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How digital credentials tackle age-old doubts about identity

How digital credentials tackle age-old doubts about identity

The UK’s growing reliance on digital identities offers a new approach to an age-old problem: how do you know someone is who they claim to be. Now that such questions can be answered by identity technology, digital identity credentials are set to transform the way we trust each other.

Two new significant developments have extended the UK’s increasingly joined-up approach to digital identity credentials. Age Proof, the first digital proof of age card to be approved by a government-appointed body, has been launched by digital identity platform Luciditi. This comes just days after the Online Safety Act cleared Parliament. Both are set to bring better protection to individuals and businesses through age assurance technology.

The same tech, however, can do more than just check someone’s age. It can also verify the job that they claim to be doing, which means you can be certain that a police officer in plain clothes or a plumber knocking at your door is exactly who they say are.

The risks of physical ID cards

Without age assurance tech, younger people have to carry physical ID when trying to get into a pub, club, or gig. The risks to this are obvious. Just under 400,000 UK passports are lost or stolen each year. Between 2018 and 2021, 3,501,972 British drivers splashed out £70 million on replacing lost licences.

Lost ID can expose individuals to identity fraud. And less vulnerable alternatives to passports or driving licences, for example a gym membership card, can be easily forged, exposing businesses to penalties for allowing access to their age-restricted venue or products.

In response to these risks, the government developed the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS), which has been endorsing physical ID cards since 2001. Luciditi’s Age Proof is the first digital version of the PASS card to be approved. While physical cards are low cost, Age Proof has no cost from manufacturing. Its pricing is related only to identity proofing.  And in this regard, as digital proofing costs come down, so will the cost to the user.

By using the digital card on their phone, individuals can access a venue or make impulse purchases of age-restricted items from high street retailers.

Ian Moody, Luciditi co-founder and CEO said: “Age Proof will give better data security and convenience for young people, whilst eliminating the threat of prosecution faced by retailers who unknowingly accept fraudulent physical ID cards.”

Relying on digital identities

Age Proof is underpinned by Luciditi’s tried and trusted age assurance software. This was developed in support of online industries offering age-restricted services.

A website that’s barred to anyone younger than 18 has two choices in allowing access to adults. It can demand identity data, which involves a user dishing out their personal info to a website that could be run from somewhere where GDPR is just something that sounds like a former Soviet state.

Alternatively, websites with a Luciditi account can ask users to simply take a selfie. Luciditi’s smart AI then quickly estimates the age of the user, allowing swift access to anyone over 25.

Anyone under 25 must confirm their age. They can do this via the app, or if they don’t yet have it they can create a one-off identity proof known only to Luciditi. The data is never released to a third party.  Luciditi simply verifies that the person is older than 18, giving the website nothing more than a digital ‘ok’.  It’s this verification element that now supports Age Proof.

Age Proof – digital identity credentials in practice

Two versions of Age Proof are available. The 16+ card enables users to prove they are entitled to buy energy drinks, age-restricted games and music, or analgesics such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.

A 16+ card will automatically upgrade to an 18+ card on the user’s birthday at no extra cost, enabling them to visit pubs and clubs, buy vapes and tobacco, visit a casino, buy fireworks, see 18-rated films, or play the lottery. The digital card can be digitally validated by anyone, without the need for special software.

All users of Age Proof benefit from counterfeit protections that eliminate risks such as forgery and identity fraud. And if users lose their phone, their digital card can be easily recovered.

Recognised and supported by the National Police Chiefs Council, Security Industry Authority, trading standards, The Home Office and public transport providers, Age Proof benefits businesses as much as users, in particular the night-time economy and the younger generations it primarily serves.

Crossing identity boundaries

Together, AI age estimation and verification amount to age assurance. This seems to be the magic bullet that finally brings an end to peculiarly British concerns about identity.

Brits are not fans of government identity projects. Consequently, the UK has been squeamish about introducing identity schemes for decades. Britain remains among the handful of countries without national identity cards, despite attempts to introduce them in 2006 and 2009.

This means that using identity to protect children online has long been a thorny issue. How do you stop kids accessing porn and making online purchases of age-restricted items like vapes, without wading into a moral minefield regarding adults’ data?

In 2017, the UK passed a law enabling the world’s first online age verification scheme. Aimed at stopping children accessing pornography, the project was later abandoned amid concerns about GDPR breaches and bulk data sharing. Its objectives were later picked up by the Online Safety Act, which cleared Parliament in September and aims to make Britain the safest place to be online.

The Act neatly manages questions of identity by approaching the issue from the perspective of age assurance. You don’t need someone’s personal data if you’re assured they’re older than 18.

Assurance is the essential formula that enables online content to be regulated. It opens the door to young people trying to access sites (both online and real world), and it assures businesses that they are only letting in people they should be and are therefore less likely to incur fines or other penalties.

Trusting identity is the central issue. Like an onion, that for many years made the government’s eyes water, it’s an issue that has many layers. Getting past outer concerns about releasing data, and diving deeper into solutions based on middleman assurance, trust has now become more practical and easier to commit to.

Digital identity credentials in everyday life

Age assurance technology is capable, reliable, and proven. It is the key to giving digital identity credentials, without giving away your identity. Luciditi’s app acts as a safe middleman, offering bank-grade security that can be trusted by both users and businesses.

Security at this level is an essential asset to any person or organisation for whom trust is a key part of the job, whether they’re operating online or in the real world. Beyond support for age-restricted websites, Age Proof demonstrates that Luciditi can now underpin trust in the physical world for any business or organisation that needs to issue custom credentials for their own particular use.

The national squeamishness about ID cards came from mistrust. ID cards might have value, but they feel like the quickest way to help the government snoop on everyone. Assurance relying on a certified service like Luciditi removes the central government element and focuses only on the value. Age Proof and the Online Safety Act are only the beginning. One thing you can trust is that the future possibilities for reliance on digital credentials are endless.

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