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Improving Identity Resolution in Government and the Public Sector

Identity resolution plays an essential role in ensuring that public services are provided in an efficient, cost-effective manner. It’s also used to uncover the identities of individuals who pose a threat to national security or are engaged in criminal activities. But traditional identity resolution methods are outdated and inefficient, leading to costly errors, delays in service delivery, and dangerous blind spots in criminal investigations. With the emergence of big data technologies and tools, governments and public sector organizations can improve identity resolution and streamline service delivery. 

In this article, we’ll explore how identity resolution works and share examples of how modern technologies are positively impacting public sector service delivery. In conclusion, we’ll discuss common challenges to implementing these technologies and how a cloud data platform can be used to resolve them. 

What Is Identity Resolution?

Identity resolution is a process for verifying an individual’s identity. In digital transactions, there’s no opportunity to present a physical identification card or other tangible means of verifying someone’s identity. Instead, organizations rely on data to establish that a person is actually who they say they are.

Identity resolution allows public sector organizations to gain a holistic view of a program recipient. As a result, organizations can discover which programs a person is eligible for and ensure they receive comprehensive care.

How does identity resolution work?

To establish a user’s identity, identity resolution aggregates multiple pieces of data or information about an individual to create a unified, comprehensive view of their identity. Using data stitched together from numerous sources, organizations can verify someone’s identity with a high degree of certainty. In today’s data-driven world, this process has become increasingly important for safeguarding national interests, providing highly personalized citizen services, and preventing fraud.

Deterministic matching vs. probabilistic matching

Deterministic matching is an identity resolution method that matches a unique identifier from multiple sources to verify someone’s identity. A common example of an identifier in government and public services is a Social Security number (SSN). If data drawn from multiple sources contain the same SSN, they’re considered a match. Deterministic matching is highly accurate, but it can be difficult to implement, especially in use cases where criteria for matching are not as well defined. 

Probabilistic matching offers a more flexible method for verifying identity. It uses statistical algorithms to determine the probability that two records match, based on the degree of similarity between data sets. Unlike deterministic matching, this method doesn’t rely on a predefined set of rules or criteria. Instead, it calculates the probability of a match based on available data. For example, it may calculate the probability that two records match based on similarities in name, address, and date of birth. In most cases, probabilistic matching is less accurate than deterministic matching. But in situations where data quality is poor or where there are variations in the data between records such as small differences in how a person’s last name is spelled, this method is a viable option.

Identity Resolution in Government and the Public Sector 

Government and public sector entities rely on identity resolution to fulfill their mission. Below are four use cases where identity resolution is protecting citizen safety and providing essential benefits and services.

Accelerate law enforcement investigations

Identity resolution technologies allow law enforcement agencies to identify suspects and track their movements. These tools are also used to match crime scene evidence to potential suspects. By analyzing numerous databases for potential matches in arrest records, case notes, telephone records, fingerprints, or DNA, identity resolution can establish important connections that may accelerate a criminal investigation.

Protect national security interests

Identity resolution facilitates the positive identification of individuals, making it possible to track their activities across various channels and systems. By connecting information from disparate sources including social media, financial transactions, travel records, and more, this process allows investigators to gain a more complete picture of an individual's identity and behavior. This technology is also used to establish connections between individuals, helping law enforcement and national security personnel better understand how criminal organizations or spy networks operate.

Prevent fraudulent use of public benefits

Identity resolution helps prevent the fraudulent use of public benefits. By comparing information provided by the applicant, such as name, date of birth, and SSN against various databases, this process ensures that the information is accurate and consistent, preventing the use of duplicate or false identities. Supported by a system that enables real-time analytics such as a data platform, identity resolution can even detect and prevent fraud as it starts to happen, ensuring that only those eligible for benefits receive them.

Improve the delivery of public services

When the identities of individuals are verified, public service agencies can be certain that they are providing services to the right people, preventing errors, boosting efficiency, and reducing delays in the provision of services. In addition, by identifying patterns in service usage, public service agencies can better understand where resources should be allocated to meet demand.

Common Challenges with Implementing Identity Resolution

Implementing identity resolution can be a complex and challenging process, preventing organizations from realizing the full benefits this process provides. The following obstacles must be overcome to implement identity resolution.

Fragmented/siloed data

Data is the lifeblood of identity resolution, but connecting relevant data becomes difficult if that data is siloed. When important information remains locked away in disparate systems, identity resolution processes can be less effective.

Inaccurate/incomplete data 

When data is inaccurate, incomplete, or lost due to data retention policies, identity resolution processes suffer. As individuals engage across various channels using multiple devices, associating a specific individual with actions taken becomes increasingly difficult.

Lack of modern technologies 

Legacy technologies leave governments and public sector organizations at a disadvantage since they lack the capabilities needed to process the massive amounts of data used in identity resolution. Modern data technologies, machine learning algorithms, and techniques such as rule-based matching and fuzzy matching can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of identity resolution initiatives.

Improving Identity Resolution with a Data Platform

Identity resolution relies on sophisticated data management techniques and tools. With the vast quantities of data generated by today’s governments and public sector entities, traditional identity resolution methods are quickly becoming obsolete. Here’s how cloud data platforms are modernizing identity resolution and service delivery.

Unify disparate data sources

Modern data platforms eliminate data silos, bringing all relevant data together into a single location. With a cloud data platform, there’s no need to duplicate or download data, improving data security and quality.

Supplement existing data using third-party sources

Third-party data can accelerate identity resolution initiatives, providing identity resolution technology with additional context. This contextual data significantly improves accuracy.

Analyze data at scale with data matching and machine learning algorithms 

With near-limitless data storage and elastic, on-demand compute resources, modern data platforms are designed to handle the intensive resource requirements of modern identity resolution technologies. Highly capable cloud platforms can easily handle technologies such as machine learning

Ensure compliance with data privacy regulations

Governments collect and store large amounts of sensitive data, much of which is subject to data privacy regulations. Cloud data platforms such as Snowflake include security and governance features to ensure the sensitive data maintained by your organization is protected from inappropriate access and help you achieve and maintain regulatory compliance.

Accelerating Identity Resolution with Snowflake

The modernization of identity resolution has dramatically improved the ability of governments and public sector organizations to fulfill their mission. The Snowflake Government and Education Data Cloud provides the power and flexibility these technologies require. The Data Cloud breaks down information silos with seamless, secure data-sharing capabilities to drive collaboration and deliver governed, simple, and near real-time data access within a single platform. Snowflake is FedRAMP Authorized (Moderate) and StateRAMP Authorized (High) on AWS commercial and Azure Government regions. Power IT modernization, improve citizen services, and increase efficiency and mission effectiveness with a modern data platform designed for today’s data-intensive workflows.