Three Ways Digital Identity is Combating the COVID-19 Crisis

via Finovate blog

Technology companies from every corner of the globe have been lending their talent, resources, and solutions to help deal with the health and economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis. While those firms in health technology have obviously played the lead role, innovators in virtually every field of technology are bringing their unique expertise to the challenge.

Here are three ways that companies specializing in digital identity and identity management are helping organizations, institutions, and individuals manage the global pandemic.

Know Your Carrier

One of the key ways that countries like South Korea have “flattened the curve” of the pandemic is through an approach called “test and trace.” This strategy relies on accurately identifying those who have the coronavirus and then tracking down all those individuals who have had contact with the infected individual so that they can be tested for the virus.

For example, In China, in addition to temperature checks outside of public places like restaurants, officials are leveraging smartphones and QR codes to identify those who are infected with the virus, and to track their recent movements to locate others who may have been in contact with the infected person. In the West, the news that Apple and Google are collaborating to develop a contact tracing solution that will help us meet this specific challenge is a positive sign. Yet as hopeful as this opportunity may be, it is not without caveats.

“It’s really important to get the cooperation of the public,” Recode Executive Director Kara Swisher told CNBCs Squawk Box Monday morning during a discussion on the Apple/Google initiative. She flashed her sleep and activity-tracking Oura ring, noting that wearables could be among the mobile technologies that could be used to make contact tracing as seamless as possible. “More power to the tech companies means more power to the tech companies,” she said. “The only question is will they give it back when this is over?”

Know Your Customer

Getting money into the hands of unemployed and furloughed workers is one challenge. Getting money into the bank accounts of businesses forced to close their doors during this period of quarantine and social distancing has proved, in some ways, to be an even steeper challenge. Many in the small business community were caught off guard, for example, when they learned that in order to access federal COVID-19 relief funds they would need to have a relationship with a participating financial institution.

The issue is that, even in an emergency, knowing your partner is paramount. And in order for banks to be financially responsible, they need to pursue the same measure of KYC diligence on applicants for emergency funding as they would for any other banking customer. To fail to do so would leave these institutions vulnerable, potentially, to massive fraud losses – turning an already challenging environment for banks even worse. Making it easier for financial institutions to engage needy SMEs by leveraging many of the innovations in Big Data and advanced machine learning – while remaining compliant and financially responsible – is a slam dunk opportunity for a sizable number of fintechs.

This is a reminder that regtech may not be appear to be the most important subsector within financial technology. But in the same way that the global pandemic is causing us to think as much about epidemiologists as we do about emergency room doctors, the current challenge in KYC also reminds us of how important innovations in regtech are not only within technology, but also for society as well.

Know Your Crew

While many are understandably eager to “re-open the country,” it remains likely that thousands of workers will continue to work remotely – at least in the near term. This phenomenon has been a boon for companies like Zoom that provide technology that enables online conferencing and makes it easier for workers who do not traditionally work from home to do so.

One major challenge for these newly-homebound employees is ensuring that they are logging into their company’s networks and platforms in a safe and secure manner. Beyond having the infrastructure to support remote work, having the capacity to authenticate legitimate remote workers, and to make sure that the data they are transmitting back and forth remains out of the hands of hackers and cybercriminals is critical.

Indeed, one of the discontents of the “Zoom Boom” is that many people using the platform have raised major privacy concerns, including reports that Zoom conferences have been infiltrated by hackers, interrupting live presentations with obscene images.

As with KYC, this is another area where fintech’s regtech calvary is coming to the rescue. Firms like Onfido and Jumio, among many others, have made their identity verification technologies available for free to organizations and institutions in the health and home care fields that are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus.