New app helps users digitally prove who they are

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 06 Aug 2019
Craig Hills, business development director at WhoYou.
Craig Hills, business development director at WhoYou.

Johannesburg-based biometric technology company Fides Cloud Technologies has developed an app that lets corporates and individuals verify a person’s identity, by using a smartphone as a fingerprint scanner.

Launched today, WhoYou is a digital identity Web and mobile application for Android and Windows that allows organisations to verify a customer’s identity by taking a photo of their two thumbprints.

The app, which can also be used by individuals, compares the photographed thumbprints against the National Population Register (NPR) maintained by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Using a combination of biometric technology, artificial intelligence and algorithms, the app returns a confirmation of the person’s ID details as well as their photo.

Every South African adult who is registered with the DHA can have their ID verified via the app.

According to Fides, up until now, only South African banks and telecommunications companies have had the ability to verify people’s identities against the NPR – and even this has largely depended on the use of traditional fingerprint scanners.

“WhoYou enables individuals and South African businesses such as courier companies, telcos or retail stores to verify client IDs on-the-go or in real-time, either remotely or in-branch, without any specialised equipment or upfront costs,” explains Craig Hills, business development director at WhoYou.

“It can play a significant role in curbing identity fraud for a range of scenarios; in turn, helping boost trust between consumers and business in transactions across various environments, which plays an important role amid the country’s high levels of identity fraud.”

Launched in 2011, Fides Cloud Technologies is an IT company focused on delivering cloud-based identity solutions. It helps prove – either through background screening checks, authentication measures and/or biometrics – that a person is who they say they are.

It aggregates a number of identity verification and identity management services to provide a fully audited service.

In terms of regulatory compliance, Fides says the WhoYou app is fully compliant with SA’s Protection of Personal Information Act, allowing the subjects of identity verification to first provide their consent and accept the terms and conditions in-app before their fingerprints are photographed.

“By default, WhoYou’s technology also ensures the fingerprints are not stored on the device, nor are they kept for any other parties to access, therefore ensuring a high level of privacy and safety,” adds Hills.

“In addition, the app has an embedded anti-spoofing algorithm as well as ‘liveness’ detection to ensure the individual is, in fact, present when the fingerprint capture takes place.”

When asked what measures are taken to ensure the app is not used for malicious intent, Hills explains that an audit trail is automatically created, which works as follows: a person who is using WhoYou to conduct identity verifications is required to enrol all 10 of their fingerprints on the app. This person is then NPR-verified before they are allowed to validate any other identities. Every time they use the app, they have to log in with their fingerprints. For the person whose identity is being verified, their consent is stored in the secure audit trail as well.

“This audit trail is designed to protect users and allow WhoYou to go back to an exact date and time of use, if any problems occur.”

The app is device-agnostic, and the WhoYou Windows app works on both desktop and laptop computers. An iOS version of the app is in advanced development and set to be released soon.

“The app can be used anywhere in the world as long as it's being used to verify South African identities.”

There are no subscriptions and consumers can use the app on an ad hoc basis for R14.99 per verification. Corporate price packages are based on the number of identity verifications performed.