Facebook to look at ID and age verification

 Published: Friday December 18, 2015

 Written by Karyn Bright on Blog Entry

Main Image

A post by Karyn Bright, Group Marketing Director

The Independent reported this week that Facebook may need to look at age verification if regulators have their way and start banning under 16s from social media sites.

It then transpired Facebook are looking at ways of verifying the identity of users who may choose to use ‘fake names’ particularly where there are obvious signs of abuse or identity misuse on the site (see Wired’s article).

There are two separate issues going on here, I think:

  1. How do those of us, who grew up ‘in the real world’, try to keep our children safe when out in the digital world? In fact, we can only do what parents have always done – teach them ways to manage risk, keep safe and respect others. The fact that we are focussed on their digital activity is, for me, almost irrelevant, although I accept that the size and nature of their potential networks introduces a level of complexity and risk I certainly never had to deal with.
  2. But, is it a problem if people choose to use fake names or identities online? We talk regularly about the four types of identity (see image below) which highlights that there are different types of identity data that may be used according to what an individual is trying to do.

image showing different types of identity

 

For instance, if I am purchasing something online, it is quite acceptable that the retailer can verify my address is a real one. But if I am accessing a poker website, actually all the operator needs to know is that I am over 18 and any deposits will not be the result of any money laundering or other criminal activity. In future this may not even require them knowing the name and address of each player. If I prefer to call myself Mickey Mouse, that isn’t really the issue as long as the real me can be properly identified behind the scenes if necessary.

Gareth Stephens, GBG’s Head of New Proposition Development recently spoke at the Personal Information Economy conference hosted in London. Alongside an illustrious panel of data experts that included, the conference attendees looked at the implications of consumers starting to take greater control of their own data and what this may mean for us in the data business.

Gareth explained how the development of the blockchain may allow us all to transact and network totally anonymously without opening the doors to increased criminality (read more about this here). Being able to trust who you are doing business with is still the vital ingredient for any organisation – this is what we should be focussing on. It doesn’t really matter what a person calls him or herself, so Facebook is smart to allow people to continue using fake names if they prefer. What matters more is how we build mutual confidence that we are engaged with the sort of people we should be, and want to be. Especially as everything moves to the digital world that actually our children already inhabit.