The government is putting in place plans to raise the legal status of digital identities to make them as widely acceptable as driver’s licenses and bank statements. DCMS says the use of digital identities will prevent impersonation fraud and protect personal data.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announced fresh plans this week to raise the legal status of citizens’ digital identities to make them as trusted and secure as official documents, such as passports. DCMS said the use of such identities will negate the hassles people face when using physical identities to buy a house or start a new job.
A primary driver for replacing physical documents with digital identities is the scale of personal data abuse and impersonation fraud across the country. DCMS said that in 2019 alone, around 220,000 cases of personal data abuse and impersonation were recorded in the UK. Digital identities will be, in comparison, much harder for fraudsters to access and replicate.
Another benefit offered by digital identities is that they will restrict the amount of data an organisation will be able to access. For instance, adult citizens will not have to share their dates of birth, names, or addresses with service providers to prove that they are above the age of 18.
“The plans laid out today will ensure people can trust the app in their pocket as much as their passport when proving their identity. Digital identities offer a huge opportunity to make checks easier, quicker, and more secure, and help people who do not have traditional forms of ID to prove who they are,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman.
“This technology is a vital building block for the economy of the future, and we’re ensuring that people who choose to use it can have confidence their data will be handled safely.”
DCMS says that if someone does not have access to an official document, such as a passport, they may be able to prove their identity digitally through another government service, or other means such as a vouch from a doctor or other trustworthy source. However, the use of digital identities will not be mandatory and people will be free to use physical documents as proof of their identity.
With the aim of putting in place strict rules to govern the use of digital identities, the government launched a consultation on proposals this week that is open to any member of the public and closes on 13 September.
The consultation paper suggests that the governing body, that will regulate the use of digital identities, “would have powers to issue an easily recognised trustmark to digital identity firms which certifies that people’s data will be handled in a safe and consistent way. It will work with organisations to take proactive action to prevent and enable the detection of fraud and security incidents, as well as encouraging inclusion.”
The proposal also calls for the governing body to wield new powers “to allow digital identities to be built on a greater range of trusted datasets – such as those managed by the DVLA, or the General Register Office which are responsible for birth certificates.”
Ian Welch, the co-founder and COO of Callsign, a British digital identity firm, says that with the population becoming increasingly reliant on online services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a need for both the public and private sector working together to ensure that online organisations are held accountable for what takes place on their platforms. The way forward must be rooted in two important steps:
“Firstly, organisations must find a way to verify the identities of those using their services, but doing so in a way that doesn’t rely on holding personally identifiable information. This will help protect other users from scams and abuse online, without jeopardising the personal data of internet users.
“Secondly, the public and private sector must work together to agree a shared framework which holds them accountable. Without this collaboration, businesses will be working from different rulebooks, and this will add further complexity to an already difficult problem.
“This will involve a huge shift in perception, as many consumers are understandably worried about what data they share online. However, with the right education, the government can lead a global effort to make the internet a safe resource for everyone.”