What is Identity Verification?

Proving trusted credentials are connected to the intended agent

Formally

The process of confirming at least one attribute of an individual or entity, either through self-attestation or third party confirmation. Verification is also sometimes referred to as identity proofing.

Simply put

How do we prove who you are?

Status quo verification processes

Identity verification often takes place at the outset of an interaction with a particular service provider. In the offline world, for example, a person may present a government-issued driver’s license as part of a manual verification process that they are of drinking age to enter a bar. Verification is frequently discussed in the context of financial services: KYC and anti-money laundering (AML) protocols rely on effective verification procedures. Before they can take on new individual or corporate customers, financial institutions must rely on a combination of user-provided information and third-party attestations (the government may attest to a citizen’s social security number, a utility company to a customer’s address) to prove that users are who they say they are.

Not all use cases and service providers require identity verification. For example, many internet services allow users to create pseudonymous accounts without providing any identity attributes. Others will rely on self-asserted information – in other words, information a user or entity has indicated about itself is taken with no further steps to check the accuracy of the data.

The problem with the status quo

Verification procedures are often expensive for service providers, inconvenient for users, and time consuming for all involved. This is particularly true for markets in which traditional identity documents and credentials are hard to come by. Verification is also, in many cases, repetitive and localized to a particular service. That is, a customer must often undergo repeated checks of the same information, often requiring in-person appearances with physical documents to access different services. For example, a customer must submit income data, their Social Security number, and their home address each time she applies for a credit card.

Legacy verification procedures also place a burden of security upon the verifier, who must ensure that user information submitted for verification is either protected in storage or disposed of promptly and in line with regulatory obligations. Some have looked to blockchain’s potential to provide verified attributes as zero knowledge proofs or in cryptographically hashed functions to increase the security of the data. However, the requirement for trusted verifiers to provide authoritative attributes and the necessary connection of that attribute with a physical, off-chain entity leaves questions about a garbage in – garbage out problem.

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