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UK digital identity scheme needs present- and futureproofing

UK digital identity scheme needs present- and futureproofing

The digital Right to Work checks brought in on 1 October could impede growth, hamper flexibility and even make illegal working more likely, while the overall digital identity scheme will need to become more internationally functional and portable, according to experts in identity and hiring.

Present problems: barriers, blind-spots and a blunt approach

The new regime for right to work checks – completely digital via an IDSP, in person or posting original documents – could limit employment market flexibility, particularly for freelancers while simultaneously opening up hiring to increased fraud, warns Keith Rosser, director of Reed Screening and chair of the Better Hiring Institute, writing for Contractor UK.

Now that potential employees can no longer submit scans of identity documents to employers, and the digital check is for British and Irish passport holders only, which are currently valid, anyone without such a passport will have to post their non-UK/Irish passports, post other credentials or make journeys to the employers. This is not conducive to the flexibility hirers and contractors depend upon, according to Rosser.

As many as one in five working-age adults in the UK do not hold a valid passport, states Rosser.

“While I’m obviously a massive supporter of digital right to work checks,” notes Rosser, “this requirement makes it look like an anti-growth policy from, ironically, a growth-obsessed government.”

Anyone wanting to work illegally now only needs to obtain a fake birth certificate, available for around £25 (US$28) and a fake National Insurance document and post them to the employer.

“It’s actually very hard for an employer to know it’s fake. The illegal worker will go for this route rather than go through the Online Checking Service (the Home Office online service confirming visas) and similarly, they know they will not beat the new ID technology,” writes Rosser.

“So, in a sense, the fresh rules for our shiny new digital RTW system force illegal workers into the third (above), postal option, and with little ability to weed out the fakes it’s a route which is vulnerable.”

A survey commissioned by Xydus ahead of the 1 October deadline found poor understanding among larger employers as to how to implement the checks and what is acceptable ID.

Future problems: portability, fixed mindsets

Kantara Initiative, the not-for-profit certifying body with a mission for trustworthy use of identity and personal data, sees areas which will enable greater growth of digital identity services. Kay Chopard, executive director, hopes for improved international interoperability and a move away from a fixed mindset towards assessments.

Auditors that work with the Kantara Initiative in the UK have told Chopard that the UK Digital Identity & Attributes Framework (DIATF) will “continue to benefit from the experiences of other programs across the world – what has worked and what hasn’t. This is vital, especially if we are to support those identity organisations that are planning for international expansion,” writes the executive director.

“The UK’s DIATF cannot exist in geographic isolation; individual customers and citizens will eventually require a digital identity that is portable. The DIATF should support organisations in providing this.”

Chopard states that Kantara Initiative, one of the five certification bodies accredited by UKAS to certify against the DIATR, is often asked for a fixed price for its certification services.

“This first wave of assessments has shown very quickly that each certification client operates quite differently and so a simple ‘tick box’ approach to assessment will not work,” writes Chopard. “I would argue that a fixed price indicates a fixed approach – and a fixed mindset.”

Kantara’s modular approach and the model of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, which oversees digital identity, to have multiple separate use cases, should mean that Kantara will be able to audit processed in line with requirements and the business’s operating model.

Chopard also notes that some of the greatest drive for digital identity is coming not from use cases where it is mandated but others such as healthcare.

Kantara has recently made new appointments to its UK Advisory Board to ensure it continues “to be challenged” and to keep apace with client issues. Emma Lindley, co-founder of Women in Identity commented at the time of her appointment that “The DIATF is intended to create choice, improve quality and increase innovation – ultimately improving customer experiences for the UK citizen and reducing the cost for UK PLC. Kantara Initiative has a vital role to play in delivering this vision.”

Andrew Hindle, content chair at Identiverse and founding board member at IDPro, said on his appointment to the board “As a UK citizen who has worked in the identity sector for over 20 years, I believe we can help ensure the customer is constantly ‘in the room’ and at the heart of any discussions around the future of the digital identity framework.”

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