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BCS paper calls for public incentives to use Verify



Identity assurance group chair suggests small discounts and W3C standards could provide a boost to take-up

The government should be ready to offer people incentives to use its Verify service, according to the Identity Assurance Working Group at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

The annual Aspects of Identity paper from the group says the government should "incentivise citizens to embrace the roll out of Verify".

Louise Bennett, the chair of the group, told UKAuthority this would encourage people to persist with the enrolment process if it proves difficult, and help to create the critical mass of users that would encourage the spread of Verify throughout public services and possibly into private sector transactions.

"A lot of research shows that if people have a very small incentive such as coupons they are more likely to go through with a process," she said. "If the government had a good communications campaign to show it would transactions with itself, and gave a discount to people looking to do something like renew a licence, I think a lot more people would use it to get onto the system."

She suggested that a relatively small discount, as low as £5, would be sufficient, and that a proper cost-benefit analysis would show the savings from an increase in people using the service would far surpass the cost of providing the discounts.

Critical mass effect

"Once it has critical mass it would become more important and more widely used," she said.

The Government Digital Service declined to comment in response to Bennett's suggestion.

Verify is being developed to provide a single mechanism, with people being given a choice of identity service providers, to authenticate online identities. In March, the Identity Assurance team in the GDS reported that 25,000 people had verified their identity using the service and had signed in more than 80,000 times in total. It has amibitions for more than 2 million users by November of this year, when Verify will be available for HM Revenue & Customs' self-assessment service.

The BCS paper also says the government should support the open standards for online identity and payments being developed by the World Wide Web (W3C) consortium.

"In the context of Verify it's another reason to work in this space," Bennett said. "It's producing open standards that are royalty-free for use in identity assurance and payments. It's better than proprietary standards becoming the de facto way of doing things."

Big data ethics

In addition, the paper emphasises the importance of developing the ethical use of big data and linking this to the development of the internet of things. It says that failure to do so could seriously damage trust in the internet as a whole.

Bennett said this could have the most potential for public services, and provide the biggest challenges, in using medical data and supporting healthcare through connected devices.

"The internet of things can do a lot of good but it comes with a large amount of data that has to be available and could be open to abuse," she said.

She said the key factors are in security, carefully controlling who has access to the data and providing a strong audit trail. Also, she claimed it is virtually impossible to prevent the de-anonymisation of data - which is often flagged up by privacy activists - and that there should be more of a focus on preventing its use to do harm.

Pictured: Louise Bennett

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