HMRC and GDS working on trials for government’s new identity-checking app

New browser login system is also being tested with support of Disclosure and Barring Service

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The Government Digital Service has begun working with departments to test its new government-wide login system for citizen services including the specially created app through which users will be able to verify their identity.

GDS has delivered “an initial version of [the web] browser-based route” for the new digital login system which will ultimately be used throughout government, according to an update published by Natalie Jones, designated senior responsible owner of the One Login programme.

This browser version is built on “a passport check and knowledge-based verification” process. The digital agency is working with the Disclosure and Barring Service to test the platform in a “limited beta” mode. 

Alongside the browser option, One Login will also provide access to services via a specially created identity-checking mobile app. GDS’s work on this component of the sign-in system is being supported by Deloitte which, earlier this year, was awarded a two-year contract worth about £5m.

The primary means through which the app will work is by allowing users of Android and Apple devices to verify their identity by scanning biometric documents – such as passports or driving licences – using their phone’s near-field communication capability: the technology used in contactless transactions.

This app has also now begun a beta testing process, with HM Revenue and Customs trialling its use to enable sign-ins via Government Gateway – one of the many sign-in systems that will be replaced by One Login over the next few years. The version of the app being tested by the tax agency supports verification by scanning a user’s driving licence.

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Jones said that GDS has “credible plans” for extending this functionality to include passports and biometric residence permits in the near future.

“We’re actively working on digital vouching, a face-to-face route, and new knowledge-based verification question sets that leverage government data – all of which will make identity checks more inclusive,” she added. “We’re most definitely underway in terms of delivery. We’re building the things that departments have told us they need and we’re standing on the shoulders of all the great work and research that’s already been done across government, so we’re not starting from scratch.”

One Login, which is due to begin more extensive trials with its first five services next month, is ultimately intended to provide all departments – and the citizenry – with a universal means of accessing government services. In doing so, it will replace an existing patchwork of almost 200 separate accounts run by government agencies, incorporating a reported 44 different sign-in methods. 

Within the next six months, departments are required to draw up a roadmap for migrating One Login, with the Cabinet Office targeting ubiquitous adoption by 2025.

Jones, who serves as GDS’s director of digital identity, said that the digital agency’s development of the service thus far is the “relatively straightforward bit”.

“Working with departments to migrate their services in a way that makes sense for them and their users is the complex bit – particularly if you don’t want everyone you migrate to have to prove their identity again,” she said “The legacy and diversity of identification methods across government means that there’s quite a lot of analysis work to be done to map existing processes to the ‘Good Practice Guide’ framework and understand the relative levels of assurance they need. There’s a trade-off between the veracity of the process and the percentage of people who will get through it, so departments have set their assurance levels in light of this. We’ve spent a lot of time working to understand what’s really important to users and departments, and then building our roadmap and plan to focus on these key metrics.”


Sam Trendall

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