The Government Digital Service, which is part of the Cabinet Office, is to roll out a new tool called ‘GOV.UK Verify’ which it says will be able to help people prove that they are who they say they are online.
This is a part of the Government’s strategy to make government services ‘digital by default’ in which it hopes that the public will find online public services so user-friendly that interacting with these services online will be their preferred method.
The plan is for GOV.UK Verify to help securely prove the person using the service is who they say they are. This is vital as currently, services online require physical evidence to be sent by post or in person. For example, as Sophie Curtis writes in the Telegraph:
“Although you can apply for a new passport online, you still have to print off the application form and return it to the Passport Office with supporting documents; although you can view your driving records online, you cannot change the address on your driving licence without presenting your passport and proof of address to the DVLA; and although you can register to vote online, you can’t actually vote without walking to a polling station or sending a ballot paper in the post.”
If GOV.UK Verify is as successful and effective as the Government hopes, it would likely become an important part of any future plans to introduce an online voting option in elections.
According to the Government website, GOV.UK Verify will support services from HMRC, DVLA, and DEFRA in beta mode, and will be rolled out across more services in 2015.
It states that verifying your identity online for the first time ‘usually takes ten minutes and is completely online’. Instead of a Government database, the tool uses certified companies to verify the users’ identity. The explanation of how it works is as follows:
“When you need to prove who you are in order to access a government service, you can choose who you’d like to verify you, from a list of certified companies.
The company performs some checks before verifying your identity to GOV.UK, such as questions only you know the answer to. You’ll also be asked to enter a code you receive on your mobile phone, by email, or through a call to your landline. This is known as 2-factor authentication.
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.”
Speaking to the Telegraph, Janet Hughes, head of policy and engagement for the identity assurance programme at the Government Digital Service said:
“The identity providers need to make sure that it’s really you. The main way they do that is by checking credit reference agency files to see if you are a real, active person. If you’re under 19 you’re less likely to have a credit record with enough information to prove that, so we’re open in saying that if you’re under 19 this might not initially work for you, But we’re rolling this out gradually, and over time we’re going to expand the range of ways that the providers can validate that you’re real – like mobile network operators – so we’ll cover more people. There will also be other ways for people who aren’t able to verify their identity digitally using GOV.UK Verify to access services.”
Full details about the GOV.UK Verify tool can be read here.
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