Officials look to combat fraud and expand access to services
The government has refreshed its plan for a nationwide U.K. digital ID, focusing on giving users secure online identities that could be employed to access government services and healthcare, buy age-restricted products and combat fraud.
In a recent document, the government said that it “plans to update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital identity to be used as widely as possible.”
The new digital ID plans come after 2.6 million people made an unemployment claim online since its launch on May 13, and more than half had no prior digital identity credentials
More specifically, the government said it will back a broad push to craft “legislation for consumer protection relating to digital identity, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong, and set out where the responsibility for oversight should lie. It will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for administering and processing secure digital identities.”
New U.K. digital ID pilot: “Document Checking Service”
Citizens would receive unique digital identities under the proposal though many other details have to yet to emerge. The new document offers no specific timetable for this digital ID effort — back in 2010, the U.K. ended a previous national ID plan, which was projected to cost billions of dollars.
Still, this new push already includes a Digital Identity Strategy Board as well as a test starting in September to “give people easier and safer access to digital services which require identity checks, such as online mortgage applications, financial services and recruitment onboarding.” That test, called the Document Checking Service Pilot, will last about a year, according to the document.
The U.K. government said that these new digital ID plans come after it was revealed 2.6 million people made a claim for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme online since its launch on May 13, with 1.4 million having no prior digital identity credentials and needing to pass through the country’s identity verification service.
The government also said that a new digital ID program would help reduce cases of identity theft. Figures from 2019 show a 32 percent rise in identity fraud over five years, with 223,163 cases recorded in that year alone — up 18 percent from the previous year.
Not only does the scrapping of the previous U.K. digital ID project loom over this new effort — so does increasing citizen concern about electronic surveillance. But officials who back the project said it could make life easier and more secure for citizens and the country.
“Removing the barriers to creating secure digital identities, combined with the necessary safeguards, will make it easier for people to use online services while at the same time helping to prevent criminal activity such as money laundering and terrorism,” said Hannah Gurga, Managing Director of Digital Technology & Cyber at UK Finance. “Developing a legal framework for digital identity is therefore an important next step and we look forward to working with the government as it develops its proposals.”