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System for verifying identity of UK government digital service users in 'beta' stage

Out-Law News | 31 Oct 2014 | 5:27 pm | 2 min. read

A new system that will enable government bodies to rely on third party verifications of individuals' identities when those individuals interact with online government services is now in its 'beta' stage of development, the UK Cabinet Office minister has said.

Francis Maude said the 'Verify' system will "allow people to prove their identity in an entirely digitally way".

"The more we spend our life online, the more important it becomes that someone signing in to use a service is who they say they are," Maude said in a speech in London on Thursday. "Until now, we’ve had to rely on offline methods, or on digital systems that that don’t give a high enough level of confidence for modern, sophisticated services. That’s why we’re developing GOV.UK Verify. For the first time it will allow people to prove their identity in an entirely digitally way. And it will allow government – and eventually private sector services too – to trust that a user is who they say they are."

"This work is still at an early stage – it went into public beta earlier this month – but we are working with business to develop the service so that, in time, it can make a real contribution to trust and security in the digital age," he said.

The Verify system will enable users of government services online to avoid having to input information that can be used to verify their identity each time they wish to use one of those services.

Instead, users can select an identity (ID) assurance provider to verify their details with the government service provider on their behalf after an initial verification exercise. Verizon and Experian are currently the only certified providers.

"The company performs some checks before verifying your identity to GOV.UK, such as questions only you know the answer to," the Cabinet Office previously explained. "You’ll also be asked to enter a code you receive on your mobile phone, by email, or through a call to your landline."

"Verifying your identity for the first time usually takes 10 minutes and is completely online.

Once you’ve verified your identity, it’s fast and simple to use the same company every time you need to access a government service online. Working with certified companies means your information and transactions with government are safer, simpler and faster than any other method. This is because: there’s no central storage of information so your personal data is more secure; it’s completely online; the company you choose can’t use or share your data without your permission."

A pilot study undertaken by Lloyds Banking Group earlier this year found that there is scope for banks to act as identity (ID) assurance providers for online government services because of the trust consumers would have in that arrangement.

However, a report on the study, published by the Open Identity Exchange, said that further testing and refinement to the way in which consumers are introduced to the concept of ID assurance, and the associated sharing of their personal data between service providers and banks acting as ID assurance providers, is needed.