The Digital Benefits Network at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University published a new, open dataset documenting authentication and identity proofing requirements across unemployment insurance (UI) applications in the 53 states and territories that administer the program.
- Almost all state and territorial labor agencies (46) require claimants to create an account before they can file an unemployment claim. Most registration processes (36) required users to enter an email address.
- A handful of agencies (nine) are using statewide single sign-on (SSO) authentication services on their UI claims filing portals.
- We found evidence that 30 labor agencies required UI claimants to take active steps to prove their identities at some point before, during, or after the claims filing process.
- Many agencies (27) are using or have used ID.me for identity proofing, but have integrated ID.me into their application processes in different ways.
- We found that the most common “active” or “front-end” identity proofing method involved uploading identity documentation and a video/live selfie.
Alongside the downloadable dataset in spreadsheet and gallery formats, we are also releasing a companion document, which includes a high-level analysis of the current dataset and more information about our research process.
The Impact of Login and Identity Proofing on Benefits Access
Agencies that administer public benefits applications online continually balance multiple potentially conflicting priorities around privacy, fraud prevention, and accessibility to ensure equitable outcomes.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Code for America have previously suggested that removing login and identity proofing requirements may improve access to benefits programs. As was made clear during the pandemic, the design and implementation of online benefits applications and identity proofing approaches can impact applicants’ ability to access essential benefits. (To read more about digital identity in public benefits, we encourage you to read our primer on the Digital Benefits Hub).
When we launched our digital identity research agenda in December 2022, we knew it would be essential to get a comprehensive, up-to-date, understanding of the identity proofing and authentication requirements that benefits seekers may encounter. Driving this project and our research on digital identity generally is our concern about online application requirements and implementations of identity proofing that create additional burdens for applicants, potentially block benefits seekers from applying for or receiving benefits, duplicate processes across programs, and raise challenging issues around privacy and data security. We are also concerned that the advocacy around recent technology implementations has been an all or nothing approach to remove a type of technology, rather than supporting government practitioners in navigating solutions to produce equitable outcomes.
This dataset on UI applications is our first contribution to the collective understanding of digital authentication and identity proofing requirements in benefits applications across the United States. We are currently working with Code for America to support similar analyses for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), Medicaid, and child care applications which will be released later this year. We will also publish cross-program analysis to further inform on the current state of digital identity in public benefits.
Research Questions and Goals
In building our data on identity proofing and authentication requirements in UI applications, we sought to address several questions, including:
- When and how do residents need to create an online log-in to apply for benefits?
- What kinds of personally identifiable information (PII) are applicants required to share when applying online?
- When and how are front-end identity proofing steps incorporated into application processes?
- What identity proofing methods are applicants asked to use?
To answer these questions, we consulted publicly available information about UI applications from agency websites, application portals, claimant guides, news coverage, vendor websites, and contracting repositories.
In building and releasing this dataset publicly, we hope to:
- Create an easy-to-consult and readily-updatable resource documenting the landscape of authentication and identity proofing practices unemployment benefits seekers may encounter.
- Make it easier for state and territorial agencies, advocates, technology implementers, and federal agencies to see what others are doing.
- Develop our own understanding of the varied approaches to login and identity proofing across labor agencies.
Feedback and Engagement
We are publishing this dataset openly and publicly at this stage of our research to share knowledge and also to solicit feedback and engagement. We hope that people who visit the dataset will help ensure the accuracy of the data, fill in gaps, conduct their own analysis, and share ideas for further extensions of this work.
This data represents a point in time. We also know that the public information we were able to access may not reflect the most up-to-date experiences of claimants, and that application requirements and processes can be complex. For that reason, this data is not meant to be a guide for claimants seeking benefits.
To submit feedback about a state’s or territory’s application included in the dataset, you can use our designated feedback form.
We are grateful for the feedback and input we have already received from members of the Unemployment Insurance Technology Coordinating Coalition and others working on UI improvements. We are eager to continue soliciting additional feedback.
We view this dataset and the others we will publish later this year as one step in our digital identity research agenda, which will help us direct further research and continued engagement with state and territorial agencies, technology implementers, and others in the ecosystem over the coming months. We encourage you to reach out to us at email@example.com if you have questions about our data, or ideas for expanding this research. To receive updates on our work, we invite you to subscribe to the Digital Benefits Network.