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UK Government’s Bold Move on Digital Identity Is A Wake-Up Call for Many

By Andrea Di Maio | October 04, 2012 | 0 Comments

web 2.0 in governmentEurope and IT

Today I read one of those news I have been waiting for for a long time. According to The Independent:

The [UK] Government will announce details this month of a controversial national identity scheme which will allow people to use their mobile phones and social media profiles as official identification documents for accessing public services. People wishing to apply for services ranging from tax credits to fishing licences and passports will be asked to choose from a list of familiar online log-ins, including those they already use on social media sites, banks, and large retailers such as supermarkets, to prove their identity.

This builds on work done by the UK Cabinet office around an Identity Assurance Scheme, launched last year.

The new UK government portal Gov.uk will be used to pilot this scheme. Always according to The Independent

The Cabinet Office is understood to have held discussions with the Post Office, high street banks, mobile phone companies and technology giants ranging from Facebook and Microsoft to Google, PayPal and BT.

Some may interpret this as a way to sneak the defunct identity card scheme through the back door, but the Cabinet office assures that data would not be kept centrally.

This may be yet another nail in the coffin of government-issued electronic identities. While countries like Italy keep pursuing this path and have gone as far as issuing specifications for email services to be used when interacting with government, the UK shows that there is much better way, which is to rely on identities that people already use much more frequently on their social sites, with their banks or on their mobile devices.

But this is just part of a broader trend. If governments can accept not to be the issuers or providers but rather the users of somebody else’s electronic identities, then the same may apply to data, services and channels. So while in the near future the UK government will experiment how to access its information and services in Gov.uk using – say – a Facebook or a Google or a Barclays account, the next step might be for people not to use Gov.uk at all to access those services, but expect them to be delivered through Facebook or Google or Barclays.

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