Out-Law News 1 min. read

UK government launches consultation on greater data sharing across public sector

The UK Cabinet Office has opened a consultation on proposals for new legislation to enable and create a centralised digital ID gateway to online public services.

The proposed regulations (4-page / 98KB) are aimed at making identity verification online easier and more reliable so more people can access digital public services. They will give the government new powers and a stronger legal basis to share personal data for identity verification purposes and identity reuse across different departments.

More specifically, the proposed data-sharing legislation will facilitate the roll out of a new government identity verification system, known as GOV.UK One Login. It will allow users to prove their identity online and then reuse that verification to access all government services online via a single account. The new system is being developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) of the Cabinet Office with other government departments. According to the Cabinet Office’s announcement, the system would replace more than 190 existing sign-in routes and 44 separate accounts.

In addition to including and encouraging more people to use online services, the move is also set to save taxpayers money by preventing duplicate identity checks being carried out across government and improve service delivery efficiency through joined-up working. It will also protect against fraud by making identity theft more difficult with many more digital checks than under the current system.

The Cabinet Office said that “improved data sharing with stringent privacy and security measures in place is central to transforming the delivery and efficiency of public services and people’s ability to interact confidently with government in an increasingly digital world.”

According to the consultation paper, public bodies will only be allowed to process the minimum number of data items, such as name, date of birth, home address, email address and various identifiers such as passport number or driving licence number. Any additional information to be shared will need to comply with the ‘data minimisation’ principles so that only the minimum amount of data is disclosed as is necessary for any identity check.

This initiative is part of the government’s Transforming for a Digital Future roadmap and the new regulations are proposed under the 2017 Digital Economy Act. The proposals are also based on the government’s analysis of responses to its call for evidence on digital identities in 2020, which demonstrated the UK public’s strong desire for the government to use digital identities to enable citizens to access products and services with ease, while maintaining privacy protections and safeguards to ensure citizens are protected from fraud.

“This can be beneficial to the UK economy at large as digital identity is gaining more traction,” said Angus McFadyen, a technology expert of Pinsent Masons.

The public consultation opened on 4 January and will close on 1 March 2023. A response to this consultation exercise is due to be published by 24 May 2023.

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