Around the world, technology companies, governments and even some banks are trying to develop new, safer and easier ways for people to prove they are who they say they are. Generally the goal is to allow people to be authenticated once by a trusted identity provider (a role banks could play) rather than share sensitive information with countless third parties, as they do today. Here we highlight just a few of the many organizations innovating in this space.
Barclays and the U.K. Government
The United Kingdom has launched a digital identity project - called GOV.UK Verify - where British citizens can access government services and websites by logging into one of eight approved digital identity providers. Barclays is one of the eight, and the only bank. Its participation is part of a larger effort by the bank to maximize the value of all the information it stores.
Canadian Banks and SecureKey
The Canadian government launched a digital identity project called SecureKey in 2012. In a similar model to the U.K. program, banks manage their customers' digital identities for government websites. Tangerine Bank, Bank of Montreal, TD Bank and ScotiaBank are all part of the program.
Formerly known as the Federal Cloud Credential Exchange, this U.S. program, with partners including Google, ID.me, PayPal and Verizon, manages credentials for visitors to government sites. Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, General Services Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, have committed to integrate with Connect.Gov to accept commercially issued credentials. No banks are yet involved as partners.
No survey of digital identity projects would be complete without mentioning the efforts of the Estonian government. The "e-Estonia" project includes a national digital ID card, Digi-ID. Stored inside the SIM card of a mobile phone, it authenticates the holder and allows users to write digital signatures in electronic environments. Virtually every Estonian has a Digi-ID, which makes acceptance nearly ubiquitous. Estonia also offers "e-residency" to foreigners who pass background checks and supply their fingerprints, allowing them to start companies in the country without setting foot there. Opening a bank account still requires one in-person meeting for e-residents, however.
BBVA Compass
The Birmingham, Ala., bank partnered with payments provider Dwolla on a jointly developed authentication and tokenization process, called FiSync, which removes the need for BBVA accountholders to provide sensitive bank account information or credentials to Dwolla or any other party it transacts with. This allows the bank's customers to send and receive money with Dwolla using their bank credentials to log in. "It's an easy thing to get customers to use, because all we're asking them to do is authenticate with their bank," said Chad Ballard, director of mobility and new digital business technologies at BBVA Compass. "It's something they do every day."
USAA is working on a project where it would partner with a government agency on a service that would involve USAA members being able to authenticate themselves using USAA credentials to access government services. The bank said it is not at liberty to divulge the name of the agency. "There's a lot more happening in this space than most people realize," said USAA Chief Security Officer Gary McAlum.
Fintech Startups
A bunch of fintech startups, to varying degrees, offer services that allow consumers to manage their digital identities all in one place. Think of them as a digital version of a safe that stores important documents like a passport. Some of these services — miiCard and OneLogin, for example — allow their customers to log into other sites using their secure ID for authentication. Others simply hold on to data for the user, providing a repository to centralize a holistic digital identity and allowing the user to decide which outside parties can access it. These include Meeco and People.io.
Blockchain Companies
Then there are the fintech startups looking specifically to incorporate blockchain technology into how digital identity is managed in the future. Just as this distributed ledger offers a secure way to transmit currency (such as bitcoin), some argue it can be used to share digital identities once they are created and uploaded to the Internet. Among these entrants are OneName.io, 2way.io, Bitnation, ShoCard and Credits.Vision.