ID.me is one company out of a booming global market for biometric digital identity verification products
FEBRUARY, 17 2022 | DR. WILNEIDA NEGRÓN
In February, privacy advocates and organizers achieved a significant win by stopping the IRS from requiring taxpayers to verify their identities through facial recognition created by the third-party tech company ID.me in order to create an IRS online account. While the future of ID.me's contracts with several federal agencies remain unclear, the national attention has also brought more state-level scrutiny to the fact that millions of unemployed workers across 22 states have been and continue to use ID.me to access essential benefits.
While digital identity verification tools are not new as global civil society and privacy advocates have been documenting the use of biometric identity identification software the past four years1; more scrutiny is needed. The use of these tools is becoming more prevalent in the US and globally. And the industry overall is booming with new products every year.
The expansion of digital identity verification “Little Tech”
At Coworker.org, we’ve been investigating the proliferation of tech products that touch on every part of the labor process (e.g. hiring/screening, productivity monitoring, workforce management, benefit provision, etc). What we have found is an unregulated marketplace of tech products, apps, companies, and vendors that we’ve dubbed, “Little Tech.” Little Tech has been expanding rapidly during the pandemic due to the increased reliance on technology and record high investments in tech companies. This is the same trend that we’re seeing currently taking place in the global market for digital identity verification technologies (including biometric enabled ones).
The “Little Tech” marketplace for digital identity verification solutions is on a path of rapid growth and expected to reach $18.6 billion by 2026, with biometric solutions leading by type2. Driving this growth has been a flood of investments from venture capital, investment banks, pension funds, sovereign wealth banks, foundations, family offices, etc., who pour money into these products, without sufficient due diligence and their potential implications.
Therefore, while most of the public attention is on ID.me at the moment, there are countless others such Idenfy, Acuant, 1Kosmos, Onfido, Nuance, Idemia, Secureath, Global ID, Passbase, CLEAR (which many of us may already regularly interact with in airports or major sports stadiums), etc., vying for public and private sector customers.
Below are four other biometric-enabled identity verification companies we need to keep a closer eye on because they are expanding rapidly, and many with an eye towards the public sector:
- Socure: Socure is one of the more concerning identity verification companies in little tech. They are the highest-valued biometrics unicorn out there, tripling its valuation to $4.5B and completing a $100 million funding both in 2021 which was backed by the world’s richest growth equity and public market investors, including Accel, T. Rowe Price Inc., Scale, Commerce Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Tiger Global, etc. Socure also has its eyes set on expanding its use in the public sector, with its recent hire of Jordan Burris, former chief of staff at the White House Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO)3. Socure is also in the business of predicting the risk level of certain identities with their product Socure ID+ which collects biometric data for identity verification, then combines this with self-learning correlations of over 6,000 predictors to determine riskiness of identity4.
- AnyVision (now called Oosto): Oosto is also a concerning and rapidly growing company to keep an eye on. They were featured in the Markup last year5 for their expansive data collection practices and surveillance through its AI-based face and temperature detecting technology. The company also has an extensive and varied customer list that ranges from schools, casinos, sports stadiums, banks, hospitals like Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, major retailers like Macy’s, and energy giant BP. Like Socure, the company is also a political power player and at one point hired White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, as a communications consultant6. Despite negative press the previous years, in 2021, the company raised $235 million in investments from SoftBank Vision Fund 2i and Eldridge.
- AuthenticID: AuthenticID is used mostly for fraud detection and identity verification in the telecommunications and finance sector, however, the company has recently been reporting a 186% revenue growth in 20217. In 2021, the company raised $100 million in a minority investment from private equity firm, Long Ridge Equity Partners to support the expansion of its biometric identity proofing technology in the US and around the world. Therefore, we can expect to find their products being used in even more sectors of society.
- Jumio: Jumio is an established AI and biometric identity verification products used both in the public and private sector. Some of their corporate customers include AirBnB, Coinbase, United Airlines and HSBC. They also have a biometric-enabled age verification solution for minors. In 2016, Jumio was acquired by growth-equity firm, Centana Growth Partners and in 2021, they received a $150 million investment from private equity firm, Great Hill Partners.
While the sheer number of problematic facial recognition products may seem overwhelming, the victory achieved by privacy advocates against ID.me is a powerful reminder that advocates, workers, and consumers can wield the power to push back.
One of the first ways we can advocate against the use of these harmful tools is by understanding how they work and who they impact. To get started check out Coworker.org’s research on more than 500 harmful work-related tech products and learn more about how they’re impacting today’s economy and jobs.
1“Biometrics in the Humanitarian Sector.” Engine Room and Oxfam. 2018.
2"Identity Verification Market worth $18.6 billion by 2026.” MarketsandMarkets. Dec 13, 2021.
3“Socure targets public sector expansion with hiring of an ex Federal CIO chief." By Frank Hersey. Dec 7, 2021. Biometric Update.
4“Real-Time & Predictive Analytics Platform | Socure ID+.” Company Website: https://www.socure.com/products/socure-id. Accessed 1.15.22.
5“This Manual for a Popular Facial Recognition Tool Shows Just How Much the Software Tracks People
One school using the software saw that a student’s face was captured more than 1,000 times during the week”. By Alfred Ng. The Markup. July 6, 2021.
6 “AnyVision, the controversial facial recognition startup, has raised $235M led by SoftBank and Eldridge.” By Ingrid Lunden. Techcrunch. July 7, 2021.
7“AuthenticID Achieves a Record 186% Revenue Growth in 2021.” AuthenticID. Businesswire. January 31, 2022.