Optus, Mastercard and the race for digital identity

Optus and Mastercard talk through their latest efforts to shore up digital identity services

In the race to make interactions digital, one aspect of transacting has remained stubbornly troublesome – identity.

The need for people to prove who they say they are – and for service providers to believe them – is a problem that has been tackled by a myriad of companies using a wide range of technologies.

Identification has been a particularly troublesome challenge for the payments industry, given the expensive cost of getting it wrong. But now Mastercard is seeking to use its experience in identity verification to help other service providers ensure they are dealing with the individuals they believe they are dealing with.

The company recently announced the completion of the second phase of the pilot program for its digital identity service, dubbed ID, as well as its adoption by Deakin University and Australia Post. The announcement followed on from an earlier decision by Optus to progressively deploy Mastercard’s ID to the nearly six million customers who have downloaded the My Optus app.

According to Optus vice-president for its digital consumer business, Vaughan Paul, the decision to adopt ID is driven by Optus’ desire to protect the security of customers’ personal information while also providing them with digital options.

“Digital ID empowers our customers with a simple, secure option of verifying their information from the palm of their hand,” Paul told CMO. “We love digital options and know our customers do too – so a secure, re-usable, interoperable identity verification fits the brief of making our digital services better for our customers.”

ID is being piloted by Deakin university for exam verification, and will connect and integrate with Australia Post’s Digital iD service.

For Optus, Paul said the benefits customers receive from using the Mastercard digital identity service will grow as more local and global companies and government services sign up.

Mastercard vice-president for cyber and intelligence solutions and digital identity, Mallika Sathi, said ID’s architecture enables an organisation to easily identify who they are doing business with.

“We want to nip it in the bud, right at the beginning of the consumer interaction, which the alleviates the downstream issues for consumers and businesses,” Sathi said. “What differentiates our capability is that once the user has verified their identity upfront, they can reuse that verified identity across multiple different applications.”

The ID system uses facial recognition to establish identity, either when transacting online or in person, and enables people to confirm their identity without having to handover any physical documents. It also allows them to retain control of what information is digital transferred.

Sathi said the goal now is to expand the use of ID to other service providers both in Australia and around the world, including connecting to government identification services such as the Australian Government’s MyGovID.

“Mastercard wants to establish a global network where the consumer can go to their destination and share their digital identity credentials and that identity is verified,” Sathi said.

Paul said the notion the customer is in control of what is shared and with who was appealing to Optus.

“Customers’ personal data is securely stored on the customer’s personal device,” he said. “It is not aggregated and stored in a central database. This minimises the risk of the customers’ personal data profile being compromised.”

Optus is undergoing customer testing with Mastercard to determine the desired customer experience and change program to deliver to its frontline teams. “We have developed a guided process to be deployed in the My Optus App for use at multiple customer touchpoints such as retail, care and online,” Paul said.

“ID solves pain points for our customers by simplifying the validation of their identity, giving them more control over their personal information and streamlining transactions and hence improving the customer and employee experience.”

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