Data from social networking sites could help pinpoint identity theft
Jun 07, 2011 Brian Bradley
Social networking sites may hold the key to a powerful method of identification verification, according to CNET. In a recent interview with the technology news site, Rich Aberman, founder of the payment service WePay, spoke about using online social network strength alongside more traditional anti-fraud methods to identify fraudulent transactions before they are authorized. Online social network strength is based on the idea that it is harder to fake a social network identity than to assume another person's credit card or Social Security number. The behavior of real individuals online is markedly different from that of a fake online persona that may do things such as arbitrarily send friend requests to people who have no connection to each other. Those looking to add another layer of security to their payment processes can link their credit card numbers to social network accounts that exhibit behavior consistent with what a real cardholder is likely to do. Based on this knowledge, Aberman plans to verify identity based on running WePay transactions through a social filter. "We are using your online identity to verify your identity in the real world," Aberman told the news source. Facebook's social verification system works on this principle by using internally gathered social networking behavior data to identify anomalies, such as a user logging in from a strange location or interacting with friendship groups in a way that is inconsistent with behavior that was previously observed. Based on this system, users who have lost their passwords and fail the site's other ID authentication methods can elect to have reactivation codes sent to three of their friends, who they must then make contact with in order to receive the code. If the user's friends list is too disparate, the social verification process will not be offered as an option. "We have systems to determine what is a fake account or not," Facebook policy associate Fred Wolens told the news source. "For each interaction, we look at a number of different things." The precise nature of the analysis must be kept secret for security reasons. Although Facebook does not share this data with outside companies yet, doing so could introduce a new and potentially more secure method of ID verification.