Cross-agency group explores next steps for identity verification

Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

The group's new report and simulation tool will help officials identify trade-off considerations for different identity solutions and frameworks.

A cross-agency group released a report and simulation tool on how the government can address identity fraud in government programs. One big takeaway: it’s complicated. 

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program report identifies trade-off considerations for different identity solutions and frameworks, and it comes with a simulation tool from the Government Accountability Office to show how decisions about identity verification affect government programs in ways that extend beyond fraud levels alone.

JFMIP, a cooperative venture between the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Government Accountability Office, based the report on panel discussions with more than 20 experts. The report represents the first stage of a two-part initiative started in 2020 on identity verification and improper payments in government programs. The group also plans to conduct targeted studies on the effects of different identity verification controls.

This report comes as the government is grappling with an increase in identity theft. Improper payments — which include identity theft and other types of incorrect payments — shot up by at least $75 billion between fiscal year 2020 and 2021.

As agencies look for solutions, the hope is that the report and simulation tool inform more nuanced conversations about identity verification by showing the “trade-off considerations” that agencies should consider, said Taka Ariga, GAO chief data scientist and director of the GAO Innovation Lab.

“During the pandemic, a lot of agencies at the federal and state and local levels had sort of rushed out there implementing a number of digital solutions” without necessarily thinking through “all the sort of trade-off decisioning that they have to make along the way,” he said. “There are anecdotal examples where agencies have implemented with a pretty significant level of buyer's remorse.”

The simulation tool, powered by 1,000 synthetic applicants to a hypothetical benefits program, is intended to illustrate the interconnected aspects of a program affected by identity verification tools.

Changing inputs like whether all applicants go through the same identity verification process and how their data is protected affect how many legitimate applicants get through and how many are blocked, how many incorrect payments are made and what those interacting with the program think about it, as well as cost.

Beyond individual agencies and programs, the report also explores how centralized a government-wide identity credentialing framework should be.

Many panelists suggested a federated framework, the report states, where program offices can use third-party credentials for identity verification, and citizens choose what service provider they want to use.

Several panelists also suggested a shift to a more risk-based approach.

Instead of requiring the same identity verification controls for everyone that interacts with a program, agencies could use data to power a “risk-based transaction management system.”

Transactions deemed riskier by predictive modeling – or statistical techniques that find patterns or criteria associated with a certain transaction being more likely to be fraudulent –  would get more scrutiny. 

The idea is that this would push agencies beyond the so-called “pay and chase” approach where incorrect payments are recovered after they happen, a model the report says both GAO and OMB have urged agencies to move away from by using more preventative measures.

“We need to evolve identity verification practices across the federal government,” said Jordan Burris, former chief of staff in the White House Office of the Federal CIO, panel participant and senior director of public sector product market strategy at identity verification company Socure. “There has to be a better alignment and approach that’s being taken, and much of what they called out are practices that are being implemented in the private sector today.”

But moving to a federated identity framework or a more risk-based approach could require things like funding, data and policy changes. 

One place to watch is the National Institute of Standards and Technology, currently remaking its 2017 Digital Identity Guidelines that govern technical requirements for identity services. 

Experts said that the agency might consider baking in a more risk-based approach “that would better allow program offices to adapt to their specific assessed levels of risk.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.