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Open Consultation: Digital Identity

Despite all the technological innovation of recent years, proving our identity or something about ourselves often remains difficult, time-consuming and repetitive. When conducting transactions we need to prove our identity to prevent fraud and crime – yet we cannot always be sure the organisation asking for our data is who they claim to be. Equally, they cannot be sure that we are who we say we are, or that the documents we’re using to help prove our identity and status are genuine. When seeking access to goods and services, from age-restricted products to state benefits, we need to demonstrate our entitlement. When we disclose our personal data to build trust we also expect to maintain our privacy.

If we could securely and easily prove our identity or something about ourselves, it would help support innovation, reduce fraud and cost, safeguard our privacy and streamline online services. Whether opening a savings account, buying age-restricted products or paying tax, proving identity should be simple, private and secure.

DCMS and Cabinet Office are committed to enabling a digital identity system fit for the UK’s growing digital economy without the need for identity cards by working in partnership across government, the private and voluntary sectors, academia, and civil society. There are significant benefits for citizens and consumers being able to create digital identities under their own control and then to use different verified attributes to access a range of services as and when needed. For instance, I should be able to assert my age to one service, and only my name and address for another service. In this way, only information that needs to be shared is exchanged, but the process to ensure this information relates to me and is genuine (identity proofing) only has to happen once.

DCMS and Cabinet Office want to gather insights and evidence into how government can support improvements in identity verification and support the development and secure use of digital identities and ensure that the potential benefits of this approach are open to all.

The evidence they receive will be used to inform policymaking and government priorities

Questions on needs and problems

  1. Do you think digital identity-checking will be a way to help meet the common needs of individuals and organisations referenced in the document? What other ideas or options would help?
  2. What are the economic or social benefits or costs from developing a digital identity system in the UK which meets these needs? Can you provide examples?
  3. What are the costs and burdens of current identity verification processes?
  4. How should we ensure inclusion, especially for individuals with thin files?
  5. What currently prevents organisations from meeting the needs stated above?
  6. Where do you see opportunities for a reusable digital identity to add value to services? Could you provide examples?

Questions on criteria for trust

  1. What are the building blocks essential to creating this trust? How should the environment be created to enable this trust – for example, what is the role of open standards (identity, technical, operational, business implementation, design requirements for consumer privacy and protection)?
  2. How does assurance and certification help build trust?
  3. How do we ensure an approach that protects the privacy of users, and is able to cover a range of technologies and respond appropriately to innovation (such as biometrics)?
  4. How do we ensure digital identities comply with the Human Rights Act and ensure people with protected characteristics are able to participate equally?
  5. How should the roles, responsibilities and liabilities of players in the digital identity market be governed and framed to enable trust?
  6. What’s the best model to set the “rules of the road” to ensure creation of this trusted market?
  7. Who do you think should be involved in setting these rules?

Questions on the role of the government

  1. Do you think government should make government documents and/or their associated attributes available in a digital form, which could be used to help assure identity?
  2. i) For what purposes should government seek to further open up the validity checking of government-issued documents such as passports?
    ii) How should this be governed to ensure protection and citizen control of data?
    iii) What should the cost model be?
  3. i) For what purposes should government seek to further open up the attributes (such as age of citizens) that it holds for verification?
    ii) How should this be governed to ensure protection and citizen control of data?
    iii) What should the cost model be?
  4. What’s the role of legislation and statutory regulation to grow and enforce a secure, privacy-centric and trusted digital identity market?
  5. What legislation and guidance requires updating to enable greater use of digital identities?
  6. What else should government do to enable the wider use of digital identity?
  7. How could digital identity support the provision of local government services (including library cards and concessionary travel)?

Question on the role of the private sector

  1. What is the private sector’s role in helping to create a trust model (based on the criteria for trust in section 5), and how should they remain involved in its long-term sustainability (for example funding, helping create the rules of the road)?

The Institution of Engineering and Technology Trustees propose submitting a response to this consultation and invite comments from Members who have expertise in this area and have studied the consultation documents. In its capacity as a professional body, the IET will confine itself to only addressing those questions that are within its area(s) of competence.

For more information and a summary of the questions, please refer to the consultation document.

The IET response to this consultation is now awaiting approval.