GDS launches passport-checking verification scheme for commercial services

Year-long pilot will include up to 11 firms

Credit: Katie Collins/PA

The Government Digital Service has launched a year-long pilot of a scheme in which digital identity providers will be able authenticate users of commercial online services by checking the validity of their passport.

The Document Checking Service will allow people to access secure services by using their passport to verify their identity. 

Up to 11 participating companies will be able to digitally verify users’ identity by referencing the details provided against the HM Passport Office database. The firms will not have access to any data, but will merely receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to verification queries.

Only valid and current UK passports will be verified, and no reasons or further information will be provided in cases where verification is unsuccessful.

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Prior to the launch of the DCS pilot, only the registered providers of the GOV.UK Verify tool – of which there are now only two, Digidentity and the Post Office – were able to access document-checking as a means of protecting government services.

GDS said that “up to 11” providers will take part in the DCS pilot, which will allow them to provide digital passport checks as a means of secure verification for online services and transactions delivered by private sector firms.

PublicTechnology understands that Irish-headquartered identity verification firm Sedicii is the first company to confirm its participation. A number of other firms that applied to take part in the programme have been offered a place, but are yet to complete on-boarding checks and agreements. Once they have done so, they will be announced publicly in due course.

Each company will be required to pay an upfront connection fee based on the upper limit of how many checks they wish to conduct: £1,500 for between 5,000 and 10,000; £3,000 for up to 100,000; £5,000 for up to 500,000; £10,000 for up to one million; and £15,000 for more than one million.

Each individual check will also cost a further 50p.

GDS said that the programme, on which it will collaborate with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will not only help protect against fraud, but will enable cost savings when compared with physical identity checks, and will allow government to “test if there is a market for this type of digital identity-checking service”.

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said: “The DCS pilot provides an opportunity to establish how the government and private sector might work together for the convenience of the citizens we serve. It will help us learn how we can help citizens and businesses access online services by verifying a person’s identity more safely and easily, unlocking the huge potential of technology to improve our everyday lives.”

There are, as yet, no commitments to how the DCS might be continued or expanded beyond the end of the pilot, but the government indicated that delivering such a service in the longer term is “in line with HMPO’s ambition to work with stakeholders in the private sector to explore the best way to meet the demand for passport data”.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman added: “The UK has a thriving digital economy and we are committed to making it easier for people to prove their identity online without compromising personal information and for businesses to conduct checks in a safe and secure way. This pilot is a significant step forward in our work and will help speed up access to financial services and make sure more people can benefit from the huge potential of technology.”


Sam Trendall

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