Know Your Constituent: Why Identity Proofing is Essential in the Public Sector

identity proofing for public sector

As more and more business moves online, government agencies have also been under pressure to provide a secure yet efficient online experience for members of the public. These agencies have stepped up to the challenge, providing everything from the ability to renew your car’s registration to filing your taxes online.

But this digital transformation has come at a heavy price in the form of increased fraud, especially during the pandemic. According to a report by the U.S. Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, there was a 2,920% increase in identity theft reports related to government documents or benefits fraud in 2020.

This type of crime has a terrible impact on individuals who have been denied benefits because of the fraudsters. For example, the report describes Medicare beneficiaries who were unable to receive medical care because someone had fraudulently billed Medicare for hospice services using their identities. Identity fraud also negatively impacts the good reputations of the agencies themselves, and it puts a significant drain on taxpayer funds.

Reducing Identity Fraud

As a result, agencies across the public sector are seeking new ways to verify users online to ensure that they are who they claim to be. The report recommends some key actions for reducing identity fraud:

  • Conduct data matching to verify identity and eligibility for government programs
  • Establish controls or processes that check for duplicate applications or benefits
  • Collaborate and coordinate with states and other relevant agencies
  • Develop processes to track and analyze fraud cases to identify new patterns or trends
  • Strengthen communication about data breaches

Find opportunities to rely on more forms or methods of identification

The challenge is to implement an identity proofing solution that is highly accurate, can stay ahead of new types of fraud threats and is easy for all members of the public to use. If the solution is too lightweight and doesn’t do adequate checking, fraud will continue to rise unabated. But if the solution is too cumbersome, the individuals you are trying to serve will abandon the process and will not be able to receive the benefits they need.

This delicate balancing act has led some agencies to lean toward solutions that are very easy to use and promise reliability. Unfortunately, in many cases those solutions did not live up to the promises and have created a nightmare by letting fraudsters through and creating many false positives that prevented legitimate individuals from receiving benefits.

Avoiding Bias

More and more identity verification providers are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to determine if an identification document (ID) is authentic, to compare the selfie of a customer with the photo on their ID and to determine if the person creating a new online account is physically present (also known as liveness detection). When AI is being used to this extent, it’s not surprising that there will be concerns about possible bias in the facial recognition process.

For example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) studied Amazon’s AI-based Rekognition facial recognition software back in 2018 and found that Rekognition falsely matched 28 U.S. Congress members with a database of criminal mugshots. According to the ACLU, “Nearly 40 percent of Rekognition’s false matches in our test were of people of color, even though they make up only 20 percent of Congress.”

In the context of facial recognition, racial bias is only one form of bias. Other demographic traits, such as age, gender, socioeconomic factors and even the quality of the camera/device can impact software’s ability to compare one face to a database of faces.

The good news is that some companies are taking this problem very seriously and are building in safeguards to avoid bias. This allows them to take advantage of the enormous benefits AI provides in reducing fraud while also minimizing bias that would create false positives.

Selecting an Identity Proofing Solution

With so much at stake, both for members of the public and the government agencies who serve them, it’s essential to implement the right identity proofing solution that can overcome these challenges. When choosing a solution, be sure to look for these key attributes:

  • User-friendly customer experience that’s easy to use on mobile devices as well as home computers and laptops
  • Support for all the types of IDs your constituents might use, such as driver’s licenses, state ID cards and passports
  • High accuracy rates in catching fraud and reducing false positives
  • Effective use of artificial intelligence that maximizes fraud detection and minimizes bias
  • Deep commitment to security
  • Industry-leading identity proofing vendor with a proven track record and authorization to operate (ATO)

Thankfully, Jumio ticks all the boxes. Our identity proofing solutions for the public sector allow you to fight fraud, protect your agency and streamline the online experience for the people you serve. We have authorization to operate (ATO), are Section 508 compliant and have multiple security certifications, including ISO/IEC 27001:2013, PCI DSS and SOC2 Type 2.

To find out more about how Jumio can help you to help your constituents, just fill out this form and we will schedule a time to have a conversation.


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