What a Fried Onion Reveals About Digital Identity and Protecting PII [Video]

What does blood type have to do with getting a free Bloomin’ Onion?

The answer lies in digital identity, according to panelists at the SXSW 2017 session “How Digital Identity is Enabling Access to the VA.”

One of the challenges of identity verification is protecting sensitive information irrelevant to the offer or service being accessed. In order for an organization to verify an individual’s military status, for example, that organization needs to view a trusted credential without exposing that individual’s personally identifiable information (PII). However, many organizations rely on military IDs or paperwork to verify Veterans in-person, putting valuable PII on display for people who don’t need or want to see it.  

Panel moderator Paul Grassi, Sr. Standards & Technology Advisor at NIST, pointed out that third-party digital identity providers can solve this problem, making online verification more secure. 

“In the analog world if a Veteran wants a 10% discount, he has to tell the merchant what his blood type is,” Grassi said. “And now online, and in this day and age where we’re hearing there’s no such thing as online privacy, we actually are getting it because that blood type isn’t even in the [digital identity] system.”

“Yeah that’s right,” said CEO Blake Hall, a panelist at the session. “We saw that the Outback was encouraging Veterans on Veterans Day to bring their Form DD214, their separation paperwork, which has your name, your social, your address history, every single award you won in the military, your blood type. So literally Veterans on Veterans Day were showing this to waiters and waitresses to get a free Bloomin’ Onion. That to me was just crazy, we had to fix that. So we’re like look, let’s build a really good platform, we’ll protect that data to get your Bloomin’ Onion. [Organizations] can trust us as a third-party to vouch for them without Veterans showing a stranger their social to get a fried onion.”

Watch a clip of the SXSW session “How Digital Identity is Enabling Access to the VA” below.