The government’s new digital identity assurance system is ready to go live, with the first service expected to be launched “in the next couple of weeks”.
Gov.uk Verify enables citizens to prove who they are when accessing online public services. The system has been in a private beta test since February for invited individuals only, but the Government Digital Service (GDS) has announced Verify is now ready for its first public test.
Writing in a blog post, Janet Hughes, the head of policy and engagement for Gov.uk Verify, said the public beta is a significant step forward.
“The next step will be the first service to start allowing users to access its service through Gov.uk Verify without invitations. This will happen within the next couple of weeks,” she said.
“As we continue to develop and scale up, more services will start to use Gov.uk Verify when they need to be sure they are dealing with the correct user – we’ll announce details of these services in the coming weeks. This will also allow users to re-use their Gov.uk Verify credentials to access the increasing range of services.”
Verify will use a number of third parties to check users’ identities and allow citizens to securely use government services. It will work in the same way Facebook and Twitter usernames and passwords can be used to log into other websites.
When the first digital service goes live using Verify – likely to be either HM Revenue & Customs’ new PAYE service, DVLA’s view driving record service, or rural payments for farmers – only one third-party identity provider will be certified to be involved, but Hughes said there will be four by the end of the year.
Users will initially need to have a passport or driver’s licence to use Verify, because the system needs to match existing government records. But other offline channels will still be available.
“We’ve built Gov.uk Verify based on more than a year of user research, iteration and development. As more people start using Gov.uk Verify to access services, we’ll work closely with departments to analyse user feedback and continuously improve the service,” said Hughes.
Gov.uk Verify is designed to overcome concerns about government setting up a central database of citizens’ identities to enable access to online public services – similar criticism led to the demise of the hugely unpopular identity card scheme set up under the Labour government.
Instead, users will register their details with one of the independent identity assurance providers – certified companies that will establish and verify a user’s identity outside government systems. When the user then logs into a digital public service, the Verify system will electronically “ask” the external third-party provider to confirm the person is who they claim to be.
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