The British government has published draft ‘rules of the road’ for digital identities, centred on data protection, security, and inclusivity.

The aim is to create the foundation of a trusted digital identity so that people can prove who they are, where they live, or how old they to banks, lawyers, estate agents, and other service providers, and when buying age-restricted goods online or in person.

As such, the proposals could have a significant impact on financial services providers.

According to an announcement from the government, it will be incumbent on providers to show that they:

  • Have a data management policy that explains how they create, obtain, disclose, protect, and delete data
  • Follow industry standards and best practice for information security and encryption
  • Tell the user if any alterations have been made to their digital identity – such as a change of address
  • Where appropriate, have a detailed account recovery process and notify users if they suspect someone has fraudulently accessed their account or used their digital identity
  • Follow guidance on how to choose secure authenticators for their service.

Organisations will be required to publish a yearly report explaining which demographics have been, or are likely to have been, excluded from their service and why – a move designed to counter the risk of data-based or algorithmic bias in AI systems, along with so-called postcode lotteries.

“The move will help make firms aware if there are inclusivity problems in their products while also boosting transparency,” said the government.

“It will also help promote the use of ‘vouching’, where trusted people within the community, such as doctors or teachers, vouch for or confirm a person’s identity, as a useful alternative for those without traditional documents, such as passports and driving licences.”

However, it is not clear how the concept will protect the digitally excluded – the estimated 10 percent of the population who are not online, many of whom may lack other forms of documentation, such as passports and drivers licences.

That aside, the government’s attempt to open up the proposals to debate and feedback have broadly been welcomed by civil rights groups. The framework, once finalised under public consultation, is expected to be brought into law.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said,

“We want industry, civil society groups and the public to make their voices heard.

“Establishing trust online is absolutely essential if we are to unleash the future potential of our digital economy.

“Our aim is to help people confidently verify themselves while safeguarding their privacy so we can build back better and fairer from the pandemic.”

The full UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework is available online, along with details of how to provide comments and feedback.