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Government launches digital identity checking pilot

More than a year after first announced, the government has launched a year-long pilot of its post-Brexit digital identity checking service

The government has launched a pilot of its Document Checking Service (DCS), which aims to open up passport data to allow private sector organisations to check identities digitally.

The pilot scheme, which was originally touted in July 2019, when the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), working with the Cabinet Office, launched a call for evidence around interest and views on the scheme, will run for around a year.

Launching the pilot, Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said the CDS provides “an opportunity to establish how the Government and private sector might work together for the convenience of the citizens we serve”. 

“It will help us learn how we can help citizens and businesses access online services by verifying a person’s identity more safely and easily, unlocking the huge potential of technology to improve our everyday lives.”

The service was originally developed as part of Gov.uk Verify, the government’s troubled digital identity scheme. Users creating a Verify account to access online public services can submit their passport details to help to prove they are who they say they are, but this function has only been available for government services. 

DCS, which was originally due to launch in April 2020, is intended to support electronic checks of British passports in private sector organisations, giving people “easier and safer access” to services requiring identity checks such as mortgage applications, financial services and recruitment.

As part of the pilot, up to 11 organisations from a range of different sector will gain access to passport and driving licence records to verify a user’s identity, and no organisation will be given access to government-held data only be told if the document is valid.

Read more about the Digital Checking Scheme

  • DCMS is seeking views on the role of the government and private sector in developing digital identities, while a small-scale trial will open up passport data for companies to prove online IDs.
  • The Government Digital Service (GDS) has published details of the planned pilot project for opening up passport data to companies that wish to offer digital identity services.
  • The government is looking for companies that can carry out large-scale tests of the Document Checking Service, which will allow organisations to digitally check the validity of passports.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, participants must conform to a series of legal, technical, security, data protection, records management and personnel checks by GDS, accept audits, and demonstrate compliance to GDS’s satisfaction.

Participants will also have to pay £15,000 up front as a one-off fee for access to the DCS. Each passport check will cost 50p.

DCMS claims its proposals for digital identity could add 3% to the UK’s GDP by 2030, a figure taken from a January 2019 McKinsey report.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “The UK has a thriving digital economy and we are committed to making it easier for people to prove their identity online without compromising personal information, and for businesses to conduct checks in a safe and secure way.”

“This pilot is a significant step forward in our work. It will help speed up access to financial services and ensure more people can benefit from the huge potential of technology,” he said.

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