Interview: IDEMIA’s Civil Identity Head Matt Thompson on Mobile ID and Pearson VUE

Interview: IDEMIA's Civil Identity Head Matt Thompson on Mobile ID and Pearson VUE

IDEMIA is a giant in the identity space, having been formed in 2017 with the merger of two of the biggest identity security specialists in the world, Oberthur Technologies and Safran Identity & Security. Nevertheless, the company has shown relentless dynamism in its operations, rolling out sophisticated new technologies over the last several months and continuing to refine its corporate structure in order to better serve its global network of clients and to deepen its market reach.

So Matt Thompson clearly joined the company at a particularly exciting time, taking the position of IDEMIA Identity & Security North America’s Senior Vice President of Civil Identity at the start of last autumn. In so doing, Thompson took the helm over some major projects, including a cutting-edge mobile driver’s license solution and an ID verification solution for online testing giant Pearson VUE. In a new interview with FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill, Thompson delved into these exciting projects, and also touched on the key market drivers and what’s next for his division as IDEMIA continues to push the envelope in identity technology and solutions.

Read our full interview with Matt Thompson, Senior Vice President, Civil Identity, IDEMIA Identity & Security North America:

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: I’d like to start off with a discussion about civil identity and digital identity within the larger IDEMIA portfolio. Can you please give our readers a brief overview of what your group is working on?

Matt Thompson, Senior Vice President, Civil Identity, IDEMIA Identity & Security North America: The core of the business and the traditional business that we call Civil Identity is around the service that we provide to the Motor Vehicle Administrator community here in the US. That is largely the equipment that you see when you go into the Department of Motor Vehicle locations to prove who you are in person in order to get a driver’s license or State ID credential. IDEMIA, and specifically the group that I lead with Civil Identity, provides all of that equipment to facilitate the identity verification, the document verification, and the capture of the biometric image that is taken at the counter, as well as the software that the examiner or customer service rep uses to input your identity information. While we do not have access to the state databases, we build the back-office process that the state uses to maintain that identity record. Additionally, we manufacture the physical credential that is issued by the DMV at the counter or that we mail to people’s home after we successfully verify who they are and they have received driver privileges. That is the part of the business that we call Civil Identity.

The part of the business that I am excited about as well, and that we are growing for the future, is the role that this community will play in building digital identity and specifically around mobile drivers’ licenses. At IDEMIA, we are actively working on how to provide citizens a way to receive a digital credential very similar in nature to the physical credential that we issue to today, but to put that onto their mobile device in a way that enhances their privacy and increases the security associated with their personal identity information. We really think that is the future and believe that this is where the motor vehicle administration community plays going forward. It is less about driver services, it is more about identity and it is more about provisioning trust for identities and enabling citizens to put their identities on their device and under their control.

FindBiometics: That focus, in my mind, leads to all sorts of great vertical market applications quite broadly. You recently announced that Pearson VUE, the global leader in computer-based testing, and IDEMIA have partnered to develop and deploy enhanced ID verification solutions across Pearson VUE’s robust range of secure global test delivery options used by leading organizations around the world. This partnership could not have come at a better time given the recent news we have heard about the amount of high-profile fraud in this sector. Please tell us about this partnership.

IDEMIA: Pearson VUE is one of our commercial partners that is looking to provide more online testing services that further enhance the secure test delivery options they offer. However, providing online-based testing services makes it more critical that Pearson VUE improves how it remotely verifies someone’s identity. This verification validates that the person that is taking the test is actually associated with the credential that they will be connected with at the outcome of that test. We have partnered with Pearson VUE to advance their identity verification for online testing.

Online test-takers will simply scan their physical driver’s license or government-issued ID during their exam check-in process. Those credentials are then instantly compared against the data in IDEMIA’s identity document library. IDEMIA’s technology validates the authenticity of the identification used, efficiently authorizing the candidate and helping to prevent identity manipulation.

FindBiometrics: Well again, it is a fantastic solution and the timing couldn’t be better. Beyond the educational/testing market, where are you seeing opportunities? I’d like to perhaps dive a little deeper into the digital driver’s licenses to start off, can you tell our readers about this explosive area?

IDEMIA: I would first start by saying that a digital or mobile driver’s license is not simply a picture of your physical driver’s license. It is much more valuable and useful than just taking a picture of your credential because that can be done today. It is really about putting a trusted identity onto a mobile device that is rendered digitally in a way that looks similar to a physical license, but is also verifiable in real-time back against the DMV’s system of record. Additionally, it enhances privacy when people prove who they are. There are privacy filters built in to expose only the minimum amount of information that is necessary for a particular transaction, so when I go to a bar, for example, the app will only show that I’m over 21 and doesn’t share my full address or my eye color.

