Public consultation slams government plans for online ID verification

Vast majority of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with proposals to share people’s data across government. 

Earlier this year, the UK government drafted regulations that it hoped will enable more effective online identity verification for people accessing government services. These would modify existing provisions under the Digital Economy Act 2017. But the proposals have met robust opposition from a number of organisations and the wider public.

hacker, hacking, cyber security 

Between January and March of this year, a formal consultation on the proposals received 66,233 responses. Of those that were within the scope of the questions being asked:  

  • 73% disagreed or strongly disagreed that proposed data sharing would improve or target a service to individuals, or provide them with a benefit. Just 2% agreed or strongly agreed. 
  • 76% disagreed or strongly disagreed that data sharing would improve the well-being of individuals or households. Again, just 2% agreed or strongly agreed. 
  • 75% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the proposed objective would support the delivery of administration, monitoring or enforcement of a service provided by a particular public authority (or authorities). Only 3% agreed or strongly agreed. 
  • 89% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the Cabinet Office, Department for Transport, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Disclosure and Barring Service should be able to share data to improve or target public services under specified objectives. Just 6% agreed or strongly agreed. 
  • 93% disagreed or strongly disagreed that these bodies should be able to share data for identity verification services. Only 4% agreed or strongly agreed. 
  • 83% felt that data sharing to support identity verification services would negatively impact on people who share any of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.  

A range of reasons were given for this negativity, the main ones being concerns over the erosion of data privacy and protection, data security given cyber attacks, and a general mistrust of government use of personal data for wider policy issues. There were also concerns about the way the proposals could adversely impact marginalised, vulnerable or minority groups. 

For the majority of respondents, such concerns outweighed any potential benefits from improvements in the delivery of public services.  

The government’s response says: ‘Most of the interest in the consultation expressed strong concerns around identity cards, including incorrect interpretations that a change to the Digital Economy Act 2017 could result in compulsory digital identity. The Government understands that there isn’t public support for identity cards in the UK. The Government remains committed to realising the benefits of individuals being able to identify themselves online in order to access public services. There are no plans to introduce mandatory digital identity. 

‘The majority of responses raised concerns around data privacy. We understand that people rightly want to protect their personal information and can confirm that this is central to the government’s approach.  

The proposed regulations only relate to using data for the purposes of identity verification and any public body seeking to use the regulations would do so within the clear and robust framework for data sharing set out within the Digital Economy Act 2017 and the UK’s robust data protection legislation.’ 

In related news, more local councils are having to investigate a breach of personal data administered by Capita.

Photo by madartzgraphics


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