IDEMIA joins UK Passport ID Authentication Pilot

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By Sam Gazeley | 2Q 2021 | IN-6142

The United Kingdom has begun exploring options of digital identification methods for its citizens.

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UK Government Opens up to Public-Private Partnerships


With the United Kingdom currently running a digital Passport authentication pilot until the summer, it has now been announced that IDEMIA will also participate with its IDway solution. This agreement demonstrates the latest digital ID development in the UK, as well as illustrating the potential of public-private partnerships in that area. This comes after the UK signed a deal with Thales to take over from De La Rue as the smart card vendor to supply the UK passport in a post-Brexit scenario.

One of the critical underpinnings of a government ID program, in any format, is establishing a strong root of trust, something which the IDEMIA is looking to provide by enabling the service provider to benefit from real-time passport checks. IDEMIA will incorporate this new capability into its IDway solution harnessing its biometric facial recognition and document authentication technologies.

On a broader scale, the Document Checking Service (DCS) pilot focuses on utilizing private organizations to authenticate UK passports. The UK government has cited the need to conduct checks as part the rollout of online services, available 24/7, to citizens in a secure way. The DCS is a framework to authenticate the details of the credential against the HM Passport Office database, but in a manner in which the third-party solutions provider does not have direct access to government information databases. As a result, where the DCS was previously used primarily for internal government transactions, the expansion is now taking place for pilot-participating private sector firms, such as IDEMIA, to check passport information provided by UK citizens against government held data.

UK Turns a Corner in Digital ID


This latest move implies a new chapter of progress for digital ID in the United Kingdom.

These procedures are certainly needed to ensure the risk of compromise to citizens’ identities is reduced as much as possible. Figures for 2019 have shown over a 30% increase in identity fraud over the past 5 years. This sparked the debate about introducing digital identities to the United Kingdom, with the Digital Identity Strategy Board publishing a number of principles to strengthen digital identity delivery and policy in the United Kingdom.

Secure checks would also need to be made against government back-end databases to verify information. The Document Checking Service Pilot was also launched to provide citizens with secure access to digital services that require identity checks, such as online mortgage applications and financial services.

Earlier this year, another digital ID effort in the UK managed to gain traction when the UK Post Office and Yoti began a collaborative effort to deploy a new app designed for a variety of identity verification functions. More specifically, the organizations will launch a new free-to-use Post Office App that gives customers a range of options to prove their identities, enabling them to use their digital ID in a secure manner to transact both online and in-person.

Also, in 2020, it was announced that Onfido had successfully completed its Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulatory sandbox pilot in the UK. Beginning February 2019, and in partnership with Deloitte and Evernym, the project was specifically designed to test the viability of reusable digital identities in a commercial environment. Feedback from the program was positive, and the portable identities used in the pilot were able to streamline onboarding procedures and reduce compliance costs for financial institutions.

COVID-19 Accelerating the Need for Digital ID


The UK then, which has previously had a rocky relationship with digital identity solutions, seems to be turning a corner. After the decisive rejection of physical National ID credentials in 2010, the UK had somewhat fallen behind in terms of citizen identification, relative to the rest of the European space. In 2010, this was considered a victory for civil liberties campaigners, but is now perceived as a significant pain point in expanding the digital economy and improving public services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for digital identities across the world as governments rush to provide citizens with an end-to-end touchless experiences and digitize C2G and G2C transactions. The most efficient solution is to simply reduce the prevalence of physical in-person interactions through the digitization of credentials and identities, and now it seems the UK is more ready than ever to extend these identities to the private sector, potentially through concessionary projects. Not only this, but with the question of vaccination “passports” still hanging over the head of the UK government, as well as other world governments, the willingness of the UK to pivot fully into digital identity solutions has definitively been called into question.



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