Is mobile login the future for digital identity?

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In April 2018, Cambridge Analytica obtained information belonging to 87 million people and gave Facebook access to user and friends’ data through a personality test app. A massive media scandal followed and Cambridge Analytica went out of business in no time. 

But the Cambridge Analytica scandal is just one example of issues surrounding digital identity. 

When companies – retailers, banks, media and a plethora of apps and websites – provide people the super-easy social login to access their application or service using an account of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social media network, they are also giving user data to those social media companies – and their partners. 

The retailer on the other hand gets access to the data, which users - and their friends - have on the social network, on users’ consent naturally (everybody knows the small print, which nobody reads). 

If a consumer or a retailer had a safer choice, they would choose that. But, can the damage on digital login be fully repaired anymore? 

If there was a Mobile Login button next to the social login buttons on websites, the answer is a resounding YES! 

Mobile login

Frequent data leaks have already educated the people enough about the importance of digital privacy. This is a golden opportunity for the mobile operator community. 

There is a global standardized technology already in place and defined by the GSMA, Mobile Connect. According to the GSMA, the Mobile Connect service has already been adopted by more than 50 operators, Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom among others, in approximately 30 countries worldwide and the mobile identity service is thereby available to 300 million subscribers. 

Mobile Connect is the mobile operator-facilitated secure universal identity solution. By leveraging the high level of security inherent in mobile networks and operators’ knowledge of their users’ identities, it enables consumers to register and login to websites and apps in a safer way. It also allows users to authorize transactions whilst sharing only data needed to verify the attributes to complete that transaction. 

Mobile Connect features an inbuilt global roaming capability, which means that websites and app and service developers only integrate with one operator to get Mobile Login for all users accessing their service. For end users, Mobile Login works anywhere in the world given that they have accepted the general Mobile Connect terms with their operator. 

Mobile Connect authentication and authorization events produce so called security tokens that integrate the user’s identity, permissions granted, validity time and other attributes. The use of tokens makes these events more secure, traceable and valuable compared to the traditional method of transmitting MSISDNs (phone numbers) to all services that require user identity.

Mobile operators are regulated by national authorities and thus considered as more privacy-abiding and trusted digital identification providers compared to social networks. In GSMA’s Mobile Connect, users are requested for consent to allow data sharing for each individual service and app for maximum transparency.  

$20bn opportunity for mobile operators

The momentum for a mobile operator login service has been built. McKinsey estimated the current market (Q2/2018) for identity verification services at around $10 billion, and forecasts it will reach $20 billion by 2022. 

The main benefit operators see in digital identity is not only about the transactions carried out through their networks. It is the massive incremental brand value and tight, trust-based, long-term liaison with customers that they can build by taking the role of digital identification provider. 

For many people, the digital world can be frightening, yet an increasingly important place in everyday life. Cyber-security becomes part of daily life and that’s not easy for all. Mobile service providers have always had the image of a being a trusted partner and Mobile Connect is a perfect platform to build upon that reputation.

Mobile login has come of age

Looking ahead, there is little doubt that the ability to provide consumers with Mobile Identity and an easy and safe digital identification procedure will provide network operators the perfect gateway to a plethora of new business opportunities.

The time to move ahead is now before the next data scandal makes the front page.

Joakim Nylund is chief executive officer of Exomi.