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UK plans to allow departments to more easily share more citizens’ personal data for digital ID verification

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The UK government plans to update the 2017 Digital Economy Act to allow departments to more easily share citizens’ personal data in an attempt to support the rollout of One Login, a new digital platform for accessing public services that is expected to roll out in the next two years.

The proposal was unveiled this week by the Cabinet Office, the aim being making “identity verification” a specified objective and to update the law to “enable public bodies to share a wider range of specified data than is currently possible.”

The amendment would involve four agencies that the government plans “will either hold data to verify an individual’s identity and/or help to deliver the identity verification service.” These departments include the Cabinet Office, which is the home of the Government Digital Service (GDS) that is delivering One Login, the Disclosure and Barring Services (which provides background checks for citizens), the Department of Transport, mainly via its Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

The personal data to be shared by the agencies include names, dates of birth, photos, income, passport and driver’s license information, contact information, and only other government-held data.

“Other data items may be processed as identity verification services develop,” the proposals said. “This may include special category data.”

Specific category data includes information that could reveal a person’s race, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, sexual orientation, biometric data, and information on trade union membership.
However, agencies will be required to “process the minimum number of data items… necessary for verifying the identity of an individual.”
Public consultation on the proposal is open until March 1.

According to Alex Burghart, the Minister for Implementation, the proposed amendment “would make it easier for citizens to prove who they are online when accessing government services.”

“Inclusion is at the heart of GOV.UK One Login,” he said. “The proposed data-sharing legislation will ensure that more people than ever before will be able to prove their identity online and access government services, so that anybody who wants to use online services is able to. Furthermore, the government is committed to realizing the benefits of digital identity technologies without creating ID cards. GOV.UK One Login and the proposed legislation will ensure the government continues to drive inclusive digital transformation, to level up opportunities across all corners of the UK, and deliver brilliant public services.”

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