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Online identity scheme providers selected to design new DWP framework for verifying claims by benefits seekers

Out-Law News | 14 Nov 2012 | 12:41 pm | 2 min. read

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that it has selected seven organisations to design a new online framework through which the identity of registered individuals can be authenticated.

DWP said that the new "identity registration service" would first be used for the validation of claims made by members of the public seeking benefits. Under the proposed service, the benefits claimants would be able to "choose who will validate their identity by automatically checking their authenticity with the provider before processing online benefit claims".

Credit reference agency Experian, network and information services provider Verizon and Dutch data authentication service provider Digidentity are among the providers selected to work on the new identity registration service. As is employment services provider Ingeus UK, which already works with the Government in relation to its Work Programme – a Government initiative to combat unemployment

Cyber security experts Cassidian, the Post Office and Mydex have also been selected as providers under the scheme. Mydex is a service that allows individuals to store "all sorts" of personal data, in the form of text, images, video, certificates and sound, in a secure online portal, in order to provide "proofs of claims" to organisations, the company's co-founder William Heath told Out-Law.com. An eighth provider is expected to join the scheme within "the next few weeks," DWP said.

Lord Freud, the Government Minister responsible for Welfare Reform said: "We are working with cyber security experts to ensure we are clear about the threats to the online process and we are confident that the providers ... will offer an effective, safe and free to use identity service for future online benefit claims."

"As well as offering a safe and secure system, providers will be required to offer a simplified registration process, minimise the number of usernames and passwords a customer will need to remember and reduce the costs incurred across Government for the management of Identity Assurance," DWP said in its statement.

Heath told Out-Law.com that the Government hopes to have a pilot online identity registration scheme up in running by April 2013 with a new live service in operation by October next year, when the new Universal Credit online application system for benefits claimants launches.

"The online Identity Assurance model will be incorporated into Universal Credit as it’s developed and rolled-out," DWP said. "Over time Identity Assurance will become available to all UK citizens who need to access online public services."

Heath said that the way that the selected online identity scheme providers will work together has still to be finalised, but said that Mydex is "committed" to ensuring that its systems are interoperable with those of other providers "in the new ecosystem".

The issue of interoperability of systems is currently being addressed by the Open Identit

Exchange, a group that describes itself as an "open identity trust framework provider". Members of the group include Mydex and the Cabinet Office and they work together to form certification programs that allow bodies looking to verify the identity of individuals to do so through "digital identity credentials" provided by those individuals.

Heath said that he could envisage the new identity assurance scheme working with the Government's 'midata' framework, where companies voluntarily signed up to the scheme to provide consumers with access to their personal data in a portable, electronic format.

The Government has subsequently held a consultation on whether to legislate to make it a requirement for companies to provide individuals with electronic, machine-readable copies of "historic transaction data" they hold when those individuals request it.

At the time BIS said that the "order making power" would only be used to force companies to provide access to "transaction data relating to a consumer’s purchase/consumption of products and services from that supplier; would only cover factual information, for example what a consumer bought, where they bought it, how much they paid for it etc.; would not cover any subsequent analysis that the data holder has undertaken on the information; would only apply to businesses that already hold this information electronically and it will only have to be released if requested by consumers."

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