Open Identity Exchange calls for mobile telco data to be used for digital ID verification

David Murphy

Data from mobile telcos could enable greater levels of inclusion for millions in the UK who currently struggle to prove who they are when trying to access products and services they are entitled to, according to the Open Identity Exchange (OIX), a non-profit organisationand global community pushing for positive and inclusive developments for trusted digital identities.

OIX is urging all digital ID service providers, and other organisations that will need to undertake ID proofing, to consider combining mobile telco data into their processes.

As part of its wider work to understand how to enable digital ID inclusion across the population, OIX has identified the significant value that can be derived from including mobile telco data in the ID proofing process.

Outlined in a paper released this week, OIX provides its view on how telco proofing techniques can be used in the context of the UK Government’s GPG45, (Good Practice Guide) as well as in the context of AML (Anti Money Laundering) ID proofing.

According to the OIX, existing processes to set up a digital ID are still largely dependent on individuals having traditional ID documents, such as passports or driving licences, or existing data sources based on online banking and non-bank credit accounts. However, a large proportion of the UK population does not have a passport, a driving licence or access to online services.

In fact, research conducted by OIX found that at least 6m people in the UK are ‘ID Challenged’. This means that they struggle to prove who they are in both the private and public sectors, and find themselves excluded from access to the products and services they are entitled to.

With the UK government’s recent announcement that eight government departments are now using its digital ID platform, GOV.UK One Login, with others set to be onboarded over the coming months, OIX believes that mobile telco data must be considered to broaden its reach to people who do not have traditional documents or online banking and non-bank credit accounts.

“Mobile telco data on its own has limited value and doesn’t rank as high in the GPG45 model, compared to data from banks, credit reference agencies or government,” said Nick Mothershaw, OIX Chief Identity Strategist. “That’s why it isn’t currently used in the ID proofing process and has become a forgotten data source. However, when combined with these and other datasets, it becomes extremely valuable and has the ability to move people up to ‘medium’ or ‘high’ in terms of GPG45 scoring. This will enable greater levels of inclusion for parts of the UK population who currently struggle.”

According to OIX, an individual’s name, address, phone number, how long an account has been open and whether it is active, can be validated against mobile telco records. The differentiating factor, however, is the ability to send an SMS through the telco provider’s own system to the individual’s validated phone with a one-time code. This enables ‘dynamic’ Knowledge Based Verification (KBV) of that individual. 

Mothershaw concluded: “It’s not acceptable that millions in the UK are still ID challenged and it means that digital ID will not be inclusive. There are a number of things that need to happen, but a good starting point is to introduce more datasets into the ecosystem and mobile telco data is a quick win. This data is readily available, and its combination with other data sources gives it the ability to instantly improve circumstances for those who cannot verify their identity through traditional means.”