On Mother’s Day, you may have entered your credit card number (complete with three-digit security code) to buy flowers or chocolates online without thinking twice about it. Last Friday, you may have ordered Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats with your credit card already stored on your phone. If you’re a Netflix subscriber like most of us, they’ve already got your card on file and it’s charged each month.
And yet, even with the vast number of things we can do online, there are some things we still do in-person. Apply for a driver’s licence. Open a bank account. Vote.
In today’s COVID-19 era, this is a more pressing problem than ever. Citizens want to use government and corporate services like these online, without having to physically step foot into public spaces. Governments and public companies also want to supply these services.
So, what’s holding the process up? There are several factors including technology, standardization and coordination, but another factor that is of equal or more importance is trust.
Governments and companies that want to offer services involving sensitive information, such as government identification, need to have a way to verify that they have properly identified their users with a high degree of certainty. Nobody else but you should be able to apply for a driver’s license online or vote under your name.
Similarly, citizens and consumers need to feel comfortable sharing that identifying information with online sites and services. In a recent study by CIGI-Ipsos, 49% of respondents said that lack of trust made them disclose less personal information online1.
One way to bridge this gap is to have a system that not only verifies and guarantees personal identification but also protects this information. This digital ID system should enable citizens and consumers to share proof of their identification digitally in a way that allows for just the required information to be exchanged.
The key concept about digital ID is that it enables trust for online transactions. Not only must organizations such as banks and governments trust that the digital ID system is secure, but critically, we as consumers must also trust the system enough for mass adoption to happen.
A government or consortium of firms can create the most secure, robust digital ID system in the world, and citizens aren’t going to adopt it if they don’t trust it.
Think of a first blind date, you look at how a person is dressed, or if they show up on time, or how they treat the server at the restaurant. There may be an obvious red flag that tells you right away someone isn’t trustworthy, but most often you use a combination of observations and intuition to figure out if this is someone you can trust.
Online trust works the same way. Every time you interact with a new site or service online, you’re consciously or subconsciously assessing how trustworthy it is. Too many red flags, and you abandon your shopping cart or cancel your account registration.
It works in positive ways, too. The more signs you see that a site or service is trustworthy, the more likely you are to trust it with your personal information – especially information like your government ID or financial data.
With our research, we identified three types of trust factors associated with the use of online technologies:
How much we trust an online site or service has a great deal with how we feel when we interact with it. If the site is attractive, looks professionally designed, and is easy to use, we are more likely to trust it. Similarly, if we have a sense of control over how we use the technology – and especially if the service tells us how it’s going to use and manage our personal data – then we’re also going to have more trust in that technology.
Who is offering the online technology and what we know about them is also very important. We are more likely to trust well-known organizations with reputable brands. Providers can increase institutional trust with additional ‘trust boosters’ from third parties – such as an Interac logo during a bank Interac e-Transfer transaction, or standards and regulations that the service or site is following. Lastly, the provider can give us information and support to get us to become more comfortable using a new technology.
Unlike the first two trust factors, this category has to do with the users themselves. The more experienced, knowledgeable, and confident a user is, the more likely they’re going to want to try a new online technology. Think about your friends, the ones who were the first to sign up for Facebook, LinkedIn or Zoom. Users who want to stay ahead of the curve and try something new are also likely to trust new services and become early adopters.
Trust is a fragile thing – difficult to build, easy to break. Trusting a new digital ID system – or any online service – carries a risk. But, as discussed above, the more providers of such a system can keep in mind the trust factors discussed above and avoid red flags, the sooner we can transition to a world where we can apply for drivers’ licenses, vote online, and interact with institutions who can trust that we are who we say we are, in return.
More information about trust factors and online services is available in the full paper, “How Do We Get People to Use Digital Identity?”.
If you’re interested in collaborating with Interac on the future of Digital ID, drop us a line at [email protected]