The Identity Issue

Posted by Trustev editor on May 15, 2013

As more and more services move online and as the Internet becomes a larger part of our day (beyond just looking at cat pictures) you very quickly realise that the ability to properly identify a user's real world identity is key to the future of the mainstream Internet.

Whether it's shopping or sharing, banking, renting, booking or many of the real world activities that we now have the freedom to carry out online, the one constant is that the way the Internet is currently designed; to favour anonymity and the benefits it carries, dramatically hamstrings commerce and services in many other ways. On the service side of the internet, knowing the identity of your customer is vital in some cases. For some industries like banking and other financial areas, its a legal requirement with stiff penalties for breaches.

But there's a big issue here. Sadly as much as the Internet improves and enhances many real world services when they move online, many companies still look to outdated, offline methods of identity verification to bridge this information gap. You often hear of ridiculous situations where people are still asked to send photocopies or even faxes (remember fax machines) of passports, utility bills and other documentation to confirm identity before being allowed access to a service. More and more, as these sort of requirements become a necessary part of the company doing their business, we are sadly seeing a complete lack of imagination in terms of who companies are seeking to confirm peoples identities. The majority of the time this identity bureaucracy is just pushed back onto the user as a whole new barrier and a hurdle for them to overcome.

Here's the problem - there's nothing in it for the user. The average user wants to go about their online business just as they always have. They don't look at these extra layers of authentication and data entry in a logical way, they don't understand or care about legal requirements. They just encounter them and they instantly trigger the "not worth the hassle" gene and they move on.

Businesses need to step back and look at the bigger experience picture for their users; from when the user first hits their site; is the business doing everything it can to minimise the work and effort required by users to engage with the business and instead maximising the user experience? Is there an easier and more effective way to collect to required data that achieves the same goal while being transparent at all times?

Topics: Identity