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DCMS puts digital ID policy team on no-deal Brexit work

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s digital identity policy team shifts focus to prepare for the UK leaving the EU without a deal

The digital identity policy team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been pulled off its work on ID and put onto no-deal Brexit planning, Computer Weekly understands.   

Last week’s vote in Parliament has cemented even further the need to ensure that the country is prepared, as the possibility grows that the UK will leave the European Union (EU) at the end of March without a deal. 

This means that civil servants everywhere are seeing their projects – including those in tech – put on hold or moved down the priority list. 

A DCMS spokesperson said the department continues “to lead work on digital ID and explore new ways in which people can identify themselves online safely and securely”. 

But the spokesperson added: “As you’d expect, departments across government are currently hard at work preparing to deliver a Brexit that is in our national interest, and we are prioritising our resources accordingly.” 

Responsibility for digital identity policy was transferred from the Government Digital Service (GDS) to DCMS in June 2018, and the team looks after all issues relating to the country’s digital ID ecosystem and the government’s work with the private sector.   

GDS still holds responsibility for the government-developed Gov.uk Verify, with GDS director general Kevin Cunnington responsible for the programme. However, in October 2018, the government announced that it would be ending its investment in the identity assurance programme and planned to hand Verify over to the private sector by 2020.  

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Contracts have been signed with five identity providers, who will take responsibility for further development of Verify. 

The move came after the Cabinet Office’s major projects watchdog, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, recommended in July 2018 that Verify should be terminated because Whitehall departments had lost confidence in the system and were unwilling to fund further development. 

Identity experts are also dubious about the success of Verify in the private sector because of its poor performance.

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