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Frequently Asked Questions

Identity Proofing & The Study

Why is GSA doing this study?

GSA is committed to combating bias. This research study will help us make sure government websites work for everyone.

To improve outreach practices, user testing, and user experience for underserved communities in civic tech design, we’re studying the equity of remote identity-proofing technologies that the American public may interact with when accessing government services and benefits.

GSA plans to release a report with the results from the study in a peer-reviewed publication in 2024. The report will present a statistical analysis of the performance of proofing checks and explore the causes behind any negative or inconclusive results. Once the report is published on GSA.gov, GSA will use the results to inform requirements for future procurements and studies.

What is remote identity proofing?

Identity proofing is the process of verifying that an individual is who they say they are.

Government agencies, financial institutions, and other organizations often require some type of “proof” before granting you access to their services. This is typically done by asking you for documentation such as a driver’s license, a passport, or your Social Security Number.

Traditionally, organizations would take a hard copy of these items while in your presence and a person would physically attest that your documents actually belong to you. These processes help organizations catch people who may be pretending to be you.

Remote identity proofing uses modern technology to streamline this process. In this study, identity-proofing software will try to determine if two pictures of you belong to the same person. One picture will be captured from your state or territory government-issued identification, the other from a “selfie” (picture you take of yourself). GSA will also verify the information you provide (i.e. Social Security Number, address, phone number, etc.) and compare it to data sources to ensure that it also matches.


Participation Requirements

Who is eligible to participate in study?

U.S. residents 18 years and older with an eligible identity document can register for the study.

Why wasn’t I selected to participate?

You may be not be eligible to participate or receive compensation if you:

  • do not agree to the terms and conditions of the study;
  • chose “prefer not to answer” in the required demographic questions;
  • are under 18 years of age;
  • do not consent to the biometric data collection;
  • do not have an eligible ID;
  • have already participated in the study; or
  • your submission triggers fraud alerts including
    • tampered identification,
    • pretending to be someone else, etc.

Furthermore, if the study has already reached the necessary number of participants from specific demographics we may turn away new participants.

What do I need to participate in the study?

You will need:

  1. an email address
  2. a mobile phone with a camera feature;
  3. a phone plan associated with your name (it cannot be a virtual phone number like Google Voice, VOIP, etc.);
  4. an eligible state or territory-issued identity document; and
  5. your Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

What if I don’t have a government issued identification document (ID)?

The systems and methods for remote identity proofing require an ID; without one you will not be able to participate.

Which IDs are eligible?

✅ The following IDs are eligible ✅

Driver’s licenses and state-issued ID card from the 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and other US territories (Guam, US Virgin Islands, Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico). Please use the same ID for all pictures. Note that a worn or damaged picture may prevent the identity verification process from working.

🚫 The following IDs are not eligible 🚫

• Passports, Military IDs, Green cards, or other federal government identity cards
• Identification cards issued by a city or municipality
• Library cards, school or college IDs, workplace badges, etc.
• Temporary IDs
• Paper copies of your identification
• Digital pictures of your ID displayed on a screen

What if my current address is different from the address on my ID?

Your address is verified against consumer records which typically include both current and previous addresses. If needed, you will be able to update your address during the study.

Why do I need to provide my Social Security Number (SSN)?

Your SSN is used to verify your name, date of birth, and address against different records such as credit history reports.

Why do I need to provide my phone number?

Your phone number is used to look up your phone account information and verify that the name and address provided by the telephone carrier matches the information you provided.

Note: You need to provide a U.S. based phone number. You may use either a land-line or a mobile number. You cannot use a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone number (i.e. Google Voice).


Study Details and Troubleshooting

Person registering for the study using a mobile device.

1. Register to see if you qualify

Person using their smartphone take a picture of their government issued identification.

2. Take a picture of your ID

Person using their smartphone to take a selfie.

3. Take selfies

People taking multiple selfies and pictures of their government ID

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3

Person inputting information on their smartphone.

5. Provide personal information and confirm your device

Person receiving a notification of their compensation gift card on their phone.

6. Receive compensation

How much time do I need to complete the study?

Generally, the study should take 15 to 45 minutes.

How does the study work?

