GBG State of Digital Identity: 2020

Digital acceleration, tomorrow’s threats,
and a blueprint for the next normal

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The 'me' economy

What makes you, you? It’s a simple question, but the answer has never been so complex.

Your identity is about much more than your date of birth, your passport or your identity number. It varies by demographics, psychographics and industry. It even varies across an individual’s lifetime.

What’s constant is that the complex set of data points that shape our identities are vital in keeping the wheels of commerce turning. They create digital trust, which allows people and providers to interact safely without opening the floodgates to fraud.

This is what makes identity a foundational element of our future economy, and for the billions of invisible, personal economies within it.

Gus Tomlinson, General Manager Investigate
Gus Tomlinson

Digital Identity Expert, Identity
Fraud Propositions, Europe

    Top takeaways
  • Covid-19 virus icon

    A third of customers became more aware of identity fraud due to COVID-19

  • Smartphone icon

    Over half of customers would prefer to open an account on their mobile

  • Password security icon

    Over half of customers think security should be the main priority when opening an online account

From Pandemics and Black Swans to Passwords and Biometrics

COVID-19 caused a sudden “digital acceleration” – a once-in-a-generation ‘black swan’ event in which our reliance on technology was catapulted forward by a decade or more. Mobile adoption exploded, even though some consumers and businesses weren’t ready for the change. Overnight the analysis of the entire population’s movements, transactions and interactions become a matter of life and death.

In this “new normal”, a digital-first business model is no longer a luxury or a forward-looking strategy - it’s a necessity. And, as the focus shifts from whether to go digital-first, to how to do it, the concept of identity intelligence has become a strategic imperative.

of consumers are more likely to ‘go cashless’ as a result of COVID-19
59% of respondents opened at least one online account

Friction Fact vs. Friction Fiction

Our research this year reveals that signing up to and transacting with businesses online isn’t as easy as it needs to be.

Across the board, businesses are finding it increasingly challenging to strike a balance between eliminating fraud and managing friction for their customers. This business view doesn’t stack up well against the view of consumers, with our data showing a significant - and growing - gap between expectations and reality.

While businesses prioritise ‘frictionless’ experience, consumer priorities tell a different story.

How important are each of the following to you when you’re opening a new account online?

of businesses say that protecting the consumer is their main driver for identity fraud investment

The Identity Fraud Threat Matrix

Half of consumers feel data breaches make online transactions less secure - particularly older people - with two in five people concerned their personal information could be exposed

Today’s key threats

Most prevalent today
  •  Credit/debit/prepaid card fraud 56%
  •  Phishing 46%
  •  Electronic transfer fraud 37%

Tomorrow’s key challenges

Least prepared for
  •  Synthetic identity fraud 26%
  •  IP theft and piracy 26%
  •  Social engineering 25%
Established approaches
‘Most likely to use’

Checking email address

Using biometrics

Emerging approaches
‘Least likely to use’

One-time passcodes

Checking social media profile

The digital identity core
‘Most important to my identity today’


Driver’s licence


Date of birth



Driver’s licence

Date of birth


The digital identity fringes
‘Becoming important to my identity’
among 18-25 year-olds

Mobile number


Email address



Mobile number

Email address


Digital identity in 2020

Fragmented identity and fraud offerings: off-the-shelf identity verification based on the methods of least resistance

Digital identity in 2030

360 identity: a connected, contextual identity engine, personalised around the customer

A third
A third of consumers believe their personal information is currently available for sale online. In Oct 2019 there were 1.2 billion records available to access online (DataViper)
Ecommerce icon

The Next Normal

No-one knows exactly what the next normal will look like – but we can be sure it will be an era of digital-first commerce, in which a balance of friction and fraud prevention helps achieve digital trust for businesses and their customers. And there will be new, evolving challenges beyond this, too.

When you consider that more than two in five consumers (44%) feel unsafe when transacting with “international businesses” online, perhaps the greatest test for businesses will not just be achieving the necessary balance between security and experience, but doing so in a world of increasingly borderless movement and spending.

How important are each of the following to you when you’re opening a new account online?