A Brief History of Identity Verification

A Brief History of Identity Verification

Published on : September 10, 2018

What monumental events in the past are important to the history of identity verification?

  1. The humble beginnings of identification
  2. The rise of record keeping
  3. The revolutionary technology of biometrics



It might not be obvious in today’s world, but the technology to verify your identity has been available for hundreds of thousands of years. Unlike in recent times where it’s dominated with biometrics, the Philippines and a lot of other countries around the world have always had a way of keeping track of an individual through a lot of different and creative ways in the past.

Even the people of the past realized just how important identity verification really is. That being said, they have developed a variety of ways to help recognize a person—some of these methods won’t even be considered very viable in today’s world!

With regards to that, here is a short insight into the history of identity verification, and the many ways it is done in the past.



Humble Beginnings of Identification

Humble Beginnings of Identification

During the days when the electronic or industrial technology of any sort was non-existent, the only way to verify someone’s identity is for you to remember them. Memories regarding a person’s physical characteristics, their behaviors, and their names were the most reliable at the time. However, as with anything that involves human instincts, they are susceptible to human error.

This doesn’t mean that it’s something that has been forgotten, in fact, this is the most common way of identifying your friends and family or people out on the streets. In a casual sense, it is perfect—but for security reasons, it is not that reliable.

When humans began to live a more civilized life, they also developed some of the first ever identity verification methods. Over a 100,000 years ago, in the southern regions of the globe, human decorations and accessory items served as symbols that communicate many things such as wealth, familial ties, and of course, personal identity.

Today, such actions might be a little too lavish for every person—but this tradition is still used in particular in the Military in the form of dog tags, necklaces with an emblem that states the soldier’s name and other personal information.

The other notable means of identification is the use of tattoos, which dates back to about 2000BC in Ancient Egypt. These tattoos were primarily used to distinguish people from various clans. Some of its other uses were to distinguish a person’s place in society, their membership to their family, and whether or not they were of high or low birth.



The Rise of Record Keeping

Years later, civilizations began to have the technology for writing. In particular, the Babylonian empire has started to collect their civilization’s personal information and recording them using the written word. In a way, this data collection procedure may be considered as the first census or government effort to collect information. The Babylonian empire usually does this every 6 to 7 years.

As time went on, the Roman Empire further developed data collection methods and started to require even more personal information from the citizens—making way for a larger variety of documents filled with multiple pieces of information per citizen. Some of these documents are similar to some important documents in today’s world such as birth certificates, land title deeds, and citizenship records.

In 1414, King Henry V of England invented what is more commonly known today as passports. He created a document that would prove the identity of a person while in a foreign country. During those times, these papers were known as “safe conduct”.

And as of identity verification, and personal information tracking becomes more and more important, improved data gathering, collecting and bookkeeping methods have led to a plethora of documents that are now used in modern times. In particular, an emphasis on printed police records and documents that could be stored and linked back to individuals with the help of a numerical value is the precursor to the modern day government databases and ID cards.

Nearing the modern era, a couple of more notable things related to identity verification would be the Netherland’s use of their own decentralized Personal Number System and the revolutionary technology of Photography.



The Revolutionary Technology of Biometrics

The Revolutionary Technology of Biometrics

The first ever recorded use of biometrics is the successful use of ink fingerprints as manual signatures on wills and deeds. And it continued to be used as manual identification until software and automation began to become more commonly used.

Ever since then, identity verification using IDs, government numbers, and biometrics have become a mainstay in many systems. In the Philippines, biometrics is now used for a variety of establishments, specifically in government offices and facilities, commercial buildings and even hotels.



Key Takeaway

Identity verification is a concept that as early as the time of Ancient Egypt. From the lavish pieces of jewelry, intricate tattoos, and writing to the modern day fingerprint scans of biometrics, the concept of verifying your identity has become part of human society. If you are to understand the process of identity verification, you will understand the importance and necessity of having such a technology.