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The GOV.UK Verify Approach to Identity Verification

– Center for Global Development

Dr. Edgar A. Whitley, Associate Professor (Reader) in Information Systems at the London School of Economics and Political Science, gives his overview of the U.K. government’s unique model for proving identity online

A detailed walk-through and analysis of the U.K. government’s Verify online verification service. Published by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development, this 95-page document outlines how Verify works, its governance, socio-political context and history, integration with other government services, private sector uses, safeguarding and key learnings.

Written by Dr. Edgar A. Whitley, Associate Professor (Reader) in Information Systems at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was closely involved in the development of GOV.UK Verify and is co-chair of the UK Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group, the report gives unprecedented insight into a global model for proving identity online.

In a preface, Alan Gelb - senior fellow at Center for Global Development - comments: “The U.K.’s enduring concerns for preserving privacy are evident from all aspects of Verify’s design. Identity-verifying companies do not know which government service the user has requested access to, nor can the government service providers tell which private entity has verified their user’s identity. Another remarkable feature of the UK’s system is its use of levels of identity assurance instead of a single 'gold-standard' identity required to access government services online.”

The report includes examples of Verify in use for Passport applications and Self Assessment tax returns, as well as its use through third-party organisations.

Dr. Edgar A. Whitley’s analysis of Verify has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Verify’s unique, federated approach to digital identity verification, its operational standards, as well as its closely embedded privacy principles can offer many lessons for governments as well as private entities seeking to provide online access to services and transactions

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