A new government agency to oversee digital identity laws

Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The government must introduce legislation and create a new Whitehall entity with the aim of allowing digital ID to stand on the same legal footing as paper documents such as passports and driving licenses.

Following a public consultation, an Office of Digital Identities and Attributes (ODIA) will be created within the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.

The government claimed the unit would serve as an “interim governing body for digital identities”.

Once the necessary legislation is passed, its functions will include issuing an “easily recognizable trustmark” which will be awarded to organizations offering digital identity systems. To earn this certification, providers will need to “adhere to the highest security and privacy standards,” according to the DCMS.

The new laws, which “the government intends to introduce… when parliamentary time permits,” will also provide for the creation of a “legal gateway for trusted organizations to carry out verification checks against official data.” held by public bodies to help validate a person’s identity”.

It will also enshrine in legislation that “digital forms of identification are equal to physical forms of identification, such as physical passports.”


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Digital IDs include documents accessed through websites or mobile apps. Examples of their potential use cited by the government include allowing people to buy age-restricted products or to prove their identity in order to access services.

The DCMS said: “It will be up to individuals and businesses to decide which digital identity technology will allow them to prove their identity – if they choose to create a digital identity.”

He added: “The government… is committed to ensuring that digital identities are not mandatory and that people will still be able to use available paper documentation.”

According to the department, the intention of the legislation is to promote forms of identification that better protect the privacy of individuals because they do not need to disclose the type of personal information that is often clearly visible on physical documents. .

“Digital identities can also help fight fraud…by reducing the amount of personal data shared online and making it harder for fraudsters to obtain and use stolen identities,” he added.

Ahead of the introduction of the legislation, the government has already introduced legislation which, from April 6, will allow estate agents and employers to carry out entitlement to work and entitlement to rent checks digitally.

Heather Wheeler, Deputy Minister in the Cabinet Office, said: “The Government is proposing a number of ambitious and interconnected policy initiatives to prepare the UK for the digital world and to improve the lives of businesses and citizens. These initiatives, together with enabling legislation, will help ensure that the UK is able to take full advantage of the opportunities that digital identities and the wider digital economy have to offer. I would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation exercise. By working together and sharing our knowledge, experience and expertise, we will continue to deliver transformative digital policies.”

The plan to develop the new government-wide login system – and the accompanying GOV.UK app – includes the creation of a smartphone app through which users can digitally verify their identity. Professional services giant Deloitte recently won a £4.8m contract to support development of the verification app, which will be based on near-field communication – the technology built into most smartphones that enables devices to make mobile payments and scan biometric documents. The software may also support the use of other forms of biometric identification, such as facial or fingerprint recognition.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis will provide exclusive insight into the government’s cybersecurity strategy when he delivers the keynote address of the AudienceCyber ​​Technology Security Summit. The DPC certified event – which is free for public sector employees – takes place at the Business Design Center in London on March 29 and will include a series of exclusive presentations, including Alex Harris, Head of NHS and Social Care Cyber ​​Risk at NHSX who will discuss the challenges of protecting patients and clinicians: from WannaCry to Covid.

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