Facebook buys a company that verifies government IDs

But it's unclear how it will use the acquisition's technology.


Facebook has snapped up a software firm that created tools allowing startups to instantly authenticate driver's licenses and other government IDs. The social network said that Boston-based Confirm's "technology and expertise will support [its] ongoing efforts to keep [its] community safe." According to Reuters, the smaller company's 26-or-so employees are joining Facebook, which makes sense, considering Confirm has already shut down its office and software offerings. However, the acquisition's terms remain unclear, and neither side has revealed how the social network will use the ID verification technology.

Before you panic and think that Facebook will ask for your ID in the near future, note that Confirm's technology has other potential applications. Reuters notes that the acquisition is "a step that may help the social media company learn more about the people who buy ads on its network" since as it is, all you need to buy ads is a credit card. If you'll recall, Facebook admitted last year, that Russian troll farms purchased tens of thousands of ads -- divisive materials meant to exploit US social divisions -- on its network before, during and after the US Presidential Elections. A verification procedure could prevent the purchase of ads linking to fake news Pages.

Another possible application is to authenticate identities of users who get reported for using names other than their legal ones. A few years ago, Facebook deleted accounts belonging to drag queens, Native Americans and other people over its real name policy. The social network has since changed that rule to allow "authentic names" -- a name someone goes by, even if it's not their legal one -- and has imposed stricter rules when using the fake name reporting tool. Facebook could also use Confirm's technology to verify the identities of people locked out of their accounts. We'll know for sure once the social network announces new features, for now, Confirm only has this to say:

"When we launched Confirm, our mission was to become the market's trusted identity origination platform for which other multifactor verification services can build upon. Now, we're ready to take the next step on our journey with Facebook. However, in the meantime this means all of our current digital ID authentication software offerings will be wound down."