12 Sep 2023

Yoti: The future of Digital ID #techUKSmarterState

Guest blog by Julie Dawson, Chief Regulatory and Policy Officer at Yoti, as part of Building the Smarter State week. #techUKSmarterState

On a daily basis, we’re asked to prove who we are or how old we are for all sorts of reasons. To check into a hotel, to purchase a bottle of wine, to watch an age-restricted film, to collect a parcel or to open a bank account. A person’s identity and age are key to accessing lots of goods, services and experiences.  

Typically, we prove our age or identity by using a government-issued document, such as a passport or driving licence. However, these documents were not designed for these purposes.   

It’s not possible to use an ID without showing the whole document. So even if we just need to prove we’re over 18, we end up sharing details like our passport number, address, nationality and full name. It’s hard to keep track of what details we’ve shared, and who we’ve shared them with. The lack of a truly Digital ID leaves individuals and organisations exposed to fraud and identity theft. In a world with countless data breaches, there has to be a safer way to prove who we are. 

Say hello to Digital IDs which you can re-use time and again 

We use our phones for so much - to chat with friends, listen to music, watch our favourite shows, take photos, order a taxi and even do our weekly food shop. Why not use them as proof of age or identity too? 

A Digital ID is a new way to prove who you are. It’s your ID on your phone and gives you an easier, smarter and safer way to prove your age or identity.  

Once you’ve downloaded the app and verified your details, you then have a reusable Digital ID for life. You can use your Digital ID to prove who you are quickly and securely, without having to verify your identity from scratch every time.  

Don’t think of a Digital ID as just a digital version of your passport. Instead, it’s a collection of verified personal details and credentials. You can select specific details you wish to share, without sharing any other details. For instance, if you would like to purchase an age-restricted item, you could share a verified ‘over 18’ without sharing any other data.  

This gives individuals greater protection over their personal information. You are only sharing the necessary details instead of sharing full identity documents. This gives companies the details they need to be compliant without having to ask for, or store, huge volumes of personal information.  

The individual user has full control over their data; they always consent to share information and know exactly what they are sharing and who they are sharing it with.  

Digital IDs in everyday use 

Digital IDs have the potential to transform businesses and services that still rely on manual identity checks.  

For instance, in April last year, new legislation came into effect, meaning employers could outsource right to work checks to a trusted and secure certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP). This is part of the UK Digital Identity & Attributes Trust Framework, which aims to develop the market for digital identities and enable this future-focused, more efficient way of proving identity. It represents a significant shift in policy towards digital identity as a valid form of proof of identity, greatly improving compliance processes in our digital world. 

This new process allows employers to ensure that new hires have a right to work in the UK quickly and easily online, via a Digital ID app or in person at a Post Office branch. Right to rent and DBS checks can be completed this way too.  

These digital checks are not only safer for individuals - as they do not need to present physical documents - but they offer a more streamlined and convenient onboarding process, resulting in a better candidate experience. These digital checks also allow a wider pool of applicants to apply for roles and reduce geographic barriers to employment.  

Digital right to work checks have proved to be popular with employers and background screening companies. Many of them are now using a certified IDSP to automate the background screening process. When legislation is updated for new technology, it can transform services for the better.  

A number of private businesses have also embraced Digital IDs. The UK Cinema Association, representing the interests of the vast majority of UK cinema operators, accepts the Yoti and EasyID apps as proof of age. This saves young people from carrying their passport to the cinema - something many parents will be relieved about.  

Many convenience stores around the UK accept Digital IDs for the sale of age-restricted goods including energy drinks, tobacco and lottery tickets. Individuals can also use the Yoti and EasyID apps to exchange information with other people. They might wish to swap verified names and photos with someone they’ve met online - for instance, someone on a dating site or someone they are buying a second-hand item from. This gives people greater trust in who they are interacting with and protects people from fake or scam accounts.  

Yoti and EasyID are interoperable; people can choose which app they’d like to use for any of the use cases mentioned above. 

Digital IDs are gaining traction 

As the government presses forward with its plans to digitise more processes and more businesses embrace this new standard of verification, expect to see more applications for Digital IDs. This should be furthered by the upcoming Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, currently at the Report Stage. 

Retailers may choose to enhance their Challenge 25 policy when selling age-restricted goods. Social media platforms or adult sites may introduce age verification to provide a more age-appropriate experience and ensure minors are not accessing age-restricted content. Financial services may offer customers a new way to prove their identity.  

Just like with the right to work checks, when regulation and Digital IDs come together, they can transform outdated processes and make the UK a science and technology superpower. 

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Julie Dawson is Chief Regulatory and Policy Officer at Yoti. Find out more about Digital ID's here.

From 11 – 15 September techUK is running our annual Building the Smarter State Week in the run-up to the ninth edition of our flagship public services conference, Building the Smarter State, on Wednesday 27 September. Book your tickets here