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In our increasingly interconnected world, more and more people are turning to social media to talk about themselves. Whether it is to connect to friends and family, or simply to brag, social media has become a major part of our identity. Given how much we put online: information about our pets, recent vacations, and more, this leads to a question for business owners trying to conduct online transactions: can social media be used for identity verification?

This concept is relatively new in the identity verification space, and there is some debate about whether or not it can be useful. We’ll highlight some of the pros and cons involved in using social media to verify identity.

Social Media is Widespread

Most people have a social media account. While use varies, most people at least have something like a Facebook or YouTube account. There are so many subscribers on Facebook alone that, if we treated it as its own country, Facebook would usurp the US as the 3rd most populace nation on the planet. This use is only growing, and it is not hard to imagine a future where everybody has a social media account.

Given how widespread social media is, it’s a safe bet that your future customers have an online account you can use to verify their identity.

Age of Social Media

One of the greatest issues with social media verification is fraud prevention. This is where the age of social media accounts really shines. When Facebook was first becoming popular, it would have been impossible to distinguish fraudulent accounts, trolls, and bots from real people. Now, one can comb through an online profile and based on the age of the profile and the online activity of the user ascertain if it is fraudulent or not.

Fake accounts will generally be less than a year old, and have very little activity. If an account you’re trying to use to verify identity is only a few months old and the only activity is that it has liked your page, then it is probably fake.

Widespread, but not Universal

An issue with the use of social media is that as widespread as it is, it is not universal. You do not have to be trying to live off the grid to have almost no online presence – you simply have to not be interested on the online space. Some people have very little in the way of social media friends or do not see the point in posting pictures or videos online. As a consequence, such individuals would have very little on the internet that can be used for verification. Furthermore, the number of people abstaining from social media is enough to prevent this technology from being called ‘universal’.

No Love from Regulators

Some industries are under more stringent forms of regulation pertaining to identity verification. This is particularly true for banks, creditors, financial and medical institutions. It is highly unlikely that even the most stringent of social media verification tools would pass regulatory scrutiny, making such methods impractical. Even if you are not subject to government regulation on how and when you release customer data, this lack of love from regulators could come back to bite you if you accidentally release private information to the wrong person on the basis of social media accounts.

Has Merit, but Flawed

While using social media verification is certainly a step up from social security verification, we are still a long way from using it as the standard. It is a method with merit, but is ultimately flawed. These days, companies are finding more success with two-step and phone verification methods (an example of a service provider offering phone verification would be Cognito). Our recommendation for now would be to experiment with the potential, but to use other methods as your primary identification method.