Lack of digital identity policy progress, errors spark frustration in UK, Australia
UK tech sector representative TechUK has sent an urgent request to DCMS secretary of state Oliver Dowden, drawing attention to the digital identity policy delays and urging an immediate solution, writes Computer Weekly.
The tech industry in the country, represented by TechUK CEO Julian David, is concerned and frustrated with the lack of advancement in the digital identity market in the UK. In the letter, David emphasizes the positive contribution digital identity could bring to the economy post-COVID-19.
The digital identity policy is not moving forward due to issues reported between DCMS and GDS, one responsible for digital economy policy and the other for Gov.uk Verify, a program that has had a troubled roadmap.
Not only did the digital identity chief pull out of the project in March, but the system was barely gaining any traction. In May, the Treasury decided to keep funding it following an increase in Universal Credit applications due to coronavirus. It registered impressive interest from citizens during the pandemic. The only remaining identity providers in the project are Digidentity and the Post Office, though thanks to a partnership between BioID and Digidentity, the service supports biometric anti-spoofing liveness detection and automated identity proofing.
Last year, the government announced it would introduce a Digital Identity Unit, but it is still not functional. Results from a consultation on digital identity held between July and September 2019 have still not been made public.
As Gov.uk Verify has been faced with criticism and the Treasury’s disinterest in funding beyond September 2021, GDS has a new initiative called the Identity and Attributes Exchange (IAX), which has not been met with much excitement.
“Enabling digital identity verification across all sectors would be a significant step towards introducing interoperable and reusable digital identities for use in both government and the private sector,” reads the letter from TechUK. “Resolving this digital identity problem also enables a much more productive digital economy, as we transition from many inefficient paper-based processes. It is therefore fundamental to the return of the UK to economic growth.”
Some of the matters requiring immediate attention include implementing a comprehensive digital identity market roadmap, establishing a main point of interest for digital ID in government, ending legal obstruction, building trust and communicating information to the private sector, addressing implementation issues, building standards compliant with private sector technology and practices, informing the sector about the DMC consultation outcome and making digital identity an important part of the strategy announced last month.
“The UK technology industry has become deeply frustrated by the lack of leadership coming from government ministers, on what was an increasingly deep crisis holding back the secure digitization of the British economy,” an industry executive told Computer Weekly.
“This is a desperate appeal from leading tech companies to ask government to stop festering its own monopoly identity scheme Verify, and start enabling the private sector with scalable data access, so it can do its part to solve the obscene levels of digital fraud we are now seeing, by using assured digital ID.”
Australian system delayed
“The findings highlighted that some changes will be required to improve the usefulness and simplicity of the offering,” said a DTA spokesperson.
Hoping the system would turn into a country standard, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been struggling for the past year to boost interest in biometric digital identity platforms in the country. Provided by the Australian Taxation Office, it allows citizens to have a digital ID for verification across multiple online services by replacing the two-factor authentication system currently in use. Digital IDs could also be used for multiple transactions such as renting a house or opening a bank account, providing significant commercial value.
The government has invested an additional AU$67.2 million (roughly US$47.9 million) to speed up development.
“Our intent by the end of the year is to step it up a notch into a facial biometric or facial authentication service, so it’ll authenticate against a driver’s license and the passport office will already have your photograph,” the spokesperson added.
“And that’ll allow you to securely connect and authenticate through to a service, so you won’t need to worry about forgetting a credential, changing a phone number, or anything else; you’ll simply use the native biometric on a phone […] and then authenticate through your phone.”
Biometric facial recognition with liveness detection can deliver “high confidence in the claimed identity,” according to the spokesperson.
Australia Post’s Digital iD is also available and can be integrated with myGov for identity verification. The government is looking to expand the number of integrations for wider adoption.