How do companies view the idea of people having a single digital ID for all their many online accounts, an approach known as Bring Your Own Identity? Having surveyed over 3,000 managers, the Ponemon Institute reveals that while there is considerable interest on the commercial side, this concept finds little favour in other areas of the company and security fears are dampening enthusiasm.

BYOID: Firms Still Hesitating over Potential Drawbacks
Independent software corporation CA Technologies recently set out to find out how firms felt about the idea of online users having a single digital identifier for all sites and platforms.  This ‘Bring your own identity’ (BYOID) approach to digital authentication basically means that an end user's username and password for accessing a website or account is managed by a third party. It allows you, when creating an account on a new website to ‘bring along’ your existing Facebook, Paypal or Google ID so as to avoid having to create a new identity – a move which looks certain to make life easier for Internet users and e-consumers. Nevertheless there are still many question marks hanging over the concept, especially regarding the security aspect. This is partly what prompted CA Technologies to commission research institute Ponemon Institute to carry out a survey among over 1,500 IT and IT security practitioners and over 1,500 business users in nine countries*. The survey findings reveal that while many of the respondents see real potential benefits in BYOID, most remain somewhat reluctant to go this route.

Potential commercial and e-commerce user benefits

Among the IT practitioners polled, only 16% have actually developed a BYOID solution, while among business users the figure is only 12%. Close to half of the business users had heard tell of BYOID but could not explain what it was.  Meanwhile half of the IT practitioners were not particularly interested in the idea of a single digital ID and only 30% of them believe that BYOID will help to bring new users on to a company website, so the concept appears to have some way to go to convince the professionals. Nevertheless, the majority of those surveyed – fully 79% of the business users – agree that BYOID can be useful for e-commerce, as it should make the purchasing process much smoother for the consumer. “Who hasn’t abandoned his/her online shopping basket at one time or another because of interminable authentication procedures at the end of a web transaction? BYOID is an increasingly popular solution which simplifies this process,” argues Nicolas Massé, Senior Consultant at CA Technologies. Moreover, BYOID technology could certainly help reduce costs for e-commerce sites. However, e-commerce authentication was pretty much the only area of online identification where it received the thumbs-up from respondents.

Security the main concern

Moreover, e-commerce is the prime area where security issues comes to the fore. Having a unique identifier for all the sites where you make purchases could of course prove dangerous if hackers should ever get hold of it. On the other hand 56% of the IT practitioners surveyed felt that by tightening up on the ubiquitous online authentication process it may actually help to avert fraud. If people were to routinely register for sites using their existing Facebook or Paypal accounts that would make it much more difficult to create a false identity. This argument could well be key to encouraging widespread BYOID adoption. The CA Technologies-Ponemon Institute report reveals that fully 77% of French IT practitioners are convinced by this line of thinking. So security remains one of the key factors shaping the future of BYOID. Meanwhile an increasing number of initiatives for improving digital ID security are currently underway. Some firms have set out to develop physical keys, while the use of fingerprint technology is also becoming more widespread.  Security issues apart however, the consumer’s desire for instantaneous access may outweigh all other considerations. “Users will no longer tolerate the smallest delay in the process of accessing an application,” points out Nicolas Massé. Perhaps Internet users have now become so wedded to speed that they are ready to adopt a single digital ID even at the price of security.
*United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy and the United Kingdom.
By Guillaume Scifo