  1. First, register for the study. As part of registration, you will be expected to:
    • Review the Rules of Use & Privacy Act Statement, and accept the terms and conditions.
    • Provide your first and last name and email address.
    • You’ll then receive an email from identityequitystudy@research.gsa.gov with a link to proceed with the study.
  2. Once registered, you will complete a demographic survey to determine if you are eligible to participate: - if you are eligible, you will be redirected to the next step or asked to scan a QR code to continue on your mobile device; - If you are not eligible, you will be notified and any identifying you've provided will be deleted.
  3. On your mobile device, you will progress through through FOUR stages of identity verification:
    • Document Authentication: You will capture pictures of your eligible ID and selfies. You will test FIVE different authentication systems and for each one you will:
      • take a picture of the **front** of your ID,
      • take a picture of the **back** of your ID, and
      • and take a selfie.
      This process repeats FIVE TIMES, once for each system. Please use the same ID for all pictures. The systems will analyze the pictures of your ID for fraud-prevention markings like holograms, and validate the expiration date and barcode. The selfies help ensure that you are the same person that is pictured on your ID. If there is glare, blur, or other problems with any of the pictures, each system may ask you to repeat the process.
    • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Validation: You will provide and confirm:
      • your phone number,
      • SSN
      • first name,
      • last name,
      • date of birth,
      • and physical residence address.
      These items will be used to validate your personal information against consumer records like credit history and your phone account record.
    • Device Check: The website scans your mobile device’s features and capabilities.
    • Security Code Check: You will receive a security code by text message or phone call and confirm it on the study website.
  4. You will be directed to fill a short Exit Survey that is mandatory for study completion.
  5. You will receive an email with details regarding compensation.
  6. If you are eligible for compensation, you visit the compensation website and claim your $25 gift card.

Why do I have to submit my information multiple times?

GSA is testing different automated systems that compare your selfie with the picture on your government ID to determine if you are a real person. To do this, the systems analyze the process of taking the pictures to ensure that you’re not an algorithm, wearing masks, or using tampered documents. Each system needs you to physically capture the photos, instead of just reusing existing photos.

At a minimum, you will be asked to submit FIVE pictures each of the following:

  • front of your ID,
  • back of your ID, and
  • selfie.

If there is glare, blur, or other problems with any of the pictures, each system may ask you to attempt to repeat the process.

See How does the study work? for more details.

Why aren’t my pictures working?

During this study, you will be asked for at least five pictures of the front and back of your government-issued identification. Some of the ID verification tools will take the pictures automatically, and for others, you will have to take the picture yourself. You will also be asked for at least five selfies. Some of these will be taken automatically, and for others, you will have to take the picture yourself.

Fixing issues with pictures of your ID card:

  • verify that barcodes are not dirty or damaged;
  • turn off the flash on the camera;
  • use a flat, solid, dark background;
  • ensure that the edges of the ID are visible in the capture window;
  • take the photo in a well lit area with indirect lighting; and
  • avoid shadows, glares, reflections, and blur.

Fixing issues with your selfies:

  • turn off the flash on the camera;
  • take the photo in a well-lit area with indirect light;
  • look straight at the camera; and
  • use a solid background that provides high contrast with your skin color.

Why are you asking for my skin tone?

Research on facial verification systems has shown that results can vary significantly depending on a person’s skin tone. To examine this variation, GSA is using the Monk Skin Tone (MST) scale. The MST scale attempts to capture the wide range of human skin tones in a format that is easy to use.

Ten circles representing different skin tones

The 10 shades in the Monk Skin Tone Scale (MST) ordered left to right from lightest, MST-1, to darkest, MST-10. Monk, Ellis. “Monk Skin Tone Scale,” 2019. https://skintone.google, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

We recognize that the MST scale is imperfect and cannot capture the infinite variety of human skin tones. Study participants who opt to provide this information should pick the skin tone that most-closely matches their own. Providing your skin tone information will help GSA better understand the challenges to equitable performance of facial verification algorithms.

See the following articles for more information on the relation between skin tone facial recognition and verification technology:

Since the study checks consumer history records, will participating in the study affect my credit score?

No. The vendors providing identity verification services use their own models and do not request your records from the credit bureaus. Therefore, participating in the study will not impact/affect a participant’s credit score.

Can I participate in the study if I use a screen reader or other assistive technologies?

GSA recognizes that the “Equity Study on Remote Identity Proofing’’ may not be accessible to all potential participants with disabilities because it requires participants to take photographs of their government-issued ID as well as a live “selfie” or headshot using functionality that may not be native to their device. GSA is investigating other remote identity proofing solutions that are designed to be more accessible and still compliant with the requirements in National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-63.

