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UK Government Urged to Look at Blockchain Tech for Identity Services

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM
Rebecca Campbell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM

Blockchain technology could be used to improve the U.K. government’s efforts to provide citizens greater control over how their information is shared with public services, says the Reform think tank.

A report by Reform, The Future of Public Service Identity: Blockchain [PDF], states that the government requires a new approach, adding that it should be:

One which is secure, efficient and puts the individual at the centre of identity management. Blockchain offers this.

Reform say that the government has already attempted to improve identity management through GOV.UK Verify, which is a scheme where an individual chooses one authorised company to verify their identity to access public services. However, Reform claim that there are limits to this approach, one of which is that control of personal data still sits with the government.

The report adds:

Uptake of Verify has been slow and departments such as HMRC continue to use their own identity model. This is because Verify provides limited information for certain transactions – meaning that departments need to request and check additional data.

The use of the distributed ledger, though, would be an improvement as it would mean that ‘control of public service identity can be moved from government to the individual.’ The addition of the blockchain could be built across several departments, acting as a thin layer on top of current databases, Reform writes.

This layer would enable citizens to view their data, via an identity app on their smartphone, and grant government access to it.

The use of biometrics to add another layer of security and improve efficiency would also be put into place. Reform cites Estonia’s measures to use the blockchain for identity management, enabling control to be handed back to the citizen. The report states:

Citizens have a unique identifier, akin to an NHS number, allowing them to access their health records and review requests by third parties to access their data, meaning that their privacy is ensured.

Through this method security is maintained and is safer than centralised databases, Reform adds. Not only that, but its heightened security means that hacking it would be impossible, thus reducing the risk of identity fraud.

For this to take place, however, Reform state that it requires a ‘radical shift in the role of government,’ as it would move from providing data storage to verifying identity. Yet, by doing so, it means that a person is back in control of their identity and who they share it with.

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