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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Transforming Identity: GlobaliD CEO Greg Kidd

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Transforming Identity: GlobaliD CEO Greg Kidd

Mallory Kwiatkowski

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It’s always extra fun when we have a show where the guest talks about the days when Jack Dorsey hacked him and lived in his backyard. For today’s conversation, I’m joined by my friend Greg Kidd, Co-founder and CEO of globaliD. I’m predicting right now that this one is going to be a Barefoot Innovation fan-favorite.

Greg has an unusual background. He was involved from the early days of Ripple, Twitter, and Square. Unlike most Silicon Valley innovators, though, he’s also been a banking consultant and worked for the Fed Reserve Board. He is famously a big thinker (I like to tell him that people sometimes have no idea what he’s talking about, although I promise that doesn’t happen in this show).  I remember the first time I met him -- we walked into a party at the same time one night in San Francisco, and were still talking, barely inside the door, two hours later. This is actually the longest episode we’ve ever done, because he’s just fascinating to listen to -- I couldn’t tear myself away.

We recorded it this spring in globaliD’s space at the Digital Garage in San Francisco, where Greg shared his vision of what’s ahead in finance, commerce, and technology. We talked about the magnitude of the shifts he sees, and his passionate belief that new technology should be used to empower people, not control them. The secret to that, Greg says, is decentralization. He thinks blockchains and distributed ledgers are as revolutionary as the internet was. And he thinks, above all, that we should decentralize control over people’s identities. As he says, government-issued identities are inherently insecure -- they create huge centralized “honeypots” of data that attract hackers -- and they can invite misuse by government itself.

Greg's firm globaliD is building an alternative. Its software can be downloaded to the phone to create an individual token of identity that can attach a unique name, which then can collect identity proofs, or “attestations,” based on the person’s electronic footprint and relationships. The individual can customize how to share identity information for different purposes, shielding sensitive information for some uses and revealing it in others, in order to protect privacy. Because the underlying information lives in the individual’s device, not a government or corporate database, it’s relatively secure from cyber-attack.

As mobile phones approach ubiquity worldwide, this kind of system can also expand financial inclusion by authenticating millions of people who lack traditional credentials and therefore can’t enter the mainstream financial system. We've done other shows on this (I suggest re-listening to the one on the India stack and Aadhaar card with Sanjay Jain). Governments throughout the world are working on this, especially in countries where much of the population (often, especially, women) lack documents and therefore can’t satisfy the bank Know-Your-Customer regulations. A few years ago I ran into Greg in Fiji at the annual summit of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. He was speaking there on how to use mobile phone-based data to help refugees identify themselves to authorities, to make it easier to screen people even in the midst of mass migrations and humanitarian crises.

The US needs updated identity methods too. Our analog-era systems like social security numbers are no longer secure -- too often buyable on the dark web. Digital solutions will be coming here soon.

Greg also gets excited about making innovation work with regulation. He says we don’t have to end up in George Orwell’s world, nor in Mad Max’s, as he argued in this memorable piece.

I promise this episode will leave you with some new ideas.


Link to Episode Transcription

Podcast with Anne Boden

More on Greg Kidd

Greg Kidd is the CEO of globaliD and the former chief risk officer at Ripple. His work taking his own startup public (Dispatch Management Services) on the Nasdaq is book-ended by time at Booz Allen, Promontory, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. He was an initial investor and advisor for both Twitter and Square, and his investment firm Hard Yaka continues to back many fintech and regtech companies. His leadership pursuits include work at Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

More for our listeners

We have many more great podcasts in the queue. We have a wonderful episode with the California banking commissioner, Jan Owen (which is extra exciting because we recorded it outside with lightning and thunder through the whole thing). We’ll also have other regtech firms, including, which is creating machine-readable regulations, and Alloy, which has high-tech solutions for meeting the Know-Your-Customer rules in AML. And we have one with the co-founders of Earnup. There are many more in the works.

The fall events schedule is filling up. Some of the places I’ll be speaking are:

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