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UK Post Office looks to enable reusable digital ID

The UK Post Office is investigating the possibility of enabling UK citizens to re-use their passport data for other applications where digital identity is a key component

The UK Post Office has just begun providing services to digital passport renewals as an alternative to online and traditional paper-based applications, but is already planning to expand and commercialise the use of that data.

Earlier in October, the Post Office began rolling out hundreds of digital stations for capturing digital images of UK citizens and transmitting them with all other relevant data directly to the passport office that are Home Office approved, penetration tested and ISO27001 certified.

The digital service is replacing the check-and-send service for checking that paper forms had been filled in correctly and that the photographs met the government requirements.

The digital service is in response to the government’s decision to charge a premium for paper-based applications to encourage online applications, which cost less for the passport office to process.

The new service involves verifying the authenticity of an existing passport, collecting of all relevant data for the new application digitally and capturing a high-quality digital image of the applicant that is checked against the same compliance algorithms used by the passport office.

The added benefit will be a reduction in delays at digital passport gates at airports because the system will be checking a live image against a digitally captured, quality-assured image.

“Once completed, all data is displayed to the applicant, who simply confirms that it is all correct, and once payment is made, it is all transmitted digitally to the passport office immediately,” said Bryn Robinson-Morgan, chief product office of identity services at the Post Office.

“The applications will then get a text message from the passport office to say that all that information has been received, so it is a really neat journey for the customer,” he told Consumer Identity World Europe in Amsterdam.

For the passport office, Robinson-Morgan said it is still a digital transaction and it makes no difference whether it is done online or through the Post Office, so it is charged at the lower price for renewals.

“The customers’ motivation is to get their passport renewed and the passport office’s motivation is to get that application digitally, so the channel does not matter and both motivations are satisfied without paying the premium for a paper-based application,” he said.

This is just one example, said Robinson-Morgan, of how the Post Office is modernising and digitising its products and services.

“We are reducing the friction from identity and making sure that they are trusted transactions,” he said.

The Post Office has already invested in more than 700 digital passport renewal stations, and the prime focus of the roll-out was ensuring the efficient transfer of data to the passport office.

But the UK government’s decision announced on 9 October to end investment in its Gov.uk Verify digital identity system, for which the Post Office was the main provider of identity checking services, means that the Post Office is now free to reuse its service in the private sector.

“What we are looking at now is how to enable the customer to receive that data themselves and put that into a reusable digital identity,” said Robinson Morgan.

“We want to enable customers to be able to reuse the image captured for their passport applications for things like bus and train passes or any other application that needs a photo.

“We have always been keen to enable customers to reuse their digital identity across a whole range of use cases, and in the light of the recent decision by the government, we are now able to explore those options in the private sector,” he said.

Read more about Gov.uk Verify and digital identity

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