BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 04 May '18

A new app, Yoti, puts users in the driving seat when it comes to sharing personal data

This article first appeared in our spring ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Conscious Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 04 May 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Queues that don’t seem to be moving inspire the same thought in everyone: there must be a better way of doing things. Robin Tombs and Duncan Francis felt the same way in 2014, when they attended a Spartan Race that required 10,000 people to queue for registration using a passport or driving licence for identification.

This painfully slow and outdated process also carried a security risk, as valuable ID documents were left in a tent during the race. There must have been a better way of checking who people were.

Trust in tech

Together with Noel Hayden, Robin and Duncan developed a digital identity solution that could be used both online and in person. Their tech company, Yoti, is on a mission to become ‘the world’s trusted identity platform.’ The tech part is pretty straightforward: the solutions are all geared around making it faster, simpler and safer to prove who you are (and who other people are) online and in person.

The ‘trusted’ part is where things get interesting; personal data is a sensitive subject for many of us, and when Cambridge Analytica was accused of using data from 50 million Facebook profiles to swing the 2016 US presidential election, even the least privacy-cautious sat up to pay attention.

A different way to check ID

Yoti set out to be different, and devised a new way to prove your identity online and in person using your phone. Crucially, the user stays in control of how and where personal information is shared.

Using the free app, which is available for Apple and Android devices, individuals use their smartphone to register their number, take a selfie, complete a short test to prove they’re a real human and scan their passport or driving licence. Their biometric and personal information is collated to create a digital identity in under five minutes.

Once the app’s up and running, you’re free to share the necessary data (while withholding the potentially sensitive information) where and when you choose – meaning you can share less data when doing the things you love and getting stuff done.

Businesses that use Yoti to verify their customers can request less data because they know that the information they require is already verified; they can check ‘what’ you are without needing to know ‘who’ you are. This means you can share your age at nightclubs and bars without needing to hand over other personal details, such as your name and address, and won’t need to worry about losing your passport on the dance floor.

Similarly, businesses could simply use Yoti to make sure people are real live individuals and not the pesky bots that snap up gig tickets moments before they end up on secondary sites for 10 times the face value.

Because Yoti also wants to build trust between people meeting online, its app can be used to verify identities. This is a great feature designed to give users confidence on dating sites or when buying or selling online.

‘As we spend more of our lives online, the way we prove who we are is outdated. It’s too easy for people to pretend they’re someone else, or gain access to all of our personal details. We want to build trust and transparency in the personal information people share – making it safer to get stuff done and do the things we love, via a secure platform.’

ROBIN TOMBS
Founder and CEO of Yoti

Robin Tombs, founder and CEO of Yoti
Robin Tombs, founder and CEO of Yoti

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25 May 2018. The regulation, which will replace the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, has been designed to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe.

The goal is to strengthen EU citizens’ data privacy by tightening conditions for consent and doing away with long Ts and Cs full of legal jargon. Crucially, it should become as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it. Hefty fines await companies that don’t comply.

Tech as a force for good

Yoti puts data privacy at the heart of everything it does, which is why the company should fly when new data protection laws come into force in May.

The way Yoti was built means the company can never mine your data; once your details have been verified, no one else (not even Yoti) can see them or track how you use the app, so there’s no risk of Yoti selling your data to third parties.

Unlike some companies, Yoti believes it’s important to pay taxes; the company doesn’t engineer structures or transactions for the purpose of reducing tax liabilities in ways that are counter to the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Yoti has also pledged not to establish subsidiaries in jurisdictions for the purpose of reducing tax.

But it don’t stop there. Yoti’s independent ‘Guardian Council’ makes sure everyone in the company sticks to the principles of protecting people’s data, enabling privacy and always acting in the interests of its users. The company’s commitment to strict criteria around social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency mean it’s a certified B Corp.

By making it quicker, easier and safer to prove who you are and know who you’re dealing with, Yoti is helping to put an end to identity fraud and its devastating impacts. It’s an example of how technology can be used as a force for good to bring people, organisations and businesses together.