Despite the increase in mobile payments awareness and use, we are still not to the point where we can ditch our physical wallets and go completely digital. While some services beyond credit cards have gone digital – some auto and medical insurance companies now have digital cards that store your information in an app on your smartphone – there are still some physical items we must carry, such as driver’s licenses, passports, and of course, paper money. Unfortunately, these documents can easily be faked, causing identity theft issues and other types of trouble that can take a long time to sort out.
Some experts are suggesting the time has come to ditch the physical cards and begin to utilize a platform that has more information about us than any paper document could ever have – social media. The argument is compelling – there is nothing as global as social media, yet at the same time it is intensely personal. Facebook alone serves about 1.79 billion users a month, and about 500 million people use Instagram in the same time period. Even LinkedIn, which is essentially for business people, sees 100 million regular users. Each one of those users has created an account, which includes an introductory profile, photos, email, other contact info, friends/colleague lists, likes and dislikes…even if they are set to “private” where only certain people can see the complete profile, our social media accounts present a wealth of information about us to the world. This creates a rather distinctive digital footprint, one that would be nearly impossible to fake convincingly. No one else has your friends, your photos, your age and demographics, your connections.
While it might be easy to create fake physical documents, trying to “steal” your online life would be much more difficult. Assuming someone wanted to try to do this, they would have to create a new profile in your name, and still they would have a difficult time spoofing all of your behaviors. And then there’s your history – many social media sites have been around for at least a decade and regardless of whether you’ve been a Facebook user from the beginning or are relatively new, you are still building a history every time you use the site. Those histories, which for some people go back 10 years or more, are really impossible to recreate. Even if someone went through all the trouble to duplicate your Facebook account as best they could, they still wouldn’t be able to duplicate your history. This is what makes social media a strong contender for a secondary method of authenticating a customer. As Dr. Seuss said, “there is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Authentication is all about ensuring that the user is the one making the purchase. It is, essentially, verifying that you are who you say you are. Until now it has been using information that only the user would know, things like passwords, PIN numbers, secret questions, biometrics, etc. And while social media is, by its very nature, social, it makes sense for payments companies to at least consider using it as a form of authentication, as authentic job and education history, personal posts and connections simply cannot be duplicated because it is built up over time.