Mastercard Cyber & Intelligence
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Mastercard Cyber & Intelligence
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Access All Areas: Identity, Trust And Our Digitised Future

Trusted digital identity holds the key to an accessible, digitally-driven future

We have built a whole digital society that mirrors and functions in parallel to our daily lives. Today, some of the world’s top companies from social networks to hardware creators and gaming studios are actively discussing the possibility of building a “metaverse” – a science fiction concept of a shared digital space or alternate world, where we can all interact via massive virtual reality systems, without the need for physical meetings or travel.

This concept will undoubtedly take time, but one thing is clear: we are at a critical juncture as our virtual world grows. If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the way we interact with each other, acquire goods and services, and carry out any number of everyday tasks has gone digital at an unprecedented pace that is only going to grow.

We need to make decisions about the digital future we want and how we can ensure it is accessible for the majority of society, not just the fortunate few. The potential that digital technology holds is substantial but will be lost if we create a system where people are unable to access the benefits we create.

At the root of all digital services is the creation of trusted digital connections. Put simply, creating trust is critical to anything and everything that happens in our increasingly digital world. A key component to establish and deliver that trust is clearly and reliably proving your identity - who you are, whether you are interacting in person, online or in app. And so it’s no exaggeration to say that digital identity is the key to enabling the accessible digital future we all need and want.

Enabling Inclusive Access

This applies equally to those in developed and developing markets around the globe. The World Bank estimates around a billion people (and half of women in low-income countries) lack an official proof of identity – something that seriously limits their access to basic services, such as social security, healthcare and bank accounts.

Within five years, Mastercard has helped 500 million people to become financially included through models that enable access to markets and services in micro-commerce, agriculture, health and education. We’re now focused on extending our commitment, with plans to bring a total of one billion people into the digital economy by 2025. To that end, improving digital inclusion has been an important factor in the innovation behind our global partnerships in this area.

Collaboration with partners has also reinforced that not all digital identities are created equal. An identity that works for a single service means just that – single use. Interoperability means that after registering and being authenticated on a service just once, your credentials can be re-used across a range of platforms, online and in person. In short, building robust and accessible digital identity requires open collaboration and interoperability to thrive.


Services, With Security

Once established, an interoperable digital identity allows companies, governments and organisations of all kinds to deliver consumer experiences that far surpass current systems. We see a future where everything from online shopping or gaming to employment checks, social benefits, loan approval and even travel or event ticketing is handled by your digital identity.

Our model is based on the belief that there should be no trade-off between convenience and privacy. Simply, you should be the owner of you. This choice of what to share is the digital equivalent of telling someone who needs to verify your age that you’re over 18, rather than also disclosing your name, date of birth, address, driving licence and many other details that are private and irrelevant for the task at hand.

A prime example is the work Australia’s Deakin University has undertaken with Mastercard to empower students to take exams remotely. With many working under lockdown in the last year, the project has allowed students to verify their credentials with the institution and sit exams in a secure environment whilst staying safe at home.

A preoccupation with security is critical at a time that we’re seeing increased risk from fraud, such as account takeover, payments fraud and synthetic identity fraud, where criminals create an identity using combinations of real and fictitious information. Indeed, in 2020 Mastercard’s NuData found 76% of attacks on retail companies alone were highly sophisticated, mimicking human behaviour. The need for protection is acute. Globally, organisations faced $43 billion in global identity fraud losses in 2020.

This is where identity of devices and transactions helps to advance trust across digital interactions, allowing legitimate accounts to operate smoothly and blocking those with malintent. Today, physical biometrics play an increasingly important role in authenticating consumers via facial and fingerprint biometrics on their devices.

In addition, a range of sophisticated technologies work together behind the scenes to ensure the consumer’s interaction is seamless and secure. For example, when a consumer applies for a new payment card, our AI-powered technology immediately assesses their behavioural biometrics, such as the way they type or hold their phone, to determine if it’s a genuine user or fraudulent device, with further real-time risk analysis and validation of key identity data as the application is submitted and the card is added to the consumer’s wallet – all while giving the consumer peace of mind that their data is secure and the transaction is being processed quickly.

Timely application of smart technologies is therefore crucial. The AI-powered, identity verification capabilities offered by Ekata, which was recently acquired by Mastercard, help users prove who they are at several interaction points and enable organisations to make reliable and informed decisions about users on their networks.

A Digital World For All, Not Just The Few

Visionary ideas drive the world forward. The idea of a metaverse, whether realistic or otherwise, generates excitement today because there is promise in the idea of an accessible, equitable and inclusive digital environment. Every strategic partnership and collaboration needs to have the consumer – society – at its heart to gain trust. It is our collective responsibility to ensure the foundations prioritise security and accessibility. Only this way can we hope to create a better, fairer, digital world.

Find out more about Digital Identity