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UK government launches passport check pilot and issues a call for digital identity testimony


The UK government has issued a call for comments on the development of digital identities, including the role of the government and the private sector, and launched a pilot project to allow individuals to grant checks their passport’s validity to organizations carrying out digital identity verifications, Computer Weekly reports.

The call was issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Cabinet Office. It requests input on the needs and problems associated with digital identity verification, criteria for trust, and the roles of public and private stakeholders. Twenty-one specific questions are asked, including one on how to ensure the privacy of users is protected while covering a range of technologies and allowing for innovation in fields like biometrics.

“These new proposals could make it easier for people to prove their identity without compromising their personal information and for businesses to conduct checks in a safe and secure way,” says Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright.

“This will help make sure more and more people benefit from the huge potential of technology and can use it to shop, bank and access government services.”

The Gov.uk Verify system developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) has been live for more than three years, and is expected to be handed over to the private sector in less than nine months, but has struggled at attract users. The Document Checking Service developed by GDS under the Verify program allows approved identity providers to validate identities against passport and driver’s license data.

The Telegraph reports that the pilot is an attempt to reduce the number of digital copies being made of people’s passports, which could compromise their financial safety.

The DCMS says the trial of passport checks is intended to provide understanding of the technical feasibility and market demand for these types of services. It allows existing Verify users to apply for private sector services such as credit cards through existing identity providers, according to the report. Initial service providers taking part in the trial are the Post Office, Barclays and Experian. The validity of the passport is checked, at a fee to the organization conducting the check, without transferring any data. The pilot will be launched later this year and be completed in 2021, and DCMS says further details on the pilot will be announced in the future.

“Last October I announced that the Gov.uk Verify programme is mature enough to move to the next phase of its development, in which the private sector takes on responsibility for broadening the usage and application of digital identity in the UK,” comments Cabinet Office Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden. “Allowing organisations greater flexibility to reuse identities is an important step towards this goal.”

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