TeleSign is a mobile identity company that helps businesses to know as much as they can about their users, as well as confirm valid identities, and relay essential communications. To better do this, the company has announced a new tool—the PhoneID Score, which the company describes as “a new reputation and scoring system that assesses risk based on a user’s phone number.” What exactly does this mean? Well, imagine a credit score, but for your phone number. While this score won’t keep you from buying a car or a house, or even procuring a loan, it can keep you from signing up from a number of different web services.
While some may be opposed to this concept, it might be in your best interests. Each and every phone number has a particular online identity (Mobile Identity). The PhoneID Score can help assess one’s mobile identity at registration or during a transaction. Simply put, this score better manages and monitors users signing up for web services. Though this might sound a little too much like Orwell’s “Big Brother,” it might not be all that bad.
What is the Phone ID Score?
The PhoneID Score is a reputation tracking service that collects and analyzes various information such as telecom data, traffic patterns, and even reported fraud. Using this information, TeleSign assigns a reputation score between 0 and 1000, a risk level, and a recommendation based on the user’s phone number. In doing so, the Score is essentially designed to better monitor and manage those signing up for web services.
How is the Score Determined?
Before assigning a score, TeleSign, through your phone number, analyzes a ton of information on both a broad and refined scale. In doing so, they’re able to provide businesses with detailed information including phone type, registration information, telecom carrier, name and address, and more. “We each have a unique mobile identity tied to our phone number that is linked to a wealth of information, from where we live to our online activities. This makes the phone number the most efficient and conclusive method to identify fraud online,” states Charles McColgan, CTO at TeleSign.
The PhoneID Score examines everything from the type of phone number in use (landline, VoIP, mobile, etc.) to the number’s activity history—i.e. is there a history of fraud, has the number been used to sign up for a large number of accounts, etc. Furthermore, there are other considerations, too. For example, if a user is using a mobile number, TeleSign examines where the phone is registered, as well as the type of plan selected (contract, pre-paid, etc.).
In examining this information as a whole, TeleSign is able to provide businesses with an accurate reputation score, risk level, and recommendation concerning your phone number.
How Is the Score Used?
While this is all sounds well and nice, what does this score really mean for you, the user? It all boils down to trust. Businesses that elect to use TeleSign’s Score service are ultimately given a detailed report and rating that assess if a phone number is trustworthy or not. Based on this, the business is then able to choose whether or not you will be allowed to sign-up with them. While you may not feel all that great about submitting your data to such scrutiny, the PhoneID Score is ultimately designed to augment security–i.e. it’s made to help.
Simply put, companies using the PhoneID Score are able to analyze your phone number’s status and history to assess whether or not you can register/sign-up for their website. How is this done? At the sign-up stage, the company will ask for your phone number. From here, your number is sent to TeleSign, who evaluates your number and sends it back to the company with a reputation score, risk level, and recommendation. With this score, websites can be more selective with who registers based on actual facts. As a result, businesses are able to maintain tighter security within their websites’ infrastructures. Furthermore, users who are registered with these sites have greater peace of mind knowing that the site is monitored so closely.
Sure, this might be an idyllic way of thinking, especially when some users may be turned away, but this score ultimately exists to better authenticate. So, while it may make some uncomfortable, the information collected isnt being used lightly or abusively. It’s just a means for tighter security.
How Are You Affected?
Businesses are now able to view and analyze your phone number’s history. This can be promising and problematic. TeleSign is essentially analyzing you based on your phone number’s history. As such, victims of fraud and those with “questionable” histories may be subject to more scrutiny and even more commonly refused the ability to sign up for a web service. Inversely, those with more average/clear histories will have no problems.
How you’re affected ultimately depends on your phone and your history. The type of phone you have plays an integral part is assessing your rating. Typically, landline numbers are considered to be the safest, and VoIP numbers (Google Voice, Skype, etc.) are considered the most dangerous. While this aspect is completely in your control, your history may not be. Identity fraud is a very big problem. According to a study conducted earlier this year, 7% of US households report some type of identity fraud. TeleSign can recognize a phone number’s fraud history and determine whether it’s susceptible to further fraud. So, if you’ve been a victim of fraud in the past, this could hurt your reputation rating, risk level, and recommendation.
Ultimately, the PhoneID Score is based on a wide collection of data, which it assesses along with history; therefore, there isn’t much room for objectivity. Regardless, some may still not be willing to submit to a regiment such as this, especially those who have been victim to questionable activity in the past. Furthermore, there is currently no way for users to view and check their scores themselves. “It’s something we’ve talked about, but we don’t have a way to share scores yet,” states McColgan.
The Bottom Line
The PhoneID Score is essentially an authentication service that can better verify and assess the identities, histories, and risk of users registering or signing up for web services. Though your personal experiences may allot you some prejudices, the average user doesn’t really have much to worry about. Again, the service may feel a bit intrusive to some, but it isnt operating much different than a credit score would—i.e. it analyzes your phone number’s usage habits, history, traffic, and basic information to provide an informed rating and recommendation. This is pretty much what your credit score does. Still you might take issue with the fact that you can’t check your score anywhere, but that’s being dealt with.
Ultimately, TeleSign’s newest security tool is designed to provide businesses with greater verification. There are bound to be some who feel this is excessive, intrusive, and objective; however, the score is derived from concrete facts and assigned by industry professionals. As such, you don’t have all that much to worry about. At least not for now anyway.