards helping protect young people online.

Retailers will soon be able to use Yoti Age Scan at self-checkouts to give shoppers a simple and secure way of proving their age for age-restricted goods, without needing to show physical ID or wait for staff assistance. Shoppers will spend less time at the self-checkout and retail staff will be free to help with other tasks, improving the overall shopping experience. ID documents can then be left at home. No one wants to lose their documents when they’re out and about or increase their risk of identity fraud.

Justice and accountability

Companies should accept the principles of openness, independent oversight, accountability and the right of appeal and appropriate redress.

One of our founding principles is to be transparent and accountable. This means we’re open and transparent about how we operate. With this in mind, we published a whitepaper that explores Yoti Age Scan in detail. We also have an external Guardian Council to ensure that we always seek to do the right thing and are transparent about what we’re doing and why.

 

Promoting privacy-enhancing technology

Companies should promote the highest quality of appropriate technology use including accuracy, error detection and repair, robust systems and quality control.

Yoti Age Scan is a privacy-preserving system. It simply estimates your age; you don’t need to register in advance or provide any more information about your identity. The image Yoti Age Scan captures to estimate your age is permanently deleted once your age has been estimated, protecting your privacy and identity.

We are constantly improving our age estimation technology and believe it is among the industry leaders in terms of accuracy. We expect this mean average figure to decrease as we continue to train the system.

 

Recognising dignity of individuals and families

Companies should support the dignity and human rights of individuals and families provided that it does not conflict with the legitimate and lawful aims of the criminal justice system to protect the public from harm.

As a B Corporation, one of the things we are measured on is how our operations and business model impacts our workers, community, environment and customers. From our supply chain and input materials, to our charitable giving and employee benefits, our B Corp certification proves we are meeting the highest standards of verified performance. The B Corp certification commits us to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into our legal structure.

 

Equality

This principle promotes the planning and implementation of technology to prevent discrimination or systemic bias based on religion, age, gender, race, sexuality or other descriptors of humans.

Our facial recognition solutions are designed to make life easier for everyone. So we continually train Yoti Age Scan on a diverse range of genders, ages and skin tones, and we believe it is crucial to have a transparent approach when launching new technology that uses facial recognition.

We recognise the sensitivity of ethnic and gender diversity when applying machine learning techniques and share details of the accuracy rates for different ages and skin tones in our whitepaper. You can read it here.

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