Government issues call for evidence on digital identity

Cabinet Office and DCMS seek input on key questions, including the respective roles that should be played by government and industry

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The government has issued an open call for evidence on the future of digital identity, and the respective roles that should be played by the private and public sectors.

With the GOV.UK Verify authentication service heading into private ownership in eight months’ time, the government is seeking guidance from citizens, businesses, and third-sector organisations on how it should support digital identities beyond next year.

A consultation has been launched by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – the two departments that, last month, jointly set up a Digital Identity Unit dedicated to ensuring ongoing cooperation between the public and commercial sectors.

The call for evidence poses a range of questions across four key areas: needs and problems; criteria for trust; the role of the government; and the role of the private sector.

n the area of needs and problems, the government wishes to take evidence on the “economic or social benefits” of using digital-identity platforms, as well as the associated costs and technical challenges, and the biggest barriers to development and uptake. It also wishes to examine how best to ensure such platforms do not exclude people – especially those who have comparatively few ways of proving their identity.

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On the subject of trust, the government wishes to explore how digital identities can ensure the privacy of users while making use of technology innovation, such as biometrics. It also invites input on how best to establish rules and frameworks for market operators – and who should take part in creating those guidelines.

In defining its own role in the market, the government wishes to examine the extent to which it should digitise identity documents, and how much of the personal information on citizens it holds should be made available to identity services. It is also seeking input on “the role of legislation and statutory regulation”.

Whitehall officials would also like to receive suggestions for how commercial providers can best help “to create a trust model… and how should they remain involved in its long-term sustainability”.

The call for evidence is accepting submissions until midnight on 15 September. The Cabinet Office and DCMS would like to hear from “from all interested parties, including citizens and businesses, as well as organisations who anticipate being a consumer or creator of digital identity tools or services, and those focused on protecting civil liberties”. Input is particularly welcome from bodies representing vulnerable citizens or those with a protected characteristic, and people most at risk of digital exclusion.

“We are 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,” the call for evidence said. “We see there are significant benefits for citizens and consumers being able to create digital identities under their own control and then to use different verified attributes to access a range of services as and when needed.”

It added: “For instance, I should be able to assert my age to one service, and only my name and address for another service. In this way, only information that needs to be shared is exchanged, but the process to ensure this information relates to me and is genuine… only has to happen once.” 


Sam Trendall

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