Government sets new policies en route to digital identity strategy

London, UK

Following a call for evidence published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport alongside the Cabinet Office, the UK government plans to update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital identity to be used as widely as possible.

Leaders in the tech, business and civil society sectors have welcomed the government’s plans to enable the use of digital identity across the UK, with plans to update existing laws and a new set of guiding principles for policy development.

The proposals come after it was revealed 2.6 million people made a claim for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme online since its launch on 13 May 2020, with 1.4 million having no prior digital identity credentials and needing to pass through HMRC’s identity verification service.

According to the government, figures from 2019 show a 32 per cent rise in identity fraud over five years, with 223,163 cases recorded in that year alone - up 18 per cent on the previous year.

A new government Digital Identity Strategy Board has also developed six principles to strengthen digital identity delivery and policy in the UK.

1) Privacy - When personal data is accessed people will have confidence that there are measures in place to ensure their confidentiality and privacy; for instance, a supermarket checking a shopper’s age, a lawyer overseeing the sale of a house or someone applying to take out a loan.

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; for example, being able to see how your bank uses your data through digital identity solutions.

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.

The government is also exploring how secure checks could be made against government data. This month the Document Checking Service Pilot scheme launched by the Government to give people easier and safer access to digital services which require identity checks, such as online mortgage applications, financial services and recruitment onboarding.

The new service will also help organisations tackle fraud and test if there is a market for this type of digital identity checking service.

The pilot, which will run for approximately a year, will deliver significant time savings for people who previously went through in-person processes to verify their identities. It will also provide financial savings for organisations who can move their identity proofing processes online.

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. We want to make it easier for people to prove their identity securely online so transactions can become even quicker - it has the potential to add billions to our economy. Today I’ve set out further detail on our proposals and I look forward to working with partners."


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