Digital identity is officially critical infrastructure. On March 2, the Biden Administration made digital identity a top priority in two key announcements on Pandemic Anti-Fraud measures and an updated National Cybersecurity Strategy.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed huge shortcomings in the digital identity verification system, as Americans faced rampant online identity theft and criminal attacks on outdated systems while suffering from unnecessary burdens when accessing public services. To prevent this from happening again, the White House made clear that a modern and equitable approach to identity verification and fraud risk management will be necessary for state and federal government agencies. In today’s world, digital identity is critical infrastructure, and the investments outlined today are vital to fixing what is a legitimate crisis on behalf of the American public.
The National Cybersecurity Strategy includes “Supporting a Digital Identity Ecosystem” as a key objective for the nation.
The Strategy states: “The federal government will encourage and enable investments in strong, verifiable digital identity solutions that promote security, accessibility and interoperability, financial and social inclusion, consumer privacy, and economic growth.” We couldn’t agree more with this mission. As the statement noted, “operating independently, neither the private nor public sectors have been able to solve this problem”. A strong public-private partnership is the only way to build a better approach to support the American people.
In keeping with this goal, the White House’s Pandemic Anti-Fraud proposal is an encouraging development as we await the broader executive order on digital identity. The proposal seeks at least $300 million to prevent identity theft in public benefits. The president will also propose legislative reforms that will require states to use the tools at their disposal to identify fraud and give states access to more funding to reduce and recapture fraudulent or improper payments. These measures are exactly what need to happen – they will help ease their burden on the victims of identity theft as they try to regain control of their digital identities.
The $1.6 billion in funding for identity fraud prevention from the American Rescue Plan Act will be made available to states by June 2023. This latest investment will be spent in a host of grants and investments in identity theft prevention and modernizing state IT systems. We believe it’s imperative for this funding round to fix digital identity at government agencies. Digital identity theft was the main culprit in unemployment benefits and loan fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it remains a problem today.
In addition, identity theft and fraud made it far more difficult for legitimate claimants to access benefits, as legacy identity verification providers suffered from low success rates, particularly for disadvantaged communities. Even as unemployment has gone down, the Department of Labor has found the percent of payments arriving in a “timely” manner has still not recovered. By employing a coordinated, data-driven approach to digital identity with lessons learned from the commercial sector, we can solve these problems so we’re better prepared for the next emergency.
We’ve championed taking a more measurable and transparent approach to identity verification and fraud prevention. It shouldn’t be enough to tell the public that identity verification is working – we believe the government should be transparent with the public on the accuracy and performance of any adopted solution – and industry partners should publish this data as well. This is key to restoring public trust and providing a means to give a voice to those often left behind.
“Leaders in government, in close collaboration with private sector partners, need to know which approaches work and which don’t. Coverage, accuracy, inclusivity, and precision can and must be measured to ensure the government is only procuring the best solutions available,” Socure founder and CEO Johnny Ayers said. “Get it right and the government can root out fraud and substantially increase the speed of delivery of benefits in a timely, equitable manner. Get it wrong and the bad actors will continue to siphon billions from government programs and US tax payers, while good consumers are stuck in a morass of bureaucratic red tape waiting for their benefits or payments.”
We applaud the White House’s decision to make accurate and inclusive digital identity verification and fraud risk management a major goal for the public and private sectors. As the market leader in identity verification and fraud prevention, we are ready to help get the job done by working shoulder to shoulder with our government partners
Jordan Burris is the Vice President of Strategy - Public Sector at Socure. In this role, he partners with government leaders to develop and scale Socure's public sector offerings for identity verification and fraud detection. This includes leading efforts to promote and evangelize industry leading concepts in digital identity inclusion and fairness.
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