Monday 20 April 2015

RIP IDA – Verizon assure you: "Your answers help verify you are undefined undefined"

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.

Here's a selection of GDS posts and a film in the week leading up to purdah:

Janet Hughes
Chris Mitchell
Janet Hughes
Janet Hughes
Janet Hughes and Stephen Dunn
Mike Bracken
David Rennie
Mike Bracken
Mike Beavan
Mike Bracken
Mike Bracken
Mike Bracken
Liam Maxwell
Martha Lane Fox

If there's a tricky job facing the Government Digital Service (GDS), we were saying, or indeed an impossible job, what do they do? Call for Janet Hughes. Let's take a look at her in action, on film on 24 March 2015, Introducing GOV.UK Verify (RIP).

Ms Hughes's film is 8'05" long. Between about 5'55" and 6'13" we see these three screens:

First Verizon ask you to confirm your bank account details ...
... then Verizon ask you to confirm your gas supplier ...
... and finally Verizon ask you to confirm some electoral roll information.
In each case, the Verizon screen says:
Your answers help verify you are undefined undefined.
This is nonsense. It's not Janet Hughes's fault. It's Verizon's. That's the best they could come up with. Their lamentable inattention to detail is supposed somehow to inspire confidence in 60 million Brits – come to Verizon, the people you can trust with your personal information.

The illusion of choice 1
On each screen, Verizon tell us that:
This information is from your credit record.
Strange. Verizon is not a UK credit referencing company. How do they know anything about your credit record? Verizon must have got the information from Experian or one of the other UK credit referencing agencies.

What's the point of having Verizon there if the real registration work is being done by Experian or whoever? None.

It gives the illusion of choice. You could choose Verizon as your so-called "identity provider" or Digidentity or Experian. That looks like a choice but it's an illusion. Whichever company you choose, it's really Experian doing the work because it's Experian that has the information, not the US Verizon or the Dutch Digidentity.

Consent 1
Who gave Experian or whoever permission to give that information to Verizon? Arguably you did. It's probably in the fine print of the terms and conditions behind one of the earlier screens in Ms Hughes's presentation. But that is not made clear. I.e. it's not informed consent.

Consent 2
Nor is it willing consent. If you want to renew your driving licence, which is the scenario in Ms Hughes's presentation, you have to use GOV.UK Verify (RIP). Your choice is either get yourself an on-line ID or stop driving. No real choice.

Is that true? You may say "no". Once at about 2'45" and once at about 6'45" Ms Hughes says that nobody will be excluded if they can't register through GOV.UK Verify (RIP). There will be other ways for them to renew their driving licence.

What other ways?

Ask the farmers who are trying to claim their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). Many of them have a problem registering. The proferred solution is "assisted digital" – get someone else to help them register.

One way and another, the farmers have to register through GOV.UK Verify (RIP), whether they do it themselves or with the help of an agent. If they don't register, they don't get paid. Simples.

Even though GDS's failed Basic Payment Scheme has been discontinued and farmers are now using paper instead, they still have to get themselves a GOV.UK Verify (RIP) account first. Otherwise, no money.

We know that. The National Farmers Union have told us, on 20 March 2015:
RPA abandons online-only BPS application system

Apart from registering, farmers will not be asked to enter any further data online now ...

Farmers still need to register using the online Rural Payments service to begin the process of making their claim. So far over 80% of farmer businesses have successfully done this. It remains the only way that farmers and their agents can register to make a claim.
GDS are serious about GOV.UK Verify (RIP). They intend it to be mandatory. Don't come away from Ms Hughes's cuddly presentation thinking that it's optional and that it'll never affect you.

If GDS have their way, either your answers will help verify you are undefined undefined or you won't be able to renew your driving licence, it's one or the other. And if you're a farmer, you won't be able to drive legally and you won't be able to farm either.

The illusion of choice 2
Even GDS realise that not everyone can jump through GOV.UK Verify (RIP)'s hoops just at the moment. Success relies on having a credit history. And a passport. And a driving licence. And a telephone number. Not everyone has.

GDS need other ways to verify people's identity. That's why additional "identity providers" are being recruited. GDS can't rely on Experian alone.

That's what Ms Hughes tells us in her presentation. Twice. Once at about 1'15" and once at about 6'00". But it's not true.

It's another illusion. What do we see? We see Verizon relying on credit history. They bring no new information with them to verify your identity. We have noted a GDS propensity to flout their own rules against misleading and deceiving people. This looks prima facie like another instance.

GDS may have a strategy to increase choice but they can't carry it out. RIP IDA.

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