The Role of Government in Protecting the Future of Identity

Posted January 3, 2019

In this episode Frank is joined by Neil Butters, Director of Products and Platforms at Interac. They explore how governments and businesses can collaborate to engage end users and establish a theme of security and privacy.


Frank:   Hey everybody, welcome to another edition of Digital Identity 360, coming to you from our Terranea Summit in Los Angeles at the beautiful Rancho Palos Verdes, Terranea Resort, I should say. I’m here with Neil Butters. Neil is the Director of Products and Platforms at Interac. Interac is a fantastic partner, and we’re privileged to have Neil speak at our event this year as a subject matter expert on digital identities, globally. So Neil, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for being here.

Neil:   Yeah, thanks a lot for inviting me.

Frank:   Absolutely. Guys, Neil and I had an interesting conversation earlier about the role that government and business play together in creating these digital identities. And the theme this year, Neil, for us is the future of identity. And I think it’s very salient to understand what are the components and elements required in identity for mass global adoption? And do we get there organically through commercial use, or is there a role, really, for government in partnership with business to play to establish those standards?

Neil:   So I think it’s the latter. I really think that government and the private sector really need to get together, they need to collaborate, they need to collaborate on standards. There needs to be the aspects that, in order to reach ubiquity, you need standards, you need a common theme around security and privacy, and you also need to have engagement from the end users.

Frank:   Sure. And by the way, it’s interesting, as we discussed earlier, one of the interesting challenges that we see as it relates to government in business, and certainly I think it’s endemic here in the U.S., is that business, the velocity of commerce, business is ahead of it, and government’s always playing catch-up. So what we see, and maybe you can speak to this from your experience, is we see that government winds up playing a role of protecting the consumer, but it’s very reactive. They wake up and they go, “Oh my goodness, there are billions of digital identities and transactions happening every day, and people are using this stuff, and now there’s inherently issues to worry about.” And so they play a catch-up role. So maybe speak to your view of that. I think, certainly in Canada, it appears that Canada is much more forward-looking and involved early, but maybe speak to that.

Neil:   So I think from our perspective digital identity is really about creating those end to end digital experiences for end users and being able to bring services more online. So to be able to understand and transact with confidence, from one user to the other user, is extremely important. And government’s role in that is to underpin that interaction, and provide the necessary legislation and regulation so that everybody’s playing on the same playing field.

Frank:   Yeah, it’s interesting, that government has been, I think, very active on the data privacy protection side. Think of GDPR in Europe, a proper British protection privacy scheme, to quote my British friends. They’ve been very active there. I think what we see, and it’s so interesting, is, absent that relationship between them, what you need is a trusted custodian of data that, almost through commercial use, has established, and through use and operation, a protocol. And then ultimately governments either catch up or, as I said earlier, help inform that. The theme is the future of identity at our conference. And one of the things that’s been very interesting for us in our acquisition by Lexis, is being able to augment our digital identities with massive physical data. And so now, as you inform that continuous authentication journey that you’re talking about, we have the ability to use credentials that are physical, in many cases government sanction issued credentials, and append those and help kind of inform the digital identity. You think maybe that might be a way where governments catch up or where those legacy credentials are utilized in the way that’s salient and applicable in the digital world?

Neil:   So I think the legacy credentials can be used from an onboarding perspective. When you renew your driver’s license, maybe there’s an option to allow you to have a digital version on your digital wallet as an onboarding exercise. I believe that immigration is right for some integration and innovation around, because the KYC, when people are immigrating, happens when they enter the country. And what’s a better place for that to happen?

Frank:   Point of entry, right?

Neil:   Exactly. Right.

Frank:   It’s interesting, and a couple of more questions, we’ll close with them, but if you think of online visa applications, for the example of who is this individual? And in many parts of the world, the physical data that normally we would rely on is lacking. And so we have to pivot and maybe think about digital as a standard. If you could look at one thing that is the biggest risk to this continuous authentication journey and digital identities, what do you think the number one risk is?

Neil:   So I think if you don’t tie the digital identity back to a foundational record, the loophole that you create in that is ripe for fraud. So we need to be able to close that gap in order to provide a safe and secure system moving forward.

Frank:   Yeah, much like in strong authentication, you bind the device to the individual, and that device becomes a permanent authenticator. There’s some record that leverages an existing relationship or identity that is trusted. We learned something very cool folks, about Neil today, and that is that Neil smokes his own bacon. So in the spirit of switching gears, talk to us a little bit about this exercise of smoking your own bacon, and again, pleasure to have you here.

Neil:   Yeah, it’s great. Smoking bacon, it’s just one of those things. You can’t buy good bacon in the store, so you may as well do it yourself.

Frank:   Awesome. And folks, you can tell the smile on both faces, when we switched to bacon, was remarkable. But Neil, we are delighted with the Interac partnership and absolutely honored to have you here in our Digital Identity Summit this year, at Terranea. And thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

Neil:   Yeah, thanks a lot, Frank.

Frank:   My pleasure.

Neil:   Cheers.

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