In the UK, an urgent need to build 21st century public services that work better for all, and age-related proposals for new online harms regulation, prove we need to have a national discussion about digital identity. So far, the failure to implement a proper identity system has been a major constraint on transforming the entire operating model of government for the modern era. The trend towards decentralisation – from identity cards originally to GOV.UK Verify most recently – must not be rejected but should be empowered further. New technologies which enhance privacy, security and usability should mitigate many worries of old.
In July 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Government Digital Service published a call for evidence on digital identity, recognising that digital identity in the UK has not kept pace with the speed and standards of the internet era. The call for evidence was particularly interested in “individual-controlled reusable digital identities”, and we welcome the steps proposed to simplify identify verification for businesses, citizens and the public sector alike.
Our response to this call for evidence emphasises that this debate needs to focus on digital identity’s transformative potential, with encryption and decentralisation allowing us to shift the debate away from the idea that identity is about tracking individuals. We can secure public consent by putting data under users’ control and removing the need for big, central databases. In turn, just as in every other country that is serious about digital government, identity can become the foundation of 21st century government – ensuring that government-led innovation enables the whole economy and society while radically simplifying and improving access to public services.
Find our full response here.