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September 1, 2020updated 31 Mar 2023 11:20am

Digital Identity: Gov’t to Let 11 Private Sector Firms Verify Passport Data in New Pilot

"I look forward to working with partners in the private sector to unlock the UK’s digital identity economy"

By CBR Staff Writer

The government will let up to eleven private sector organisations verify the validity of passport data in a new pilot project designed to broaden the use of so-called digital identities across a range of public sector services, ministers said today.

The pilot will build on a new document checking service established by the Government Digital Service (GDS) to “allow Identity Providers for GOV.UK Verify to check that passport and driving licence records are valid when verifying a user’s identity”, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said.

ID Checks: New Laws Planned

The decision comes as ministers said they plan to “update existing laws on identity checking” — a bid to roll out across the government the kind of rapid online identity checks that are increasingly commonplace in financial services.

Just two of the pilot participants have been named thus far: Sedicii Innovations (a Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering specialist) and Agenda Resource Management (an HR screening service provider) are confirmed and will use the checks as part of financial services onboarding and employment screening.

The move suggests that the GDS has built some form of restricted API to a limited subset of identifiers held by the government. (The government notes that “No organisation will be given access to government-held data – participating organisations will simply receive a yes, no or error message as to whether the document was validly issued, and no personal data not already provided by the individual would be used or shared.)

Digital Identities 

The move follows a June – September consultation in 2019 in which the government emphasised that it is “committed to enabling a digital identity system fit for the UK’s growing digital economy without the need for identity cards by working in partnership across government, the private and voluntary sectors, academia, and civil society.

“We see there are significant benefits for citizens and consumers being able to create digital identities under their own control… to access a range of services.”

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A new government Digital Identity Strategy Board meanwhile has also developed six — formidably broad — principles to strengthen digital identity delivery and policy.

“Six Principles”

These include:

1) Privacy – “When personal data is accessed people will have confidence that there are measures in place to ensure their confidentiality and privacy”

2) Transparency – “When an individual’s identity data is accessed when using digital identity products they must be able to understand by who, why and when”

3) Inclusivity – “People who want or need a digital identity should be able to obtain one; for example, not having documentation such as a passport or driving licence should not be a barrier to not having a digital identity.”

4) Interoperability – “Setting technical and operating standards for use across the UK’s economy to enable international and domestic interoperability.”

5) Proportionality – “User needs and other considerations such as privacy and security will be balanced so digital identity can be used with confidence across the economy.”

6) Good governance – “Digital identity standards will be linked to government policy and law.  Any future regulation will be clear, coherent and align with the government’s wider strategic approach to digital regulation. For example, firms verifying your identity will need to comply with laws around how they access and store data.”

Technical Standards Consultation Launching

DCMS says it will now consult on developing legislation for consumer protection relating to digital identity, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong, and set out where the responsibility for oversight should lie.

It will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for administering and processing secure digital identities.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “Digital technology is helping us through the pandemic and continues to improve the way we live, work and access vital services… Today I’ve set out further detail on our proposals and I look forward to working with partners in the private sector to unlock the UK’s digital identity economy.”

Computer Business Review would welcome your thoughts on the move. Concerned? Delighted? Contact our editor Ed Targett here. 

See also: The FCA is “Waving the White Flag” Over AML, KYC Processes

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