IT company Fides Cloud Technologies has launched an application allowing users to verify the identity of any South African, simply using photographs of thumbprints on their smartphones.
How this works is that WhoYou is linked to the Home Affairs Department's National Population Register.
It has launched on Android and Windows, with an iOS app in the pipeline.
Jan Vermeulen, editor-at-large of IT news website MyBroadband.co.za, says the aim is to try and curb the identity fraud that is rampant in the country.
What they're trying to do I guess, is democratise identity verification, so the kind of thing you will have in a bank or a telecommunications operator - Fica and Rica - it's to let smaller businesses do that and individuals as well.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
The one-use case they talk about is verifying identity of a contractor that might show up at your front door to do something and making sure that you are not being taken for a ride by somebody who's impersonating someone, for example.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
Vermeulen explains the physical process of using the app:
You hold up your two thumb prints to the camera of a phone running the app, it takes a photo and then compares that against the National Population Register.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
But what about the security implications?
They have assured me they don't store the photographs of the thumb prints, either on the device or on their own servers.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
Before someone is allowed to use the app at all, they have to enrol themselves - you as a user have to opt into a kind of identity verification.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
You have to pay R15 per verification, so that suggests to me that they're not trying to monetise personal information, they're trying to monetise a service.— Jan Vermeulen, Editor-at-large - MyBroadband
Find out more about the app here: