Thursday 16 April 2015

RIP IDA – what they omitted from the obituary

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

Let's take a look at Janet Hughes and Stephen Dunn's 26 March 2015 offering, GOV.UK Verify (RIP): objectives while still technically just about alive, or whatever it's called.

Like a lot of the best obituary-writing, it's what's not said that is telling.

They open with a modest amount of flannel. GOV.UK Verify (RIP) was meant one day to be the default way for people to demonstrate to public services that they are who they say they are, we are told. And then:
  • Under the heading What 'live' means for GOV.UK Verify the obituarists tell us what 'public beta' means for GOV.UK Verify.
  • And under We've made a lot of progress in our public beta, they fail to mention that the service was meant to be "fully operational" by March 2013.
  • Six of the 10 services to which GOV.UK Verify is connected are as invisible to the public as dark matter.
  • Of the remaining four services, one of them, the Basic Payment Scheme operated by the Rural Payment Agency, has had to be all too visibly disconnected – farmers have gone back to using paper.
  • Meanwhile, the Government Digital Service is promoting its apply-to-register-to-vote system, to which GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is mysteriously not connected.
Getting down to business, Ms Hughes and Mr Dunn put up the Post-it® notes that will guide GOV.UK Verify (RIP) along the path to mass consumer deployment, Objectives for live:
  1. Readiness for services to adopt GOV.UK Verify
  2. Demographic coverage: 90% for services using GOV.UK Verify by April 2016
  3. Success rate: 90%
  4. Everyone can use GOV.UK Verify to access services
  5. A range of high quality certified companies for people to choose from
  6. The product and service are scaled, resilient and operationally ready for live
There's something missing, isn't there.

Where's the nationwide information campaign?

Normal people have never heard of GOV.UK Verify (RIP). GDS want the system to be live in a year's time, by April 2016. Some time soon GDS are going to have to tell 60 million people what GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is. And how it works. And why they should use it.

The media feed us a daily diet of cybercrime. Everyone knows that it exists. The impression is that there is no defence, even for experts in security. That is the background against which GDS have to create trust or confidence in GOV.UK Verify (RIP). It won't be simple. It may be impossible.

60 million people are going to have some questions. Like who will compensate them if they are defrauded as a result of the operation of GOV.UK Verify (RIP). And GDS are finally going to have to answer. They are going to have to be transparent, or open. They need a No.7 Post-it® note.

Without that information campaign, the Objectives for live look like a fine example of what GDS claim to find abhorrent, The Post-it® notes amount to six ways to make life easier for officials and for their chosen suppliers, while we, the users, can just like it or lump it.

Post-it® note ##2 and 3 call for more personal information to be made available to GOV.UK Verify (RIP).

At the moment, the system relies on our credit records. When you try to register with GOV.UK Verify (RIP) you have to answer questions based on what Experian knows about you. Experian is a credit referencing agency and it is one of GDS's three "identity providers".

Apparently that's not enough. It doesn't achieve the 90% success rate for 90% of the population that GDS hope for. They need more data. More than "just" your credit record.

More data such as what? Medical data? Education data? Travel data? Energy usage data? Mobile phone data? Insurance policy data?

Will 60 million people give their informed and voluntary consent to share all this personal data of theirs? Who knows? GDS have to convince people that the rewards outweigh the risks. Good luck with that.

GDS have appointed nine "identity providers":
  • Including Digidentity. Who? A Dutch company. What data do they bring to the party to help to achieve 90% coverage for GOV.UK Verify (RIP) in the UK?
  • And GB Group. Who?
  • And Morpho, a French company with a claimed expertise in biometrics. Are GDS going to ask us all to record our fingerprints? That's the interesting sort of topic that an information campaign might tackle.
  • And Verizon. Who? A US mobile phone operator. How do they extend the type of information available to register people in the UK?
Post-it® note #5 tells us that: "Having more certified companies [what GDS used to call "identity providers"] will offer people more choice". In what way more choice? You can choose between three overseas companies who know nothing about you and that's more choice than being restricted to choosing between only two overseas companies who know nothing about you – try putting that on a poster.

Post-it® note #4 tackles the problem of people who can't or won't use digital public services. Ms Hughes and Mr Dunn say: "We've recently started looking at how we can help services allow people to complete at least some of their task in the digital channel rather than having to resort to offline methods".



GDS decided years ago that all public services should be digital by default. Anyone who can't or won't use digital public services is consequently excluded by default.

You can't have that in a liberal democracy. Public services are for everyone.

So, also years ago, on or before 28 July 2011, GDS dreamt up what they called the "assisted digital" programme to help these wretched non-digital members of the public. We have commented on this matter before, please see GDS & assisted digital – the project that keeps on starting. That was on 29 October 2013 and clearly assisted digital still hasn't made any progress. There's only a year left now ...

... and an awful lot to cover in the unmentioned information campaign for GOV.UK Verify (RIP).

You see? Obituaries? It's the bits they leave out.

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