Saturday, 30 May 2015

RIP IDA – nil by mouth

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but,
just in case it isn't obvious to all,
IDA is dead.

IDA, now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)",
is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme.
And it's dead.

Last heard, 26 March 2015, GOV.UK Verify (RIP) was in maudlin mood, brooding about the meaning of life and the objectives for its vanishing future.

Speaking through its faithful assistants Janet Hughes and Stephen Dunn from its deathbed in the Kingsway hospice destined to be its final resting place, GOV.UK Verify (RIP) expatiated ungrammatically on its Objectives for live and "what ‘live’ means" for it as the end approaches. Ominously, there hasn't been a word from GOV.UK Verify (RIP) in the five weeks since.

It's what they don't say that counts, please see RIP IDA – what they omitted from the obituary. GOV.UK Verify (RIP) has now hobbled from having only three "identity providers" to four, but they didn't tell us that. As their energy seeps away, the only reason we know is that Neil Merrett (read him early, read him often) kindly told us on 14 May 2015 in Verizon joins GOV.UK Verify accredited suppliers list.

Maybe they just didn't have the heart. Following the story two days earlier, Sprint and Verizon to pay $158 MILLION over bogus 'cramming' fees, how were GOV.UK Verify (RIP) supposed to convince the British public that the unsavoury Verizon is an ornament to the Constitution and a safe repository for our personal information?

"We’ve written before about our work to expand the range of evidence people can use to verify their identity through GOV.UK Verify" they told us back in March, frustrated, and there's still no sign of a solution. What personal information/"evidence" does Verizon bring to the UK to help us to verify our identity? None.

You could ask the same of one of the other "identity providers", Digidentity, a Dutch company with no database of personal information about us Brits. But oddly enough, in their case, we know the answer to that one thanks to the following press release, Digidentity, working in partnership with Callcredit and Government Digital Services, announce the launch of their Virtual ID service for UK Citizens. Digidentity are working with Callcredit, a credit referencing agency, like Experian, one of the four accredited "identity providers".

So much for expanding "the range of evidence people can use to verify their identity". Another credit referencing agency. What is a person? As far as GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is concerned, a person is a credit history.

Why didn't GOV.UK Verify (RIP) tell us, their parishioners, that Digidentity are working with Callcredit? "We're building trust by being open", they've said in the past, "the sunlight of transparency is making things better". Doesn't look like it, does it. Who are Verizon working with? GOV.UK Verify (RIP) keep us in the dark.

There is one consolation for GOV.UK Verify (RIP) as it goes into that dark night. For some unknown reason the Americans have decided to model their public services IT on the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS), the operators of the Kingsway hospice whose achievements are the stuff of legend. Two US organisations, USDS and 18f, lose no opportunity to acknowledge their debt to GDS. The consolation is that at least GOV.UK Verify (RIP) will leave that American legacy, a visible testament to its short sojourn among us.

But just as the oscilloscope attached to GOV.UK Verify (RIP)'s wrist shows wan signs of life and a single pulse ping echoes around the intensive care unit what do 18f go and do? On 18 May 2015, et tu Brute, knife in the back, 18f only go and announce MyUSA – your one account for government. Is MyUSA modelled faithfully on GOV.UK Verify (RIP)? It doesn't look like it. They're not relying on Verizon. Or Digidentity. Far from the adolescent science fiction world of "identity providers", if anything the treacherous 18f's MyUSA looks more like the Scots myaccount initiative.

Dejected and rejected, crestfallen and broken-hearted, the patient slumps back into coma. And the doctors do what they always do. They put out a bulletin. The next 6 months: services that plan to start using GOV.UK Verify (RIP).

That was on 14 May 2015. The bulletin covers GOV.UK Verify (RIP)'s vital signs. E.g. the HMRC tax code/company car application. Number of users expected by November 2015? 20,000. That's 20,000 car-driving taxpayers, all identified by GOV.UK Verify (RIP), in six months time.

The doctors put out the same bulletin on 20 February 2015. Only that time they forecast 20,000 users by August 2015. The 5 January 2015 bulletin reckoned there would be 20,000 users by July 2015 and the 29 October 2014 version confidently promised 20,000 users by April 2015, a month or two ago.

The dates keep changing. But nothing else. GOV.UK Verify. RIP.

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