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Trust report shows UK public wants digital identity to be inclusive

Trust report shows UK public wants digital identity to be inclusive

The UK Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) has released a findings report summarizing a public consultation on trust in digital identity services. The results support a basic idea often emphasized in discussions about public education on biometrics and digital identity: the more people know about digital identity, the better they understand it, and the more likely they are to trust it.

Over five online workshops held from April to June 2023, participants’ attitudes towards identification and digital identity services shifted with the dialogue. “Many participants began the dialogue believing that having identity documents is purely practical,” reads the report. “As participants’ discussions developed, many began to think of identity documentation as a basic human right.”

Key findings are divided into two broad classes: “Attitudes, benefits and concerns” and “Policy expectations, solutions and implications”.

Key findings make priorities clear: behave, and be more than convenient

The first of these yielded three key findings, which can be summarized as follows. Number one, trust in a digital identity service cannot be seen in isolation, but is tied to general trust in government. Number two, people need to trust that the data they share in adopting their digital identity will be protected: per the report, “participants believe the importance of identity data is not simply practical but also instrumental in people having control over their lives and life chances.” Number three, people want to know that digital identity service providers are motivated by more than money, and seek the establishment of a transparent trust framework to enshrine public good as a core tenet of any digital ID program.

“Participants do not see convenience on its own as a compelling enough reason for increased use of digital identities,” says the report. “They want to know how digital identity services are going to benefit society by making proving identity more inclusive.”

In terms of policy, two key findings emerged: people want accountability and transparency in government and management of digital ID, and accessibility, agency and involvement for the complete spectrum of the public.

“They call for the public voice to be centred as the primary stakeholder of digital identity services,” the report says. “People should be involved in all aspects of the design, delivery and ongoing decision making on digital identity services. This includes involving people who have experienced barriers to verifying their identity such as prison leavers, asylum seekers and people who do not have a fixed address in the design of digital identity services. If those who have been most excluded from society are included in this process it will be considered more trustworthy.”

Trust framework needs details on control, complaints

Specific amendments to the trust framework recommended by participants gesture in the same direction: clearly articulate the benefits of digital ID beyond convenience; make the language easy to understand; provide a clear statement on how users own and control their data; be explicit in describing what is expected of service providers in relation to their complaints procedures; future-proof the system against misuse, misinterpretation and overreach; and prioritize inclusion.

Even skimming the report, one sees a trend in the language, in words like “human”, “safety”, “reliable” and “transparent” – not so surprising, after all, in a report on trust. The message from the UK public, which echoes that voiced in other countries, seems fairly clear: people are open to trusting digital ID, but expect that trust to be honored in return – and codified, just in case.

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