First thousand users start to test government's Identity Assurance system

The first thousand users of the government’s future system for online user authentication will start testing over the next two months

The first thousand users of the government’s future system for online user authentication will start testing over the next two months.

The Identity Assurance (IDA) programme is being tested on HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) new PAYE service, and will eventually be rolled out to millions of taxpayers who currently use the online self-assessment website.

Eventually, most digital public services delivered by central government will use IDA to allow citizens to securely prove their identity online.

The PAYE service has gone into private beta testing, before it will be opened up publicly to a small group of selected users for further tests.

“HMRC’s private beta means we can start testing identity assurance with live identity providers and a live government service. This will build on our year-long programme of user research, where until now we’ve been using prototypes rather than live services,” said Steve Wreyford, the head of communications and marketing for the IDA programme, writing on a blog post.

Once fully live, citizens wishing to use online services will first register with one of a number of IDA providers, then use that identity to securely log into the relevant government website. Longer term, IDA identities could be used to access local government services and even commercial websites.

In October last year, another key element of IDA started testing. Called “the hub”, the system will set up competing companies that citizens can register with to access digital services. The concept is similar to web users using their Facebook or Google accounts to sign into third-party services.

Further “digital by default” public services will soon be added to the trials, said Wreyford.

“Initially we will be adding more services and users quite gradually, as we continue to get the service ready for wider use. Other services will begin to use identity assurance from March onwards, starting with DVLA’s view driving record service. The DVLA will start trialling identity assurance for some users, aiming to use it exclusively once the identity assurance service is in public beta,” he said.

“From June onwards we’ll start to increase the pace, adding more services and allowing more people to sign in securely and conveniently with identity assurance.”

Universal Credit – the government’s flagship welfare reform programme – was initially expected to be one of the first users of IDA, but security concerns during its early trials mean the Department for Work and Pensions decided to implement its own security system, although IDA will still play a part in the authentication process for Universal Credit users.

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