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Digital identity is critical infrastructure; without a strong identity verification solution, government agencies can’t complete their duties to the public. 

Jennifer Kerber, Senior Director of Government Affairs, and Jordan Burris, VP & Head of Public Sector Strategy, talked at length about identity verification, identity fraud management, and government policy on The GovNavigators Show

Both joined Socure with the goal to transform digital identity in the public sector. Every day, millions of Americans are stymied by inaccessible identity verification. Meanwhile, government benefits programs saw $280 billion lost to fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, often due to a lack of identity verification. 

We summarized Jennifer Kerber and Jordan Burris’ comments on the GovNavigators show below: 

Q. This is the first gate that people have to go through to get access to government benefits or services. Who has trouble getting their identity verified? 

Burris: Those who end up having trouble are from underserved communities, new to the country, or younger individuals. These are systemic because we have used the credit ecosystem as a proxy for identity. The system that determines whether you are good at paying your debts is the basis of identity – if you don’t have a large financial footprint, you won’t get access. I couldn’t get a credit card until my mid-twenties. I grew up in a cash culture and didn’t think about setting up anything else. We also have situations where people aren’t able to obtain government-issued documents like passports and driver’s licenses. 

Kerber: I use the example of my 19-year-old niece who was living with me over the summer and waitressing. Halfway through the summer she asked, “Aunt Jen, what do I do with all this cash?”. I told her to deposit it in a bank, but she didn’t have an account. I ended up taking the cash and Venmo’ing her. There are 44 million people that are unbanked, underbanked, or credit-invisible. When we rely on antiquated systems for identity, it doesn’t help.

Q. Socure is known for its work in the commercial sector, can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered when moving into the public sector arena?

Burris: I’ll tell a story about one of the things that led me out of government. In late 2017-18, we were working on the President’s Budget. At the time, we stood up a Digital Identity PMO to try and get ahead of the impending storm of fraud and challenges with equity that were coming at the time. I worked with talented individuals who saw something big coming. 

Unfortunately, when the pandemic happened, nothing had changed within the identity ecosystem. The whole purpose of the PMO was to find innovative approaches from the private sector and bring them into the government. It left me wondering: what could we do differently? That led to me exiting to work for Socure and bring their best-in-class identity verification technology to the government. One of the challenges is the government lacks consideration for testing the performance of digital identity verification solutions. We are good at putting cybersecurity hygiene and system vulnerabilities, but we don’t have metrics for determining that “Robert Shea” is a real person and not a fraudster on the other side of the computer screen. There’s been a gap in performance-based testing and evaluation. 

We’re encouraging the public sector to put every solution to test and put vendors head-to-head. That way you’ll know if you’re getting the right outcomes. 

Q: The last decades have seen incredible attention to improper payments. The government loses tens of billions each year to improper payments, and the pandemic exacerbated that problem. Talk about the balance between easing access while verifying identity and eligibility. 

Kerber: If you look at what financial services or e-commerce do, they want to onboard as many good identities as possible. They don’t want to lose money to fraud; conversely, the more people they onboard, the more business they get. We don’t take the same approach with government benefits. The measurements are more important for the private sector: they want to know how much fraud is getting through, how hard it is for people to join, and what populations they aren’t serving. We should apply the same metrics in government. Are we serving the right people? Are we meeting our mission? How much friction exists in the process? 

These incentives are not built in for the government because there’s no other place where you can get certain services like getting a driver’s license. We need more evidence-based approaches because we can’t fix the problem without understanding what’s wrong. 

Q: You recently acquired a firm, tell us about that acquisition and what it’s going to enable for you. 

Jordan: We acquired a company called Berbix. We’re interested in being a comprehensive identity verification or proofing platform. The acquisition allowed us to accelerate our roadmap. Berbix specializes in document verification technology. That’s where you’re taking a photo of your driver’s license or passport and comparing it with a live selfie of yourself. Their differentiator is accuracy. 

Since Socure is striving for 100% accuracy, the way Berbix approached this problem has allowed us to address a few areas. We saw a 32% increase in first-time acceptances, and we have a more accurate way of getting more people through the automated document verification process so people don’t have to wait in lines. The government often believes the in-person route is the default – while there’s always a reason to have it, we shouldn’t treat it as a marker of success. Through Berbix, we’re also able to do a better job and capture fraud. Now that we have deepfake and AI technology that can generate fake documents and images, you need advanced technology to fight back. Berbix gives us these capabilities through its forensics engine and computer vision technology.

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