I encountered an error while doing the study. What should I do?

If you are stuck on an error screen, a blank page, unresponsive interface, or a long-running loading page, we recommend the following:

  1. close the study browser tab,
  2. clear your browser cache and cookies, and
  3. restart the study by clicking the link in the registration email from identityequitystudy@research.gsa.gov.

These steps will take you back to where you left off. If you still cannot proceed we recommend switching to a different device or internet connection and restarting the study by following the steps above.

If you are still experiencing issues contact identityequitystudy@research.gsa.gov with the following information:

  • email address
  • the participant code included in your registration email (string of letters and numbers starting with “R_”).
  • Do not email us pictures or scans of any of your documents

Data Privacy

What information are you collecting from me?

We collect the following information from you, from your government-issued ID, and from consumer records:

  • pictures of your state or territory government-issued ID;
  • pictures of your face;
  • social Security Number
  • address
  • phone number
  • self-asserted demographic information:
    • ethnicity
    • race
    • gender
    • age
    • household Income
    • education
    • skin Tone (self-reported, optional)

For details on how the information is collected, used, and protected see How does the study work? and How are you protecting my information?

How are you protecting my information?

GSA has contracts with multiple vendors contracted to perform identity proofing services for this study. GSA performs stringent data security and privacy reviews on each vendor to ensure that your data is only used for this research study. These vendors will collect, process, and transmit identity-proofing data and results to GSA. Your information will then be deleted from the vendors’ systems within 24 hours of transmission to GSA.

After transmission from the vendors, your data is stored using secure GSA systems. These systems also undergo strict internal data and privacy reviews. Only a restricted set of GSA personnel will be able to access your information should it be required.

For more details on how your data is collected, used, and secured, refer to our:

What will you do with the information that I provided during the study?

The results of your test will be used to assess the impact of demographic factors on the identity-proofing software’s ability to successfully pass or fail an individual. These results will be aggregated, analyzed, and published in an academic journal. All information in the public report will be de-identified: your name, address, and other personal information will not be shared.

GSA will store your data according to the retention schedule for Customer Research and Reporting Records [PDF, 8 Pages] and any other applicable federal records schedules; this requires that certain records related to research studies be destroyed six (6) years after the end of the fiscal year in which the information was collected.

What happens to my information if I start the study but do not complete it?

If you do not complete the study, your identifying information will be deleted and not included in the study findings. GSA may keep your non-identifying information (ie. demographics, which page you dropped off, etc) to better understand usage and improve user experience.

What will you do with the study results? Who will be able to read the final report?

The study results will be compiled into a report and published as an article in an academic journal (a newspaper/magazine for scientists). We will also share our findings in conferences and other public venues and media outlets.

What is a redacted image? Am I required to include it in the publication?

A redacted image blurs or hides identifying details of your face or document. For example your eyes, name, address, date of birth can be covered by black bar or rectangle as in the picture below.

We may use redacted images in our reporting and explanation of results to demonstrate examples of common identifying failures such as glare, blur, ID damage, etc.

You are not required to provide your redacted image for the publication. It is optional.

A driver's license with sensitive information (eyes, address, etc.) redacted by covering it with black bars or rectangles


Compensation

Will I be compensated for participating in the study?

Once your participation is complete, Rekrewt, GSA’s recruitment partner, will send you to thank you for your time. You can choose an eGift Card from close to a hundred retailers. All compensation will be sent to the email address you provide. Please expect 1-2 business days for payments to be processed.

I just completed the study. How do I claim my compensation?

You will receive two emails after completing the study:

  1. A confirmation email from identityequitystudy@research.gsa.gov.
  2. An email from rewards@reward.tremendous.com with instructions on how to claim your $25 gift card.

Please check your junk or spam folders. If you do not receive these messages or have any trouble with the compensation please contact Rekrewt (gsa-support@rekrewt.com), GSA’s recruitment partner with any questions about compensation.

What kind of compensation is available?

You will be able to choose a $25 electronic gift card from multiple major U.S. retailers. Please note that we do not offer cash-equivalent payments or prepaid debit/credit-cards.

When will I receive compensation?

You will receive compensation 1 to 2 business days after completing the study. Please note that processing times may be extended during weekends and holidays.

It’s been 2 days and I haven’t received compensation, what should I do?

If you haven’t received compensation please check your eligibility. If you believe you are eligible for compensation please contact us at identityequitystudy@researh.gsa.gov.