GOV.UK Verify officially closed
Identity assurance service is now completely shut down, update reveals
Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0
GOV.UK Verify has been officially closed a month before its seventh birthday
This means that the technology was in use for less than a third of the current lifespan of Government Gateway, which is perhaps the biggest of a range of services that were expected to have long since been replaced by Verify – but one that remains in use 22 years after its launch.
Government's online guidance page for Verify was this week updated to tell visitors: “GOV.UK Verify has closed. You can no longer use GOV.UK Verify to create a new identity account, or use an existing identity account to sign in to any government services.”
The formal closure comes several weeks after an update announcing that no public services are now using Verify to support their login process.
The Government Digital Service, which developed Verify, began to work towards retiring the platform in the latter months of 2021. Since then, the number of public services relying on of the identity-assurance system has gradually dwindled: from 17 at the start of 2022, down to three at the start of this year – the point at which the service stopped accepting new sign-ups via its two remaining identity providers, Digidentity and the Post Office.
The online guidance advises citizens that, following Verify’s shutdown, the Post Office will automatically delete all user accounts. Digidentity will do so “after two years of inactivity” but, in the meantime, users can close their own accounts by logging and navigating to the ‘Settings’ menu, or by contacting the identity firm’s customer support and requesting closure.
“After accounts are deleted, Digidentity and Post Office are required to keep some information for up to seven years,” the online guidance adds. “This is for audit, counter-fraud and record keeping reasons [and] is in line with their privacy statements.”
Users that are unsure how to access services that previously incorporated Verify are advised that: “The service you need to use will make it clear how to access it instead. It may have got in touch with you directly, such as by email, or it may make it clear in the service itself. Contact the service you need if you’re not sure.”
- Leader appointed and £4.1m allocated to retire GOV.UK Verify
- Government plans to expand departments’ powers to share personal data to support One Login
- NAO report finds Verify exemplifies ‘failings we often see in major programmes’
Almost from its initial conception, Verify has been subject to criticism and controversy. The platform launched in 2016, several years behind schedule and its uptake thereafter fell well below GDS’s projections.
The digital unit had predicted that 25 million people would sign up by 2020. There were just 4.15 million users by mid-2019 – when the Public Accounts Committee published a scathing report that claimed the platform was “not fit for purpose” and characterised by “poor decisions compounded by a failure to take accountability” .
Uptake was accelerated by the massive increase in claims for Universal Credit caused by the coronavirus crisis in spring 2020. Although, after applicants reported long delays in the, the Department for Work and Pensions committed money to increasing Verify’s capacity – before also allowing citizens to make claims via Government Gateway which, by then, was supposedly four years into its decommissioning process.
In March 2020, government had planned to cease all public funding for Verify and hand over responsibility for its future development to its private-sector identity partners. But, as five of Verify’s initial tally of seven ID providers severed ties with the platform – which was supporting millions of new claims for financial support as the pandemic struck – the government was required to step in and provide funding of more than £10m a year to keep the service up and running until it could be safely closed.
In a programme assessment published seven months ago, when just a handful of services continued to use the soon-to-close platform, civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm revealed that Verify’s usage had peaked at 27 government services and 10 million individual accounts.
He said that the programme’s lifetime costs to the end of the 2021/22 year had totalled £233.3m – which had resulted “£485.3m in monetised benefits”.
In the last three years, work to shut down Verify has taken place alongside development of the new One Login system, which is intended – as Verify once was – to provide government with a single, unified means of accessing all services across departments. GDS is developing the new platform and chief executive has pledged that the digital unit's approach to the development project has been careful to learn the lessons of "what didn’t work with Verify".
The service is now being used by an initial tranche of services on a pilot basis and all departments should by now have in place “an adoption strategy and roadmap”. The goal is for all agencies to have begun using One Login by 2025.
By which time, the intention is that the system will have replaced what was previously a patchwork of almost 200 separate accounts for individual services or organisations, incorporating 44 different login methods – a number which now, at least, has been reduced by one with Verify’s final closure.
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