Long reads

Where digital identities, fraud and deepfakes are heading in the new digital landscape

Stephen Ritter

Stephen Ritter

CTO, Mitek

In March, our relationship with the digital world deepened at a breakneck pace. People suddenly needed technology to maintain connections with students, colleagues and family, shop for essentials, curb their boredom and everything in between. This spur of activity has led to an increased reliance on digital services that is here to stay, regardless of any pandemic. This brings many positive advancements, and many new threats. In 2021, we will see new solutions that respond to both. 

Predictions from Stephen Ritter, Chief Technology Officer

Social media misinformation will spread from social to corporate issues. The success of misinformation we've seen this election season will likely spread beyond social and political issues and into the workplace, especially around company and product information. Unfortunately, anyone looking to spread false information on a competitor now has a playbook for successful tactics to damage the reputation of another group, draw more attention to themselves or muddy the waters on a sensitive topic. To counteract this misinformation and build trust with customers, businesses will need to develop clear communications guidelines when sharing or correcting information and provide more visibility into their practices. When the line between fact and fiction blurs, trust will play a crucial role in influencing consumer loyalty and purchasing decisions. 

More states and countries will enact consumer data privacy protections. Europe's GDPR and California's CCPA legislation had already begun paving the way for broader consumer data privacy practices, but COVID-19 will accelerate demand for these protections now that so many of us are spending more time online. Consumers want to know that their privacy is being protected while they use these digital services, especially now that they no longer have the option to handle many tasks in person. Because legislators have a template to draw upon using legislations already enacted in various states and countries, we'll likely see a number of new data privacy laws introduced in the next year in regions that otherwise might have taken a decade or more to enact similar protections. 

Next year will introduce the first real-world decentralized identity solution. The tech giants of the world have spent the last several years consolidating and building up their offering ecosystems, giving consumers access to the full suite of solutions within a single, self-contained system. By creating a decentralized identity solution within that ecosystem - using a wallet on a user's device, for example - companies can maintain stringent security protocols while also making it easy for users to quickly switch between tools. Their wallet simply shares select data linked to that identity when prompted by the system, rather than having to re-verify their identity each step of the way. A handful of tech giants are already well on their way to this kind of universal access for users and, prompted by our increasing reliance on digital services during COVID-19, we'll likely see the first decentralized identity offering by next year.

Predictions from Sanjay Gupta, VP, Global Head of Product & Corporate Development

Biometrics will take a 360-degree approach to user identity verification. Traditionally, biometrics technologies used for identity verification have relied on a single physical indicator such as facial, fingerprint or retinal biometrics to confirm a user's identity. However, new behavioral biometrics technologies which use hundreds of unique parameters to analyze how a person uses their digital device - how they hold a phone, the websites they visit and even how quickly they text - will add another sophisticated layer to identity verification. As behavioral biometrics become more readily available, businesses will increasingly look to tie them together with traditional physical biometrics to provide a more complete look at a device user and identify potential fraud that may otherwise escape detection using just one method. 

Retailers will see a return of brick-and-mortar sales amid digital fatigue. While the coronavirus pandemic has created a sales boom for online retailers and service providers, it's also led to widespread digital burnout with people spending so much of their time on screens. Many consumers are also finding they miss aspects of the in-person shopping experience - especially during the holiday season, when stores provide a festive atmosphere and a chance to socialize with others. Once the coronavirus has passed, retailers will likely see a digital backlash, with consumers deliberately turning away from online shopping and instead choosing to return to brick-and-mortar stores for a many of their purchases. 

Deepfakes and misinformation are changing how different groups use social media. Over the last few years, Twitter and other social media companies have struggled to control the spread of misinformation and potential harmful dialogue on their platforms. The introduction of deepfakes - realistic videos in which a person can be made to say or do just about anything - have complicated the problem even further, to the point that many users are no longer able to completely distinguish fact from fiction. Because of this, younger and more technically-savvy demographics will begin to rely less on social media as a source of news, and instead return to its original function as a platform for social networking and sharing content. We are already seeing increasing caution amongst these groups when viewing or sharing content on social sites, and that trend will likely continue as misinformation and methods for creating fraudulent content become even more sophisticated in the years ahead.

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