Mastercard: ‘Digital Identity can only work through joint effort, collaboration between business, government and society’

Digital identity verification should be as simple as saying, ‘Hi, it’s me,’ says the global card giant’s president of global enterprise risk and security – but for digital identity to work, it requires agreed standards, compatibility and – most of all – the trust of stakeholders

Posted 5 July 2018 by

A child born today won’t have a bank card, hold a passport, or carry cash, her first payment device may be a phone, a watch, or an item of clothing, the signature she’ll do it with be a thumbprint and her ID card, an iris scan – and DNA will underpin her digital identity.

The prediction comes from Ajay Bhalla – president of global enterprise risk and security at the $12bn global payments giant – in an opinion article in the online version of City A.M., London’s first free daily business newspaper, today.

But if you support his vision, don’t break out the chilled summer Prosecco just yet – as the security veteran then goes on to bemoan the whole state of Digital Identity.

“The current situation of identity verification is past its sell-by date,” he writes. “Fraud in the payments network can be detected within 25 milliseconds, but when it comes to authenticating our identity elsewhere, we’re still dependent on physical witnesses, birth certificates, and paper utility bills. We have behavioural metrics that can identify a smartphone user simply by the way they tap on the screen, but we still need an average of 30 passwords each (the most common of which is 123456) to prove online that we are who we are.”

That’s a problem, he states, as the ability to identify ourselves online is getting more and more essential, necessitating what he styles as “a verified identity that is accepted globally and across multiple digital touchpoints” and instead gives the individual control over the data that is used to verify their identity.

The good news: Bhalla thinks we could already do this, if we wanted to: “In payments technology, it’s a target we’ve been closing in on as we move from cash to card, password to PIN, signature to thumbprint, and beyond. We’ve ended the trade-off between security and convenience. It’s easier and safer to authenticate with a thumbprint or a selfie.”

But the hard part is making that truly international – finding something that works for every country and across borders is more difficult.

For digital identity to work, it requires agreed standards, compatibility, and – most of all – the trust of stakeholders.

Bhalla concludes his article with a strong call to action. “People want a reusable digital identity that’s as simple as saying ‘Hi, it’s me.’ This is perfectly feasible. We can deliver it – [but] his is a global ambition that only works as a joint effort, through collaboration between business, government, and society.”

Mastercard describes itself as a a technology company in the global payments industry whose global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. The firm claims its products and solutions make everyday commerce activities, such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances, easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.