Tru.ly’s Tech Takes a Crack at Verifying Online Identity for Liquor Websites, Gaming, Online Dating and More
Take a former D.C. lobbyist who’s now the owner of a chain of liquor stores, mix him with some security software engineers and you get Cambridge, MA-based Tru.ly. The startup’s software enables users to verify that they are who in fact they say they are online.
Web users can apply for credentials via Tru.ly, with information like their full name, date of birth and zip code. Tru.ly pulls some of these basic credentials from a user’s Facebook account and matches it up against government records, offering a credential to the user if it’s accurate. (The verification works: some of my Facebook data doesn’t match up to my official government records, so I got denied clearance a few times before correcting it.) Once a user has gotten clearance with these particular credentials, no one else can get clearance with them. Check out the demo of how it works.
So if Internet users are already fighting for privacy in an age of big data, why exactly would they want to confirm their official identity online, you ask?
For one, it lends more credibility to the Internet users for services like online dating sites, says CEO and co-founder David Gordon. The Tru.ly verification shows that the potential dater is who they say they are (and how old they say they are). It’s the first release of Tru.ly technology on the market, and focuses largely on validating user’s name and date of birth. “We really want to go to the market with a lightweight age verification product,” says Gordon. And it is less intense than going through, say, a background check.
Tru.ly, founded last February, plans to keep the credential process free for Internet users, but will charge websites that wish to plug it into their interface for different use cases, and will create custom white label verification products depending on business needs, says Gordon.
Tru.ly’s first release also has applications for alcohol brands’ websites and gaming. That’s where founder and Gordon’s experience as a liquor store owner comes into play. Beer sites, for example, have required users to “verify” their identity simply by inputting an age into the dropdown menu. No other measures are taken to ensure that kids aren’t getting access to the restricted content.
“Put in an age, any age will do—we’re kind of saying that’s not good enough anymore,” says Gordon. He thinks those brands have it in their interest to require the age verification. “Given the technology available they need to make reasonable efforts [to curtail underage browsing on their sites],” he says. “This is the better way to do that.”
Gaming and social networking sites offering access to kids often require parents to input an online signature permitting their child to enter, and Gordon says the Tru.ly application program interface (API) could add a bit more legitimacy to these websites.
Tru.ly, a six-person company, has an API for matching up Social Security data in a private beta mode. The focus there is to ensure user identification in e-commerce purchases, online payments, and other financial transactions. To those terrified of their Social Security number ending up in a startup’s hands, don’t worry, says Gordon. The engine matches the data input against existing legal databases of government issued records, but doesn’t actually store any of it.
Looking further into the future, Tru.ly hopes to be able to verify driver’s licenses using a computer or mobile phone, and has some interest in the biometrics space. When I asked Gordon to elaborate on that, he declined, saying, “it’s too cool [to talk about] right now.”
Meanwhile, see if you can get your credentials with the age API and browse away on booze sites with a clear conscience.