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LISTEN NOW: Bias, Blind Spots and Bad Identity Systems – Why the Digital Identity Industry Needs Diversity

This webinar led by Emma Lindley, co-founder of Women in Identity and Chief Commercial Officer for Truststamp, explored biases and ideas for bringing diversity to the digital identity industry.

As humans we all have bias and there are different types of bias such as observer bias – where we see what we expect to see, or sampling bias – we test our products on a set of people and it may only work for them and not a diverse range of people.

Bias is something that affects all humans and all organisations. For example, Google found a small number of videos seem to be uploaded upside down onto YouTube, but this was found to be an unconscious bias – all those that hand tested the product had been right handed. The technology was revised to accommodate both left and right handed people.

These biases can have real implications for people, which become even more acute within the identity field. Identity is often a gateway to access crucial services such as finance, health, education, and the ability to vote. Affecting people’s access to these can create serious problems.

Issues with bias can also affect members of the population who already may be marginalised, such as the elderly or those with a disability. It is crucial that we don’t make it even more difficult for people with our ID systems.

In Australia in 2016 an ID photo of a man of Asian descent was rejected due to having his eyes closed, the technology struggled with recognising his facial features. In 2019 the UK’s passport facial recognition system did not work for those with very dark or very light skin – this was found to be due to the technology provider not running enough photos through their AI to allow it to be trained to recognise different skin tones.

When we are designing technology it should work for every type of human in the world and designers need to be more aware of bias and have empathy for users. It is important that we all accept we are biased, that people are not all just like us. We should also ensure that our teams are diverse and we should make an effort to improve our diversity or partner with organisations which are more diverse. Focus group and testing group diversity should also be prioritised and diversity something people are empowered to discuss and address.

Women in Identity (WiD) is a registered non-profit who aims to inspire, elevate and support a more diverse workforce in the identity industry. It is free to join the organisation and there are opportunities for you to become an ambassador for WiD in your country/region. Please do contact info@womeninidentity.org

Sarah Corley
Sarah is Deputy Director at DFI and is responsible for developing the DFS profession and providing opportunities for capacity building outside of our online course provision. She has over 20 years of experience within the learning and capacity development within the development and health sector, and is passionate about being a catalyst for change.

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