Standing on the shoulders of Estonia's tech giants: Interview with identity verification provider Veriff

Thursday 18 November 2021 09:13 CET | Editor: Alin Popa | Interview

Estonia has emerged as a tech haven in recent years and has remained at the forefront of digital identity development. The Paypers sits with Kaarel Kotkas from Veriff to learn the recipe behind its success

How can the EU follow in Estonia’s footsteps towards a successful digital ID?

Europe cannot experience the full benefits of digital identity because of the lack of integration across EU nations. While other countries have issues with national IDs, every person living in Estonia is eligible for this government digital ID due to mass adoption within the nation. Though small, Estonia and its modest population of 1.3 million people are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to secure digital identity.

Estonia is an established leader in the realm of early adoption of highly developed national ID-card systems, and if the EU wants to establish a seamless e-ID function better than just a physical or photographic ID that provides access to all government services, I suggest looking no further than Estonia. 

The system was built 20 years ago, it is based on chip cards and works as a way of authentication utilising PIN1 and PIN 2. However, if we were to start developing e-ID from zero today, it would most likely be based on biometrics. 

The EU Commission plans that by 2030, all key public services should be available online and 80% citizens should use an eID solution, whereas 98% of Estonians already have a digital ID card, 99% of services are already available online and 70% of the population use an ID-card regularly for public services. 

The digital transformation is long underway and any nation looking to keep a seat at the table will need to embrace the strides Estonia has made with digital identity and enable processes that make the adoption of these services as smooth as possible. Ultimately, it is up to organisations such as the EU Commission to make these changes. 

Your ultimate vision for Veriff is to create a single global identity for everyone on Earth, providing people with equal access to services no matter where they are from. Could you please give more details about this plan?

My ultimate vision for Veriff is to create a single global identity for everyone on Earth, providing people with equal access to services no matter where they are from.

By 2025, I hope that Veriff will be issuing digital identities, digital Veriff IDs which will allow people to have full control and transparency about where and why their data is being used. Eventually, this single digital identity will be expanded to everyone on Earth. 

While we cannot eliminate fraud entirely, we want to be at the forefront of ensuring that bad actors have as hard of a time as possible, and everyday individuals feel comfortable knowing their identity is secure. 

What are the benefits of having digital passports for end consumers?

Digital passports offer unparalleled global convenience and security, creating an entryway to the future of online identity. 

As the world reopens, the need to facilitate travel safely and securely is paramount with digital IDs that serve as virtual passports and vaccine certifications likely becoming the future of global identity verification. 

The challenges associated with implementing this technology are extreme, which is why observing the current leaders’ practices in the identity verification pace can provide some much-needed guidance. 

What role will government-issued identification play?

Government-issued national ID cards are the best that we currently have to identify a person, but they have their limitations - they’re not all created equally. Depending on the country that the ID is issued in, people have different access to services.

The future of identity verification lies hand in hand with biometrics and data crosslinking becoming a cornerstone of secure digital identity. If a person does not have a government issued ID, they basically do not exist and will not be eligible for any (digital) services. Digital ID might resolve that issue.  

With businesses embracing digital transformation and globalisation taking hold, billions of people will need access to a fully digital world sooner than we think.  

We’re entering a new realm of global identity that is more secure and harder to duplicate than ever before, offering a stronger alternative to verifying online transactions, preventing fraud, and ultimately permitting restrictionless movement around the world. Between this and continuous know-your-customer verification with authentication at every transaction, organisations will have multiple avenues to access real-time, effective identification where and when it matters most. 

How do you comment on the EU’s plan to build a European digital identity wallet? What role do companies like Veriff play?

Estonia has emerged as a new tech haven in recent years, remaining at the forefront of digital identity development. Veriff has been leading the charge in enabling organisations to build trust with their customers.

In order to balance the challenges of government-issued identification with the advantages of global digital identities, other countries should follow Estonia’s lead in establishing a successful digital ID. By focusing on setting equal infrastructure standards across countries (the Euro provides an ideal blueprint for how this could be done), the EU can empower real change in the identity market. The hope for a unified, global identity may seem like a castle in the air, but it’s a step we must take to ensure security for all.

What will this large-scale shift towards a single digital ID network mean for fraud prevention in the coming years?

Not only have global fraud rates continued to rise since the dawn of the pandemic, but we’ve missed golden opportunities to instil unified solutions (such as COVID vaccine passports) that would keep both our digital and physical selves healthy and secure.  

Veriff’s H1 2021 Fraud Report explores identity verification fraud across the sectors of fintech, mobility and cryptocurrency. Over the first half of this year, the fraud rate increased by 15 percent compared to H1 2020, with specific schemes such as identity fraud rising by as much as 19 percent year-over-year. The general fraud level across all industries rose to 7 percent compared to 6 percent a year ago, but no industry is more vulnerable than fintech. This report found that the fintech space saw a dramatic 99% increase in recurring fraud during the first half of 2021.

About Kaarel Kotkas

Under Kaarel’s leadership, Veriff has become a leader in the IDV market, currently the only service provider offering near-real-time verification with sophisticated fraud control delivering close to 99% decision accuracy, analysing more than 10,000 variations of government-issued IDs from over 190 countries in 39 different languages. 


About Veriff

Veriff is a global online identity verification company that enables organisations to build trust with their customers through intelligent, accurate, and automated online IDV. The largest database on the market, Veriff’s intelligent decision engine can analyse thousands of technological and behavioural variables in seconds, matching people to more than 10,000 government-issued IDs from over 190 countries. Founded in 2015, Veriff serves a global portfolio of organisations across fintech, crypto, and mobility sectors. To learn more, visit

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Keywords: identity verification, identity fraud, digital identity, digital signature, fraud prevention
Categories: Fraud & Financial Crime
Countries: Europe
This article is part of category

Fraud & Financial Crime