Mastercard to pilot new digital ID system

Credit card giant looks to develop new digital identity verification service, running a real-world pilot program with Australia Post and Deakin University.

Mastercard is launching a pilot program to test the effectiveness of a new digital identity verification service, with the aim of developing a new system to verify a person’s identity immediately, safely and securely in both the digital and the physical world.

The pilot program will test a new way for people to prove their identity without having to carry multiple documents; instead, using owner data at the heart of the system. The digital ID model blends information stored on an individual’s mobile device, verified by additional reference points, such as an individual’s bank or participating government agencies, eliminating the need for a centralised identity database. It will also make additional partnerships and pilots throughout 2020.

Mastercard said increasingly digital lifestyles have challenged traditional notions of identity, trust and privacy, and a new model of identity verification is needed. 

“We believe this starts with a commitment to the responsible handling of personal information, giving consumers control over which data is used and how it is used to verify their identity,” said Mastercard president of cyber and intelligence, Ajay Bhalla.

The initial phase of the pilot with Deakin University featured student volunteers testing an identity verification process for student registration and digital exams at the Burwood and Geelong campuses in Victoria. 

“The pilot aligns with our institution’s digital-first strategy to improve the user experience and we look forward to the concept moving into other trial environments,” said Deakin University chief digital officer, William Confalonieri.  

The Australia Post pilot program, meanwhile, will integrate the agency’s existing Digital iD solution and expand the ability for Australians to identify themselves easily when accessing services. 

“Complementing our participation in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, it also positions Digital iD as the only identity provider offering our communities access to both government and private sector services.” said Australia Post general manager, identity products and services, Regis Bauchiere.  

The Mastercard digital identity program was launched at the start of 2019 with a detailed framework of how digital identity will work, based on the principles of data rights and ownership, confidentiality, consent, transparency, security and inclusion. Mastercard’s mantra for its new digital identity initiative is that every individual has a fundamental individual right: “I own my identity and I control my identity data”.

There are several key issues with identity, according to Mastercard, which can be summarised as the burden of proof, global interoperability, fraud reduction, improved commercial interactions and digital inclusion. In particular, personal identity is vulnerable because fraud and identity theft often only require the breach of a single database. There’s also a need to have multiple personal passwords which reduces control over personal identity data and there’s little transparency. Additionally, a large proportion of people have no trusted identity documents such as birth certificates, hindering their digital inclusion. 

The payment provider's model, which links a person’s identity to their smartphone, does not aggregate identity data. It uses facial biometrics on someone’s device to allow them to access stored personal data to verify their identity and does not store large amounts of personal information on centralised databases, and users choose which personal information is shared and with whom. Mastercard said the aim is to enable digital interactions with minimal data exchanged and only when needed, and to safeguard data and its usage so users are in control. 

“The big question for digital interactions in a hyper-connected age is: how do you trust someone you don’t know, can’t see and isn’t present in person?,” Bhalla said.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia. 

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