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A Verifiable Success

Identity verification processes in the UK have not fully kept up with either technological or social change. The growing proportion of e-commerce has increased the necessity of being able to prove your identity online. Yet physical passports, driving licences and utility bills are not easily used in an online environment.

Around the world, forward-looking countries are embracing the opportunities offered by digital identity authentication and verification. Estonia’s “e-ID” enables digital signatures, internet voting and public service access, and the UAE now has a smartphone “passport app”. The UK Government is also making it easier to verify identity online with the GOV.UK Verify service. As this report shows, there is a compelling case for the UK to build on the progress already made, to ensure it becomes the world leader in identity verification and authentication services.

The case for continued progress in the identification space is clear. The status quo, which is lagging technological and social change, has a number of consequences:

  • Identity fraud has increased dramatically – data from Cifas, which operates fraud prevention databases in the UK, show that identity fraud increased by 68% between 2010 and 2016. If current levels of identity fraud persist, the decade to 2020 will see about 1.5 million fraud cases in in the UK. The threats of fraudulent activity in financial services, and fake identities on social media are pervasive.
  • Identity verification is inconvenient – for example, individuals are often required to provide paper bills as proof of address, yet companies are pushing consumers to adopt paperless billing. While electronic boarding passes are now common place at airports, physical passports are still required for international travel. This need not be the case in the future.
  • Financial and social exclusion – SMF analysis in this report shows a significant correlation between economic deprivation and lack of access to photographic ID. Those in relatively deprived areas are less likely to have access to a passport or driving licence. Existing identity verification practices are therefore likely to be disproportionately problematic for the poor.

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