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The business of identity

Is the way we prove our identity to government about to take a positive leap forward? Toby Stevens examines the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance programme and asks what it means for your business.

Five years after the previous government, in the form of Home Secretary Theresa May, abandoned the National Identity Scheme, the first services that use GOV.UK Verify – the new way to prove who you are online so you can safely use government services – are now available. As yet, the change has had little impact upon the accountancy profession, which still depends largely upon document checks to prove identity because there are few alternatives that are acceptable to regulators.

A federation of trust

GOV.UK Verify involves the creation of a network of companies approved to verify the identity of individuals who wish to access online public services. This ‘federation’ of certified companies forms an environment in which each member can trust the others because they have been subject to rigorous checks against shared standards. 

These companies are all subject to commercial contracts with the government and form a shared ‘trust scheme’ that governs their activities. While this approach is a radical departure from traditional government identity approaches, it is aligned with the federated identity methods being used by companies such as Google and Salesforce, through the likes of the OpenID Foundation. It also mirrors some aspects of well-established trust networks, such as Visa and IdenTrust.

This is an extract from an article in the July/August 2015 edition of Chartech, the magazine of the IT Faculty.

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