Executive Interview: Mary Haskett, co-founder of BeehiveID


Name: Mary Haskett
Position & company: Co-founder, BeehiveID
Period of time in the role: 1 year
Twitter ID: @beehiveID/@maryhaskett

Can you describe your role and what you do in one sentence?

BeehiveID is an early stage startup, so I do pretty much everything except the technical development of the product.

Tell us a little about your company.

We are a young company based in Austin, Texas. We formed last year when the founders were invited to join the Microsoft Accelerator powered by TechStars in Seattle. We moved there for the three month program and worked closely with both the Microsoft Azure team and the TechStars mentors to validate our idea and launch the company. We graduated and launched BeehiveID in July of 2013.

How did BeehiveID come about?

My co-founder and I both have a background working in large scale identification systems for the Department of Defense, mostly for foreign governments. Think fingerprints, iris and face matching used for border control or law enforcement applications. The technology has amazing capabilities, but is mostly used in a face-to-face situation. We both felt that the way we do identity online is fundamentally broken — your ID online is based on an email address and it’s easy to create multiple identities. We wanted to use the biometric technology we were already familiar with along with some other technologies, to try and solve that problem.

What are you most proud of in your role? 

We’ve talked to so many companies who have fraud problems and heard some really heartbreaking stories. The scammers are far more sophisticated than I originally realized and I’m really proud that we have been able to fight that and help enable trust online by ensuring that online accounts are backed by real people.

Our algorithm looks at the data created when people use social sites like Facebook or LinkedIn and finds the patterns that real people have that fraudulent accounts do not. The idea is that when people know they are going to commit fraud, they don’t use their real personas — they create fake ones to cover their tracks. We detect those fake personas before the scammer has a chance to do anything.

What are the biggest challenges the online dating industry faces?

My perspective is perhaps biased, but I think identity and trust are huge issues. Traditionally, humans have developed trust based on face-to-face interactions. We are hardwired to look at a person and quickly pick up cues from the environment and situation and decide if they are trustworthy. The internet totally breaks this — we look at a photo and a very small amount of information and our brains naturally fill in the gaps and start to trust.

Most of the scammers could never be successful in a physical situation — their appearance, clothing, use of language, mannerisms — all of these things are clues that would easily allow you to identify deception easily. But online, we are incredibly vulnerable. People watch TV shows like “Catfish” and think “That could never happen to me”, but the truth is that it could happen to almost anyone in the right situation.

What do you believe is the most exciting opportunity facing the industry?

I think that there are still opportunities to use technology in innovative ways. I’m watching to see how video is integrated and how well it’s adopted by the user base. I have to admit my personal experience is to strongly prefer telephone calls and still photography to video conferences in business, and I wonder if we will see that same trend in online dating.

Which service or company do you admire in the online dating industry?

We are new to the industry, but I’ve spoken with a lot of companies in a fairly short time. Overall, I’m impressed with the professionalism and sophistication of the companies I’ve met. There have been a few that just told me outright that they don’t care about fraudulent profiles and value quantity over quality, but that’s not been common.

Which clients have you partnered with?

We are currently working with and their network of sites. We’ve worked closely with them to improve the algorithm and make the verification process very lightweight and easy for the user.

What sets your company apart from others in your field?

We have a totally new approach to preventing fraud. We don’t need to access to sensitive information like credit history, driving license and the verification process is very fast and easy. Also, we completely protect our users’ privacy. Although we look at their Facebook data for our algorithm, none of that information is shared with the dating site. They get a score, similar to a credit score, that indicates how likely the account is to be real or fraudulent.

What does the rest of 2014 hold for your company?

This is an exciting time for us — we are growing and constantly looking at the data, analyzing new data sources and finding new patterns. We are working on new features — we are building a database of photographs used in fraudulent dating profiles.

We looked at 11,000 photographs from fraudulent profiles that were provided to us for testing purposes and found that almost 1,000 of the profiles used photographs of the same person. Even when the photo is cropped or altered, we can find them using biometric face matching. We are adding photos from the internet and others that are commonly used by scammers, so that website operators can quickly detect profiles that are created using stock photography or photographs of known scammers.

​To find out more about Beehive ID, go here.

Simon Edmunds

Simon is the former editor of Global Dating Insights. Born in Newcastle, he has an English degree from Queen Mary, London and after working for the NHS, trained as a journalist with the Press Association. Passionate about music, journalism and Newcastle United.

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