A Look Back: The History of Identity Verification

Humans have been perfecting identity verification for centuries. What does that look like now?

A Look Back: The History of Identity Verification

Identity verification is the process of confirming that an individual's identity is authentic and that they are who they claim to be. This process is becoming widely used in more industries as it’s important to ensure that information provided is accurate and illegal activities such as fraud, identity theft, or money laundering are prevented.

There are multiple ways to conduct a verification, with the most widely used method being the comparison of the information on an individual's documents with the information they provided during the identification process. The list of acceptable identification documents varies by country. In Australia, individuals are required to provide ‘100 points’ of identification. The amount of points vary depending on the document, but users generally have the option to submit any of the following documents:

  • A passport
  • A drivers licence
  • A proof of age card
  • A utility bill
  • A high-risk work licence or permit

The evolution.

Since the dawn of civilisation, individuals have had to establish their identity whilst verifying others. In the early days, with no technological tools available, people relied on their memory to recognise and recall a person's face. While this approach is still common today when meeting new people, it proved inadequate for official verification purposes, given how forgetful we all are. Instead, people began using jewellery, distinctive items, and other markers such as tattoos to confirm their authenticity.

From these early practices, our concept of a census emerged. The Babylonian Empire pioneered this approach by documenting personal information about individuals. Over time, the census became more sophisticated and accurate, with the Romans creating documents for their citizens.

It was only in 1414 that the first version of the passport was introduced by King Henry V, allowing the English to prove their identity when travelling. In later years, documents and identity verification became more sophisticated. Fast forward to 2010 and biometric systems were introduced through mobile technology. Initially deployed for police forces, fingerprint and facial recognition quickly became standard on most mobile devices.

Whilst we’re continually perfecting verification techniques as new technology is developed, the overall objective has remained the same throughout history: to streamline user verification and protect everyone from fraud, theft or illegitimacy.

The different methods of verification.

That’s right, not all verifications are equal and each company may use different methods to verify an identity. Let’s take a look at some of the options and their downfalls:

Database verification: A traditional method, it involves matching the information provided by an individual to that of a database. Whilst simple, criminals who have access to this information can pose as someone else and gain access to services.

Document verification: This involves a user uploading their documents, and if advanced technology is used, can be checked for manipulation and overall authenticity. This type of verification is harder to crack.

Advanced biometric verification: Going beyond database verification, users verify themselves by providing fingerprint or facial recognition scans. As you'd imagine, a face is near-impossible to replicate and with the right analysis tools - deepfakes, photos, masks and replicas can be detected.

Which method does Personr use?

Here at Personr HQ, we’ve developed a unique artificial intelligence-based technology which combines the above methods into one. Once users upload their documents, our AI checks for graphical manipulation and extracts the document data ready for processing with both government and non-government databases. 

During the process, we’ll also scan the web for negative media on the individual, check sanction/watch lists and track their behaviour. Our Advanced Liveness technology ensures the user is present and intending to verify themselves. The best part? We’re 99.9% accurate and this all happens under the hood - users only need to snap a photo of their document and can be on their way.