DSIT report on public views of digital identities

profile picture Rachael Trotman 8 min read
image of a woman looking at her phone

Last year, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) commissioned a public dialogue to seek views from the public on digital identities. They wanted to explore the benefits and concerns associated with digital identity services. 

We take a look at some of the key findings and themes from the public dialogue, and what this means for the future of digital identities in the UK.


UK digital identity and attributes trust framework

Digital identities give us a way to prove who we are, without needing to use physical documents. They can offer us greater privacy, security and convenience over our personal data. 

To give people and businesses confidence in digital identities, DSIT has formed the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework. The trust framework aims to make it easier and more secure for people to use services that enable them to prove who they are or specific information about themselves. 

This framework includes rules on privacy and data protection, fraud management, cyber and information security, and ensuring that products and services are inclusive. Its successor, the Digital Verification Service (DVS), will be underpinned by legislation and managed by a governing body to ensure it is kept up to date. The public dialogue will help inform this future framework as it evolves.


Benefits of digital services

In the public dialogue, participants spoke about some of the main benefits they believe a trusted digital identity can offer. These include usability, inclusivity, convenience and control over personal data.


Greater convenience

Digital identity services offer the potential to streamline processes, making interactions with various services and businesses quicker and easier. A digital identity removes the tedious process of having to fill out forms that request lots of personal information, or the risks associated with scanning and posting copies of physical documents. 

A reusable Digital ID is a practical tool for achieving everyday tasks – whether that’s buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket, completing employment checks or collecting a parcel – you can set up your digital identity once and then use it time and time again.


Enhanced security and privacy

Convenience doesn’t have to come at the cost of privacy. With a trusted digital identity, you get both. 

There are over one million driving licences lost and stolen each year in the UK; many are misplaced when people are out and about on nights out. With appropriate security measures, digital identities give people more convenience, privacy and control over their data and reduce the risks associated with identity theft and fraud. For instance, with our Digital ID app, you can share specific information. If you only need to prove you are over 18, that’s the only piece of data you need to share. 

This makes digital identities more private than showing physical documents which contain details like your full name, address and nationality. By sharing less data and not carrying physical documents, we are more protected against the risk of identity theft and fraud. Participants of the public dialogue recognised and welcomed the ability to just prove one aspect of themselves. They felt this was an important benefit and builds trust in digital identities.

The opportunity for digital identities to create safer interactions was also listed as a benefit. With our Digital ID, there is a peer to peer feature which lets you swap verified information with another person; for instance, before going on a date or on an online marketplace. This gives you confidence and reassurance that you’re talking to a real person – and to the correct person. Fraudsters are increasingly using deepfakes and generative AI to scam and trick people. A Digital ID is a practical and simple tool to protect yourself from this growing threat.


Greater inclusivity and simplicity

Digital identities can help more people to prove their full identity or certain attributes about themselves – and use that to access a wide variety of services, including financial transactions, retail, healthcare and government services.  

Participants felt that for a digital identity to be impactful, it would need to have universal acceptance. They would want to use the same digital identity everywhere, so they could use a single app anytime they need to prove information about themselves. 

This means they could keep their proof of identity in one secure place, and not have to use multiple apps or physical documents. Being able to use a digital identity means valuable documents can be left safe at home. If your physical passport or driving licence is lost, stolen or ends up in the wrong hands, it can leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Someone else could use your details to open bank accounts, apply for credit or set up social media accounts – all in your name. A digital identity significantly reduces this risk.


Alleviating concerns

We welcome the public dialogue that has been facilitated by the government, which complements our own research and experience of engaging with our users. It is helpful to read and understand some of the concerns voiced in the public dialogue, so that digital identity providers can respond to these.


Monetisation and data protection

Some participants understandably had concerns regarding the protection of personal data. They worried that digital identity companies would be able to sell their data on, without an informed and transparent consent process. They also worried that charging people to use a digital identity could exclude certain people, especially the most vulnerable in society. These are important elements for the Digital Verification Service to address.

The way our reusable Digital ID app is set up means only the user can access, control and share their data. They always consent to share their information and can select specific details to share. For increased transparency, they also have a record of what they’ve shared and who they’ve shared it with. We have no way to access an individual’s user data so we can’t sell it on. 

We have always offered our Digital ID to users for free. One of our founding principles is to make Yoti available to anyone. We don’t want additional costs to be a barrier for people who would like a secure digital identity.


Inclusivity and accessibility challenges

Some groups, such as the elderly or those with limited digital literacy, may face challenges in adopting and accessing digital identity services. In the UK through our partnership with the Post Office, we are providing some verification services in-branch.

With more services moving online, identity verification needs to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. This was reflected in the public dialogue, with participants believing that digital identity services should not become mandatory by default, and that paper alternatives should always be available. We believe there should be a parity of acceptance between physical and digital proofs of identity so that individuals can choose how they want to prove their identity. 

We are working hard to ensure our solutions cater to as many people as possible. That’s why we offer three identity verification options – online identity verification, a reusable Digital ID app and in-branch verification. We believe the addition of this in-person, in-branch route makes Yoti the most inclusive identity solution on the market. We can help verify the majority of people online whilst offering an alternative for those who can’t or don’t wish to verify their identity this way.


Future of digital identities

The public dialogue also suggested some amendments and additions to the trust framework. These include clearly communicating the benefits of digital identity, giving people control over their data, clear terms and conditions when using digital identity services, and ensuring there are non-digital alternatives.

We were fortunate to see the draft report from the public dialogue last year. We gave the DSIT some feedback, based on our own experience of creating a digital identity solution and engaging with consumers.

One of our suggestions was that there should also be public dialogue for under 18s. Digital technologies must be inclusive of children and young people, especially given how often young people are required to prove their age (for instance, to purchase age-restricted goods or to access age-related travel discounts). It would be sensible to include this demographic in any future public dialogues, as well as introduce ongoing feedback sessions.

The dialogue was a qualitative exercise, which did not aim to be representative of the UK population. We asked the DSIT if they had any plans to undertake statistically representative research. Our experience of speaking to consumers on this topic is that when they are faced with a strong desire or need to share their age or identity, there are very different behaviours and feelings towards digital identities.

Finally, we suggested that it would be helpful to involve organisations such as AgeUK and Scope, to ensure digital identities are as inclusive as possible. This could help alleviate concerns that those with disabilities or the elderly could be left behind.

If you’d like to know more about our involvement in the public dialogue or have any questions about our digital identity solution, please get in touch.