March 14, 2022
Following a public consultation, the government has announced it will introduce legislation to make digital identities as trusted and secure as official documents such as passports and driving licences.
The Government says that digital identities, i.e., a virtual form of ID, reduce the time, effort and expense that sharing physical documents can take when people need to provide legal proof of who they are, for example when buying a home or starting a new job.
A new Office for Digital Identities and Attributes (ODIA) will be set up in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as an interim governing body for digital identities.
Digital identity solutions can be accessed in several ways such as via a phone app or website and can be used in-person or online to verify a person’s identity. It will be for people and businesses to decide what digital identity technology works for them to prove their identity, should they choose to create a digital identity at all. For example, if a person wants to prove they are over 18 to buy age-restricted products, they could create a digital identity with a trusted organisation by sharing personal information such as their name and date of birth. This digital identity could then be used to prove to a retailer they are over 18, without the need to reveal the personal information used to create the digital identity, boosting users’ privacy, unlike physical documents which may disclose date of birth, name and address.
The ODIA will have the power to issue an easily recognised trust mark to certified digital identity organisations, to prove they meet the security and privacy standards needed to handle people’s data in a safe and consistent way. The ODIA will ensure trust-marked organisations adhere to the highest standards of security and privacy.
The Government says that digital identities can also help tackle fraud by reducing the amount of personal data shared online and making it harder for fraudsters to obtain and use stolen identities.
The Government intends to bring forward the necessary legislation when parliamentary time allows to:
- establish a robust and secure accreditation and certification process and trust mark so organisations can clearly prove they are meeting the highest security and privacy standards needed to use digital identities;
- create a legal gateway to allow trusted organisations to carry out verification checks against official data held by public bodies to help validate a person’s identity; and
- confirm the legal validity of digital forms of identification are equal to physical forms of identification, such as physical passports.
Digital identities will not be compulsory, and people will still be able to use available paper documentation.
In advance of the proposed legislation, landlords, letting agents and employers will be able to use certified new technology to carry out right to work and right to rent checks online from the 6 April 2022. To read the Government’s announcement in full and for a link to the responses to the consultation, click here.