Stripe goes beyond payments with Stripe Identity to provide AI-based ID verification for transactions and much more

A number of startups (e.g. here, here, here and here) have fashioned themselves as the “Stripe for identity verification”, providing an easy way for developers to integrate ID authentication into a platform. Today, Stripe is stepping in to fill that need itself: The company is launching a new product called Stripe Identity — a self-serve tool that companies can use to verify user identities, with Stripe managing the customer data in an encrypted format, using computer vision and machine learning to “read” and match up government IDs with live selfies.

Stripe says the service works in as little as 15 seconds.

The service is launching in beta starting today in 30 countries, the company said, but in the meantime, it’s already quietly been in use by select partners. They include Discord (as part of its ID verification feature); Peerspace (which runs ID verification when onboarding users and merchants); Shippo (when when it identifies high-risk users and asks them to verify themselves); and other unnamed customers using it to prevent account takeovers.

Developers can go here to request access, and it sounds like Stripe will be talking more about the service in general during Stripe Sessions, its developer conference, later this week.

“Businesses have been asking us for an easy and fast way to verify identities online. Stripe Identity offers them just that,” said Rob Daly, head of Engineering for Stripe Identity. “Now, any internet business — from a five-person startup to a multinational enterprise — can begin securely verifying the identities of their users in a matter of minutes, not weeks or months.”

If you look at the list of early users, something significant stands out: Identity is another example of how Stripe is extending its reach as a powerhouse provider of services to businesses that extend well beyond payments.

Of course, payments remains at the heart of Stripe, and identity verification definitely has a connection to that — it can help with preventing e-commerce fraud, for starters — but as you can see, ID authentication also covers a number of other use cases, such as in helping prevent account takeovers, or to verify someone’s age, or to comply with other “know your customer” regulations, or to stamp out bots and trolls: no payments necessary. For this reason, Stripe’s confirmed that you don’t have to be an existing Stripe customer in order to use Stripe Identity.

Identity verification has become an important and widely-used component of the process of enabling online interactions, whether monetary or otherwise. And it has something in common with payments that makes it a ripe candidate for building as an API-enabled service: both are complex to build, requiring the integration of a number of disparate technologies and third-party data providers. Since building something like that is not likely the core competency of the companies that require ID verification, that leaves the door open for third-party companies to build that tech and provide it as a service.

Stripe is far from being the only one working in this field: others include Jumio (which raised a big round earlier this year); Onfido (reportedly planning an IPO); Veriff; Berbix; Passbase and more.

In the case of Stripe, the company is offering customers two ways to use Stripe Identity. Like Stripe’s payments product, it can be integrated into a checkout or other workflow by way of some lines of code. But it can also be offered as a service outside of that, by way of a verification link issued just around suspicious transactions or other users that are identified as high-risk.

While Stripe has made a number of acquisitions to expand its technology and services — last week’s launch of Stripe Tax, for example, complemented its acquisition of Tax Jar earlier this year — Stripe Identity was built in-house, the company says, and has been in use for the better part of 10 years by the company to verify merchants as part of its own onboarding and anti-fraud checks.

“We know from experience how much work it takes to build a rigorous and secure system for global identity verification,” said Delia Pawelke, head of Global Risk Strategy and Onboarding Policy at Stripe, in a statement. “With Stripe Identity, we’re making our advanced compliance infrastructure available to all of our users. For an online business, verifying someone’s identity is now as easy as accepting a payment.” In turning its internal tool into an external product, Stripe tweaked the verification service somewhat, providing more guidance for photo-taking for example.

Stripe said that fees will be charged “per transaction,” but didn’t disclose to TechCrunch what those fees will be. We’ll update this post as we learn more.