Whenever you’re visiting a website for the first time, creating a social media account, downloading a smartphone app, or performing e-payments, online platforms often require an initial verification step for their current or prospective users. Most of us typically accept and go through it without much thought. That said, it would only be fair to ask ourselves why it’s there, to begin with.

Essentially, the verification process is a helpful tool that allows social, corporate, and institutional entities to securely authenticate a person’s identity online. To help you better understand its purpose, significance, and implications, we’ve put together a useful guide with everything there is to know about electronic verification steps.

What is Meant by ‘Verification’?

As we know, the internet is a vast place that abounds with endless information. With the sophistication of technology, everything has become accessible from our fingertips, from subscribing to a music streaming service to booking a plane ticket. Now, to avert issues related to hacking, data theft, and other security considerations, most online platforms have some form of the verification process to ensure that the person performing an action or process is real, and not a robot. Seeing as websites cannot check a user’s identity in person with identification documents, they rely on electronic verification systems to ward off instances of improper use, false identities, frauds, and more.

How the Verification Process Works: Types of Verification Steps

Depending on the nature and purpose of the platform in question, there are several methods to implement user verification. Regardless, this process must be safe, reliable, and effective. Most of us have become familiar with SMS authentication, a procedure used by web entities to verify a user’s legitimacy; it involves linking his/her cell phone line to a newly created account or payment process, after which they’ll receive a one-time password (OTP) for immediate confirmation and enjoy the service.

More commonly, we’d be asked to type in our email address or decipher a series of mixed letters and numbers to be able to move forward with our tasks, login, or subscribe. These combinations often show inconsistent fonts to mislead any automatic bots seeking to gain access to a site. Likewise, we also find the famous image CAPTCHA, a popular verification system that quaintly asks, “Are you human?” before presenting us with images and asking to choose the ones corresponding to a specific prompt (bus, fire hydrant, tree, etc.). Once the artificial intelligence has approved the verification, we’re able to visit the website, use the app, validate an e-payment, or else. Biometrics, video identification, and signature verifications are growing popular among certain sectors as well.

Uses and Applications

Faced with skyrocketing levels of online intrusions, data theft, and usurping, initial verification steps have become a necessary safeguard to ensure full security in a plethora of domains and situations. Essentially, any website, platform, or app can impose a verification before allowing visitors to carry on or perform actions. We notably find them upon registering to any web-based service, or whenever we want to create a profile on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Social networks, in particular, tend to enforce a strict identification process to curb fake profiles creation and/or abusive use of their platforms.

Instagram verification

In the same way, opening an online banking account or conducting finance-related operations will call for an advanced level of verification. The same goes for administrative tasks, whether seek clarifications, want to issue electronic certificates, renew ID documents, etc. Given the sensitive and legal nature of this information, corporate and government entities usually invest large sums in hiring security and IT experts as a way to ensure their platforms are safe. The service these professionals render also provides adequate protection against hacking.

Security Regulations and Protocols

As obligated as they may be to enforce user verifications upon access, web-based services and platforms are subject to strict regulatory standards. These seek to regulate and set norms for the use and implementation of online identity verification. In Europe, for instance, the two most common ones are AML5, a protocol that fights off fraud, identity forgery, and money laundering, and eIDAS, which regulates electronic signatures and online transactions. There’s a whole lot more to find out about local and international verification protocols with some specialized research.

All in all, verification steps are here to add an additional layer of security in order to monitor web activity and prevent various forms of illegal practices. While most of the internet is free to access, there sometimes is a small price to pay, namely giving out your email, phone number, or other forms of identification. Websites and apps simply want to ensure that you’re a real person and not an ill-intended intruder.