By Jill Jaracz


5 Min. To Read

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These days, it can be very frustrating to prove yourself when it comes to dealing with your credit card accounts. Just accessing them often requires using strong unique passwords and answering a battery of random personal questions before you can get to your account information.

Heaven forbid you have to talk with a customer service rep because that means more questions: What's your ZIP code? What's the last four digits of your Social Security number? What's your mother's maiden name? Or the worst: What's the answer to your security question? More than once a customer service rep has had to prompt me because I have so many security questions to keep track of.

Companies have been forced to add so many layers of security to protect your account from thieves, but getting through those layers to get to what you need often makes you feel like you're the criminal instead. Now Mastercard is starting a pilot program for a new digital identification product that could make it easier to prove who you are and verify others so you can conduct your personal business more safely and easily.

"Our increasingly digital life – the way we transact and interact – has challenged our traditional notions of identity, trust and privacy. We need a new model," said Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence for Mastercard, in a statement. "We believe that this starts with a commitment to the responsible handling of personal information, giving consumers control over which data is used and how it is used to verify their identity."

Mastercard developed a digital product it calls ID that compiles elements of your identity information and stores it onto a user's phone. That information is verified by additional sources, like a government agency or a bank, so the entity that needs to have verified information can be assured that you are who that digital ID says you are.

With ID, Mastercard says that people won't have to carry around a lot of sensitive documentation, particularly for circumstances where you need many documents that you wouldn't normally carry around, like when you're applying for school or getting a mortgage.

The system is built around Mastercard's "Principles of Digital Identity," which blend inclusion, ownership, confidentiality, simplicity, consent, transparency, security and integrity, data rights, fair use and choice. Simply put, Mastercard believes people have the basic right to own their identity and control their identity data.

To ensure privacy, Mastercard says it doesn't aggregate users' ID data. Users have the sole control of their information. They can manage who gets to see their information and see what's being shared. They also can limit what's shared for a particular event so that the entity they're sharing with doesn't get an arsenal of information that they can use to their advantage. Additionally, all of the information is only stored on the user's mobile device and not a central database that could be vulnerable to hacking.

This first pilot of ID is happening in Australia at Deakin University's Burwood and Geelong campuses in Victoria. Participants will use ID to test student registration and digital exams.

Mastercard has also partnered with Australia Post, the country's postal system, to integrate ID into its existing system for a simpler way for residents to safely identify themselves. Its Digital iD product integrates passport and driver's license information, along with facial biometrics to create a verifiable identification.

Mastercard hasn't said when it plans to test ID in the U.S., although it does plan to keep expanding ID throughout the world. It stated that it would be starting new pilots and programs throughout 2020.

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