Why Consumers Need to Be Proactive About Protecting Their Identity

Opinion

Picture this: it’s Thursday after work, and you’re heading to happy hour with your friends. Before you enter the bar, the bouncer asks to see your ID card. You show him your license, which includes not only your full name and date of birth but also your height, weight, and address. 

This whole transaction is a normal and accepted part of socializing, yet it’s actually not as straightforward as it may seem. In reality, the bouncer really shouldn’t be privy to any of your personal information apart from your date of birth. It’s just one scenario where your personal identifying information is exposed to the public in a situation where you are forced to share more than is necessary for the transaction to occur. 

While it’s unlikely that your usual post-work watering hole is stealing your license information, identity fraud is becoming more and more common. One out of 15 consumers reported being a victim of identity theft in 2017. Data breaches are not the only way your personal information, along with your credit card information, can end up in the wrong hands. 

The State of Identity Sharing

We’ve become conditioned to accept that sharing our identity is a fair trade for goods and services. In one experiment, consumers were willing to hand over their license information, mother’s maiden name, and other personally identifiable details for something as basic as a cookie. This transaction happens nearly every day as the price to pay for being part of the modern economy. 

Research from the Identity Theft Research Center found that between 2005 and 2017, “significant” data breaches— e.g., those that impact millions of consumers – increased from about 200 per year to more than 1,300. Of course, there are bad actors that will always represent a threat; but consumers are also more than willing to hand over their personal information in day-to-day transactions, significantly increasing their risk. 

Take, for example, visiting the dentist: some offices ask for your Social Security number, which may not actually be needed for insurance claims and may not be properly safeguarded. From renting an apartment, where prospective tenants are asked to share their full name, job history, even bank account information, to paying for a purchase online, our information is exposed in a myriad of ways every single day. 

The Risk of Oversharing

Selective disclosure of personal information is not really an option in today’s economy. But, consumers aren’t always aware of the risks that come with freely giving out their personal identity. 

The most likely liability is that merchants end up storing personally identifiable information they don’t need – like at your dentist’s office, for example. Big data breaches, like the one impacting 885 million people from First American Financial Corps earlier this year, grab headlines and become instantly notorious. Yet, small businesses are disproportionately targeted: one survey found that half of all small businesses in the U.S. have suffered a data breach in the past year. That’s where many consumers face the biggest risk.   

Merchants don’t need to store personal information after a transaction is completed, nor do they want to. But many simply aren’t equipped or educated to prevent the frequent data breaches that leave all your personal information exposed.

Taking Ownership of Your Identity

The Civic Wallet is built to store your identity information, money, and cryptocurrencies on your device in a way that lets you complete transactions privately, securely, and conveniently. The tool’s advanced ID verification at signup minimizes the chances of fraudulent identities and misuse. We run face comparison and government-issued ID document verification to ensure that a user is a real person. 

Data is an invaluable asset in today’s digital world; it’s imperative that we treat it with the importance that it deserves. At Civic, this means empowering people to be the owners of their own data. Join us in the revolution when we launch the Wallet this fall.