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Digital identities: taking back what is rightfully ours

Written by John Abbott, Partnerships Director, Yoti

Something strange is happening online. For the first time in the history of the internet, we, its worshippers, are rallying against it.

For as long as many of the internet’s most avid users have been alive, we’ve been peppering our personal information across the web with little consideration for where it ends up. Now though, something is changing. A string of high profile data breaches has fuelled a groundswell of anxiety. Now, it seems, our blissful ignorance has turned to quiet concern.

How safe is our personal information online? How can we take back ownership of our digital identities? They’re questions that would never have crossed our minds a year or two years ago. Yet now we want answers.

Warning signs we can’t ignore

The Equifax data breach was one of the biggest in history. Around 143 million US consumers and an undisclosed number of British and Canadian residents are believed to have had their personal information stolen in the attack. Everything a hacker needs to steal your identity was taken: names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and even driving license numbers. It was, as an associate professor in the Cyber Security programme at WPI called it, “the crown jewels of breaches”.

For those affected, the impact is devastating. Most of us won’t have given much thought to how our most personal information might be used against us. You probably don’t consider yourself at risk of identity fraud either. The unfortunate truth is that you are.

Take a second to consider the different sites or applications you have a login for. Facebook? Email? Online banking? Ebay, Gumtree, PayPal, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Trainline, iTunes, Uber, Spotify, Netflix? The list goes on. In most cases that’s at least your full name, date of birth and bank account details out there in the abyss of the internet, proliferating each time you sign up to a new website or app.

It’s time we took back control of our data. The businesses we’ve entrusted to look after it for us are proving themselves unfit for the job. When companies overmine data they put a greater bounty on it, enticing hackers. To prevent our data from falling into the wrong hands we need to start making better use of what’s right under our noses.

Facing up to it

If there was any doubt that biometric verification was the future of identity protection, it was forgotten when Apple unveiled FaceID. Passwords and secret questions aren’t sufficient means of protecting our digital identities anymore. Our faces give us greater control over who accesses our devices and applications. Our facial features, fingerprints and the makeup of our retinas, for example, are unique to us. Our mother’s maiden name on the other hand, is not.

At Yoti, we’re on a mission to enable consumers to take control of their personal information using biometrics. We’ve used smartphones and biometric technology to provide everyone with their free digital identity. We’re disrupting the way people prove their identity, but in a way that favours the individual and the security of their data.

Sure, we won’t take back control of our identities overnight, but we’re setting the wheels in motion.

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  • This is wrong on so many levels.
    Identity is not a thing. It is not something we can “take back”. Identity is how you are known by others. Of course it sucks that we are exploited online but that’s not going to change because you figure out a new way of naming yourself. Big Data will still trace your every step.
    Biometrics as measured are not unique.
    Every consumer biometrfic still has a password backup. Touch ID is pretty great but I still have to use my iPhone passcode several times a day.
    How are you actually going to change the way Facebook, banks, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram et al identify you? Identification is in the hands of the Relying Parties.

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