This week, Attorney Generals from the U.S. and Mexico will unveil a new system for finding victims of the human trafficking industry — a shadowy, hard-to-track criminal system that captures millions each year. The system will employ facial recognition data, pulled from photos that families of missing individuals can submit, to build a shared database network that will alert lawmakers if these individuals are caught on camera.
The technology for this potentially life-saving project was developed by Atlanta-based biometrics startup Trust Stamp, which has spent its past year delving into the potential of their own technology to come up with a host of new use cases, including the above.
Initially, the two-year-old company focused on providing digital identity verification scores, created through biometric data captured from a “secure selfie” of a user’s face. But the product, originally validated though users of Craigslist, dating apps and ridesharing, has expanded far beyond its roots of improving the safety of person-to-person interactions.
Trust Stamp co-founder Andrew Gowasack explains that, when they began speaking with the industries they could serve, it became clear that digital identity was a challenge with multiple prongs — many of the most common identifying mechanisms, such as a written password, can be faked; and most identifiers can be traced back to the individual. In the age of cyber hacks, companies want a secure, definitive solution.
The Trust Stamp team dug in to figure out how they could meet those needs. By separating out the biometric data they collect to individual measures — 128 specific metrics, to be exact — they can convert that data to a unique, non-reversible identifying sequence, which they have dubbed a “hash”.
This biometric hash has a one in quadrillion chance of matching any other individual’s, according to Gowasack. In other words, the team has created a digital identity marker more secure and unique than a fingerprint — a “digital DNA”.
Because it can’t be reverse engineered, the hash is not considered personal identifier information (PII) and thus can be shared across institutions or stored on a public or private database.
This has opened up possibilities for them to explore new use cases across industries, says Gowasack. For example, real estate agents that are members of National Association of Realtors can use the technology to help ensure their personal safety when setting up meetings with unknown potential homebuyers in neighborhoods they don’t know very well.
Another big industry they target is financial services. Banks can use the technology to help customers sign up for and access their accounts, message bankers or authorize wire transfers. Right now, the most common identity verification tool for banking is security questions — the answers to which are often forgotten by users who may have set them up years ago.
Gowasak, whose background is in financial services, says that they have seen many validating case studies. One large bank that is a Trust Stamp client reported that the technology helped them retain 68 percent of customers they would have otherwise lost due to difficulty with security questions.
Trust Stamp can also help a bank in a process they call “Graylisting”, or creating a list of customer hashes that have multiple accounts in order to spot fraud.
Gowasack identifies one situation where a bank identified and shut down a fraudster with five open accounts, all under different names. The one place he couldn’t hide was his biometric identity.
Finally, they can create “Green lists”, where the institution can identify and register users through the hashes. Down the line, Gowasack predicts this will be used to create a database of unique identities that banks can share amongst themselves to make sure one individual isn’t opening up multiple accounts at different institutions under different names.
“Financial services are tired of these one-off solutions,” he says. “Any solution you provide now has to be multi-authentification and omnichannel.”
Trust Stamp has been busy showing potential clients what their technology can do. They’ve more than doubled the size of the company in the last year, adding business development as well as an AI-specific team of 10 in Warsaw, Poland. The Atlanta-based company also has offices in San Francisco and the UK.
They also moved their Atlanta office from the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead to the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in Midtown’s Tech Square. Next, they’re looking forward to participating in an international fintech accelerator, as well as beginning the process of a capital raise.