Although the government was moving towards digital services for issuing passports and submitting tax returns before the Covid-19 pandemic, the swift change to everyone working at home has accelerated these changes. The department in charge of digitising many of the government processes is the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, or DSIT. This department has been looking at streamlining the way in which people prove their identity when they apply for a basic DBS check, with some degree of success.
It’s important to state that any digital tools to prove identity are – at present – an addition to the current system and are not designed to replace it. The government does point out though that systems to verify key identity documents like passports, driving licences or utility bills can save time and money for both employers and for people working with them. Doing things digitally can also help to keep information secure.
Digital identity verification is already in use in several settings. If you’ve ever used the automatic gates in an airport which scan your passport and compare the image to your face, then you have verified your identity digitally. It’s just a way of proving that you are who you say you are without having to produce pieces of paper. Banks and other financial services companies also use similar technology to check the identity of people wishing to open a bank account, by asking them to take a photo of their documents, which is then compared against a video or image of the applicant.
The DSIT is currently undertaking a large project to standardise all the different processes for digital identity verification, and to come up with some industry standards which can give users a guarantee of privacy, and security of their information. The first framework was published by the government back in 2021, and since then, government and industry experts have been refining the plan. One of the first sectors which was able to use the new digital identity was identity checks for employment, right to work, landlord checks or criminal records checks such as DBS checks in England and Wales and PVG checks in Scotland.
Companies which wish to offer the option to have identities verified digitally must register with the government and meet their criteria for offering checks in this way. Many more providers will be joining the system as it rolls out to other sectors, and it seems certain that within a few years, most organisations will be looking to digital identity checking as a default.
From an applicant’s point of view, this is probably good news. It should put an end to issues with documents being lost, or the inconvenience of having to take documents into the office or send them off in the post. It should make the process of getting into work or getting a new rental property quicker, as it cuts the admin time drastically and automates the process in many cases.