Interview with Julie Dawson, Director of Regulatory and Policy at Digital Identity Platform: Yoti

Julie Dawson, Yoti

We’ve spent seven years building a secure identity platform that makes it simpler and safer to prove who we are in our modern, digital world. We are built on a strong set of principles and an ethical framework that shapes our mission – to help people know who they’re really dealing with. Businesses use our services to verify and authenticate staff, suppliers and individuals in a secure, private and scalable way.

Our robust identity-checking system is built on government-grade levels of security which ensures that data privacy is maintained with the highest integrity. We are trusted as the official ID provider to the Government of Jersey and Improvement Service in Scotland, and are certified as an HM Government G-Cloud supplier. In the UK, we are the strategic identity partner for Post Office.

We offer a number of products including e-Signatures, embedded identity verification for document checks, AI powered age estimation and the Yoti ID app that empowers individuals with a reusable digital ID that they can use on their phone. It has over 10 million global downloads to date and is built with privacy at its core, enables individuals to securely and easily share just parts of their personal information with verified organisations and retain a full audit trail of any data sharing.
Yoti - digital identity as a force for good

What does your role involve?

As Yoti’s Director of Regulatory and Policy, I lead a team that helps consumers, organisations and particularly regulators understand the power of digital ID and ultimately build trust in Yoti and our technology.

Day to day, there are 3 key areas I oversee.1 Yoti’s government relations – 2 driving accreditations and standards for data responsibility and cyber security, and 3 liaising with our internal and external ethics board.

I have an active role on a range of policy and steering groups, speaking to regulators, academics, civil society and media about our work.

I’m also passionate about Yoti’s work with the BCorps movement – which means we look as a company, not solely at shareholder value, how we grow profits and purpose in parallel.

At Yoti we work closely with the Yoti Guardians – experts in human rights, consumer rights, online harms and tech accessibility (e.g. if you do not have a government-issued ID, a necessary device, or cannot use widespread technologies). They hold us to account.

I monitor changes to legislation & guidance around proving identity, monitor how that is evolving. I represent Yoti on quite a few boards and industry groups – so I often attend roundtables and events on data responsibility, ethics, online harms, fraud prevention. No one day is the same.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

Yoti’s mission began in 2014, yet the pandemic in 2020 was a catalyst for the company and the digital identity sector. Consumers and organisations had to adapt to new ways of work and life – and the ethical framework and principles that underpin Yoti are more relevant than ever. Almost everyone, in all walks of life, have been disrupted by COVID-19 and the challenges that come with social distancing. We still need to prove who we are, particularly online, as we tackle the social and financial impacts of the pandemic.

During this time, Yoti has continued to drive its products and brand around privacy, security and control, but has had to adapt over the past few months to offer new solutions to the age-old ID problems that have been amplified by COVID-19. These include:

  • Digital staff ID cards developed for the NHS I&E and have been adopted by Age UK, volunteer Edinburgh, and others.
  • “Contactless IDs” for proof of age that protects consumers and retailers – helping people prove their age simply and safely with their mobile.
  • Offering our ID solutions free to companies tackling the pandemic as part of a comprehensive pledge.
  • Pivoting our social purpose activities to support organisations working on the pandemic, and to support our Fellows working under new lockdown conditions.
  • We’re taking part in national digital identity trust framework developments – in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK
  • We’re also working with a range of sector based UK trust schemes – for property conveyancing, DBS checks, accessing pensions dashboard, age….
  • Working with the global health trust frameworks such as Good Health Pass Collaborative, where our CTO Paco Garcia was joint lead for identity binding and the Velocity Network Foundation – for employment credentials


What can we hope to see from Yoti in the future?

Embracing digital IDs is going to prove hugely beneficial in many aspects of the economy. This can positively support business and consumers. Replacing paper and plastic identity documents with a contactless digital ID will also minimise physical contact and decrease risk of fraud.

In the UK, Yoti is already accepted for the sale of age-restricted goods (e.g. buying energy drinks or lottery tickets) in over 30,000 convenience stores and Post Offices.  It can also be used to prove your identity when picking up mail from over 10,500 Post Offices throughout the UK.

Globally, it can already be used as a secure way of proving your identity online with businesses and individuals.  Businesses can ask consumers to use Yoti as a reusable proof of identity for KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (anti money laundering) checks.  Individuals can use it to verify the identity of another person they meet online, perhaps on a dating site when buying something second-hand.

There are many future applications for digital ID, but it’s all about making it simpler to prove your age and who you are online and offline. It will help with onboarding online across many sectors more safely – think banking, property conveyancing and security – key to reducing phishing fraud.

Market forecasts estimate that countries who adopt digital ID will experience a 3-7% GDP uplift, through streamlining access to public and private sector services and reducing fraud.

In terms of UK government support, Minister Matt Warman has said (when asked about the proposed parity of acceptance of digital ID with physical ID, in the UK): “Digital ID also gives the potential for businesses to enhance their customers’ experience as well. As we see more and more business carried out online, digital identity products are going to become a really vital building block for the economy of the future, and it’s estimated that widespread use of digital identity products across the UK economy could be worth some 800 million points, supporting businesses to ‘build back better’ and unlocking those efficiency savings, facilitating more secure transactions preventing that fraud. It’s a really valuable investment.”

Beyond this, our work in the field of age assurance is really gathering momentum at the moment and Yoti is the world leader, particularly our age estimation via facial analysis AI, which works for people aged 6 to 60 and is readymade for the new Childrens’ Codes – devising child age-appropriate experiences online. Our facial age estimation is accurate to within 1.28 years for 6-12 year olds. We are seeing evidence mounting of the impact social media and other platforms are having on children; so we are delighted that our tech can enable platforms to design experiences that are age-appropriate from the ground up. We are also enabling parents to prove they’re old enough to be an adult, and give parental consent.

This is an area we will continue to champion and lead and I’m proud we have invested in this.