Robin Tombs explains Yoti’s digital identification systems


With Know Your Customer (KYC) checks becoming all the more mandatory online to prevent fraud, guaranteeing that the person on the other side of the screen is who they say they are is becoming so vital. Yoti, with their digital identity verification system, can help operators make sure everything is on the level. Their CEO and co-founder Robin Tombs joined our Becky Liggero Fontana at ICE London to explain how the system works.

Yoti was born out of necessity, as so much of the information we use as identity online could easily be copied and used by bad actors. “We kind of realized that name, date of birth, and address check through experience doesn’t give you any comfort, but that’s really the right person,” Tombs said. “So if a fraudster uses your name, date of birth and address, and somebody else’s credit card, they are on the way to trying to commit a fraud. So we always knew online identity, one day, would need to kind of step up.”

The benefit of Yoti is that it not only provides a stronger identification system, but it makes the process easier on the player. “We can age estimate people, so if you’re thirty, forty, fifty, you don’t have to do anything more than just look into the camera, and we then age estimate you and then we delete the image,” he said. “But it allows you to quickly get into your gaming terminal because you are over eighteen.”

But what if, like so many humans are prone to do, Yoti gets your age wrong? “So we have a threshold, like a challenge 25 threshold, and if you’re close to that threshold, so if you’re 18 to 24, then it may fail you and then basically you can use the Yoti app,” Tombs explained. “And the Yoti app is a digital identity, just once in life, you download the app, you use your face, your passport or your driving license or national ID, we match your face to your face in your national ID or passport, and then we know what your date of birth is. And then you can share, through a QR code on the machine, that you’re over 18, no other information.”

Age verification isn’t the only product Yoti offers, but it can go a long way towards making sites safer for everyone. “So online, in the first year of launching age estimation, we’ve done two hundred and forty million age checks,” Tombs said. “That’s particularly for live streaming websites, where a child may say they’re fourteen but they’re actually ten, and a person age 28 may say that they’re 21.  And most two may be chatting in the live stream, and images taken of each person in the live stream, they’re sent to us anonymously, we age estimate them anonymously, and if there’s a big gap between our age estimation and what they claim their age is, the site can look into it or suspend the account until that person’s proved their real age.”

What sets Yoti’s system apart is that it can become a digital passport for the internet, replacing the need to share so much sensitive information with dozens, if not hundreds, of sites. “I think it’s kind of logical, but at some point, I’m going to want to prove my age or prove my ID, to lots of websites, supermarkets self-checkouts for age, I want to be in control of doing that,” he said. “So in the real world I use my passport at 200 countries, I don’t like doing Visa point-to-point with countries, that’s a pain for me. So if a website’s prepared to accept my digital identity, I’d much rather use it to prove I’m over 18, anonymously, or to share my real name, verified by my passport, without sharing the passport details.”

This is a system Tombs sees regulators buying into as well, to help minimize the risk to potential customers in the case of data breaches. “Increasingly regulators are going to say, ‘We don’t want sites storing passports, it’s too disproportionate, that’s a lot of information to store and maybe to get stolen, but we do want you to rely on the real name verified to a passport,’” he said. “So there are other solutions, but I think one day, digital identity is how most people will prove their age or who they are.”