It also reduces the opportunity for fake ID’s because we are verifying the authenticity of that mobile-based digital credential back against the system of record to render a real time response around the authenticity of the identity that is being asserted in real time.

We see the mobile driver’s license being useful both for the in person use cases where you traditionally would present a physical driver’s license, and to be able to replace the need to carry a physical driver’s license. We also foresee the expansion of the use of the mobile driver’s license – which, again, is just a mobile-based digital identity credential – to prove who you are for online use cases as well. We have one of those use cases in production today with the Department of Revenue in Alabama where people can have a mobile-based digital credential that can lock their identity with the Department of Revenue in Alabama. They receive an approval request when someone is trying to file a tax return with their identity, and then they authenticate to that mobile ID to allow their refund to be processed, or not if it’s not really them. It expands the places that people would use a physical license from just in-person to online, and doing it in a way that respects privacy better than the physical credential can.

FindBiometrics: And that solution is called IDEMIA eID?

IDEMIA: Today in the market with Alabama yes, it is referred to as IDEMIA eID.  The IDEMIA eID app is available for download in Apple’s App Store and in the Google Play store for Android users. With the free IDEMIA eID app, Alabama taxpayers use a selfie and their driver’s license or state ID card to be digitally authenticated by the state. After using their eID to opt-in, the Alabama Department of Revenue notifies taxpayers when a return is filed by sending a notification through the eID app. The app will allow the taxpayers to securely verify if they filed the return or decline the transaction if it is fraudulent.

FindBiometrics: Thank you for the clarification. With all these disruptive changes that are occurring, are DMV’s starting to migrate to be more of an identity bureau as people move to more drive-share services and autonomous vehicles etc. – is this where the future is heading?

IDEMIA: I think of the future of what is commonly referred to as the Motor Vehicle Administration industry as becoming more of an identity bureau in that it is the one place that people go, in the US in particular, to establish their identity with the government. They go there to get an identity credential that is more than just a card to prove that they are eligible to operate a vehicle. The identity credential has become the card to prove who you are for all manner of transactions that require trust, from trying to get through security to board a plane, checking into a hotel, entering a government facility or demonstrating you are the appropriate age to conduct a certain transaction. DMVs have largely become identity bureaus in this sense.

One of the things that promotes and advances the place of the Motor Vehicle Administrators in that role as identity bureaus is around the federal REAL ID Act. REAL ID has largely raised the standard, as well as made a common standard across States, in terms of how someone proves their identity and establishes their state-issued credentials. There has been a lot more rigor in the documentation required to prove identity as part of the driver license application, and it has only elevated the role that I think the MVA plays in the ecosystem.

In a time when organizations, such as financial institutions and others that have a need to verify their customer’s identity online combined with so many compromises to the traditional methods of proving one’s identity, there hasn’t been a more important time for this community to step up and provide a better identity solution than now. I think a lot of these issues will be solved with a trusted mobile identity that is issued and backed by the state based on the in-person identity proofing that the states does. The trusted mobile identity will be based on the credential the states issue today that is mostly physical, but also on their ability to tie all that to a biometric as well, and verify the authenticity of the identity that is being associated with the mobile ID.

FindBiometrics: That leads really well into my next question and that is: what are the drivers behind all of this activity? You’ve mentioned a couple: mobility obviously comes to mind, privacy, convenience. There are so many. What are the key ones for you?

IDEMIA: I think you touched on them but one is that citizens/consumers are expecting more digital offerings from their government. Where things have traditionally been physical, they are looking for digital complements. People are trying to ditch physical wallets and one of the last things to be solved is the identity piece. Again, states continue to have a role in identity in a digital context – a very meaningful one. In addition to the demand by citizens/consumers, there is enhanced privacy and added convenience. I also think there is an aspect of security and safety as well with respect to being able to have real-time verification that a credential is still valid and hasn’t been revoked. Making sure that credential is still valid helps improve safety in general.

Those are some of the biggest drivers we are seeing.

FindBiometrics: Perhaps in summary you could tell us what is next for your division within IDEMIA?

IDEMIA: It is really about digital, and it’s about building this successful valuable digital ecosystem: valuable for citizens, valuable for service providers and relying parties, valuable for States. It gets States issuing these mobile ID’s, and will build demand for its use as businesses and other parties that need to ensure trusted identity accept them to enhance their utility. Therefore, it is focusing on building out that ecosystem, and building up the digital capabilities to complement the traditional business that we have been in as a company for a long time, supporting the Motor Vehicle Administration community.

FindBiometrics: Matt, we see IDEMIA as a market leader in this area and agree that this is critical for identity moving forward and congratulations on all the activity that is occurring your area. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us.

IDEMIA:  Thank you Peter, we appreciate the opportunity.