In February of this year the government published its draft rules governing the future use of digital identities. This is in an effort to make it quicker and easier for people to verify themselves through modern technology and to create a process as trusted as producing passports or bank statements.
According to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, digital identity products will allow people to verify their name, age and address. ‘They are set to revolutionise transactions such as buying a house, when people are often required to prove their identity multiple times to a bank, conveyancer or estate agent, and buying age-restricted goods online or in person.’
Living in the digital age, we urgently require a means of establishing trust online. Agreed digital identity products will inevitably form the foundations of future economies, and the organisations that make use of these products must, therefore, be held to some kind of standard. The first draft of the ‘trust framework’ sets out the principles and policies governing the use of digital identity in a trusted and consistent way with a view to enabling “interoperability” and increased public confidence.
In the foreword, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, comments on the intentions for the framework once finalised. “I want the trust framework to help facilitate a clear understanding between people using identity products, the organisations relying on the service and the service providers, letting each party know data is being used appropriately and kept safe.”
The Law Society, the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives, and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers have all recognised the potential for digital identity verification tools to provide a more secure, efficient and convenient alternative to manually verifying a client’s identity.
The ‘trust framework’ has the ability to speed up the conveyancing process and the department gives an example of this in the case of a first-time buyer. An individual creates a digital identity to check their credit score online. The scoring agency is a member of a scheme in the trust framework. They then proceed to apply for a mortgage with a bank. The bank is also a member of a scheme in the trust framework. This means the individual can use their digital identity again to apply for the mortgage.
Identity verification is then required several times throughout the process of buying the house when, for example, the individual interacts with the bank, estate agents or solicitors. In each case, the buyer can show his or her digital identity via an app in their phone.
Using digital identities will mean clients do not have to rely on postal services or other offline channels to set up an account with organisations or to access conveyancing services and such progress is to be welcomed.
The government aims to publish the next iteration of the framework in summer 2021.