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Roll out the Verify service for online identification

Last updated: 09:33pm 22 September 2019

That is why we shall roll out Verify, so that people can identify themselves on all government online services by 2020, using their own secure data that is not held by government.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.81

Our verdict

Verify is a service provided by the UK government website, gov.uk, in order to securely prove your identity online when dealing with government services. This removes the need to identify yourself in person or wait for a letter to arrive in order to verify your identity. The service uses third party providers, like a bank, the Post Office or a credit agency to verify identity, which means that the government does not hold information about people directly. This is meant to increase security and protect information from potential government interference. 

Initial progress…

Verify was initially proposed in 2011 and finally launched in 2016. The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised that it would be rolled out by 2020, after which time government funding would cease and it would be handed over to be run independently by private sector identity providers. Verify is now available for use by 21 different gov.uk services, such as applying for benefits, driving licences, requesting a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, checking income tax or pensions. 

… followed by major setbacks

However, the target of 25 million registrations by 2020, set in the Digital Strategy of 2017, is unlikely to be met – as of September 2019, Verify had just under 5 million users. Since Verify’s private sector support is largely dependent on the number of users, this low uptake puts future funding at risk. Although almost 8 million people have tried to use the service by signing in, only 49% of them are successfully verified, which leaves a lot of room for improvement. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which is the body that audits major government infrastructure projects to see if they are on track, said that Verify’s status in 2019 was “Red”, meaning “successful delivery of the project seems to be unachievable”. Additionally, a May 2019 inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee concluded that Verify had “failed to meet any of its original performance targets” and there is “no meaningful plan for what will happen to Verify post-2020”.

Progress Still to be Made?

It seems unlikely that the government will be able to make good on their promises for Verify. However, since the 2020 deadline has not come around yet, we can’t know for sure whether they will manage to turn the program around. That’s why the status of this pledge is still ‘in progress’. Follow this policy to see how it develops.

Learn more about Verify

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