What is Identity Proofing?

When a user attempts to register for an account or service, the organization may need to perform some level of identity verification. This ensures that the user’s real identity matches their claims.

In some situations, the accuracy of the identification is critically important. For example, a government or military organization may need to know if a potential employee is a spy.

In this case, the organization may perform identity proofing. This involves an in-depth investigation of the user’s claimed identity to establish with very high confidence that they are who they claim to be.

Identity Verification vs. Identity Proofing

Identity verification and identity proofing are two related processes. They both have the goal of verifying that someone is who they claim to be.

The main difference between these two processes is the degree and the level of effort put into identity verification. Identity verification is a high-level validation of a user’s identity performed in lower-risk situations. For example, an organization may ask to see a driver’s license or passport before creating an account. In this case, there is a chance that the user may have successfully lied about their identity using fake IDs.

Identity proofing is a much more in-depth validation of a user’s identity. It can involve multiple forms of ID, background checks, and other efforts designed to both verify a user’s identity and ensure that the provided identity documents are legitimate.

Components of Identity Proofing

Identity proofing is intended to validate a user’s identity behind a reasonable doubt. Some of the steps that might be performed during the identity-proofing process include:

  • Data Collection: The identity-proofing process includes collecting data from the user to start the investigation. For example, the organization will ask for the user’s name, social security number (SSN), date of birth, and various identity documents.

  • Biometric Collection: In addition to documents, the organization may collect biometric data from the user, including fingerprints, photographs, etc. These can be used for identity proofing and to authenticate the user in the future.

  • Document Validation: The next step is checking that the provided identity documents are legitimate. For example, an organization may validate driver’s licenses and passports against official government databases.

  • Background Checks: The organization may also perform background checks or hire an investigator to do so. This includes checking criminal history, financial history, and similar information available in official databases.

  • Multi-Source Identification: The organization may use multiple sources to provide additional validation of identity. This decreases the risk of an incorrect conclusion due to incorrect or modified data.

At the end of the identity-proofing process, the organization should have proven or disproved the user’s identity claims. From there, they can move on to making a decision about whether to open an account, hire the person, etc.

Benefits of Identity Proofing

Identity proofing is not necessary in many contexts. However, it can provide a few benefits, including:

  • Security: Identity proofing dramatically reduces the risk of mistaken identity. It’s much harder to forge multiple forms of official ID than a single driver’s license.

  • Trust: Identity proofing builds trust between an organization and a user by removing any potential doubts about the user’s identity.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Identity proofing is often used in industries where it is required by law. Performing this process helps with compliance and protection of sensitive data.

Conclusion

Identity proofing is an in-depth validation of a user’s identity, going beyond identity verification. This process can be costly and time-consuming but offers significant security benefits.

KZero Staff
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