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Identity verification processes in the UK have not fully kept up with either technological or social change. The growing proportion of e-commerce has increased the necessity of being able to prove your identity online. Yet physical passports, driving licences and utility bills are not easily used in an online, says a report from a UK think-tank.
Forward-looking countries are embracing the opportunities offered by digital identity authentication and verification, says Scott Corfe, Chief economist at the Social Market Foundation, author of A Verifiable Success. Estonia’s “e-ID” enables digital signatures, internet voting and public service access, and the United Arab Emirates now has a smartphone “passport app”. The UK Government is also making it easier to verify identity online with the GOV.UK Verify service, as launched in 2016, that for example lets you sign in to your personal tax account, and file your self-assessment tax return. There is a compelling case for the UK to build on the progress already made, he argues. The report notes that the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto acknowledged the case for greater use of Verify; but ‘since winning the general election in June, the Government has yet to provide further details’.
He writes: “Identity verification in the UK is not keeping pace with digital innovation. Online crime is on the rise. Identity fraud has increased dramatically in recent years, with the overwhelming majority of this now perpetrated via the internet. Individuals are increasingly being required to prove their identity, and the identity of others, in an online environment. Yet identification processes remain largely stuck in the paper world.”
He points to a need to improve identity verification and authentication online, such as with internet banking, social media and online dating sites. “This could be achieved through new, widely-accepted and government-approved digital identification processes.” International cooperation would be required as so much e-commerce and social media is across countries. He suggests that UK Government should look towards providing an endorsement for companies which offer robust identity checks. “For example, social media and money transfer platforms could use the kitemark to show that they vet users in a robust way, to check they are who they say they are.”
As the UK lacks a ‘one stop shop’ for proving ID, he warns of questions around financial and social inclusion if people are unable to access goods and services as a result of lacking photographic identification.