Verizon, Experian and pals bag £25m to inspect Brits' identities for UK gov

And yet, no sign of PayPal


The first private companies to win UK government contracts to verify Brits' identities online have been named. And PayPal is absent from the list despite being in the running for a slice of the £25m pot of public cash.

Credit agency Experian, the Post Office, Brit upstart Mydex, Verizon and crypto biz Digidentity have now inked deals to deliver the first "live services", the Cabinet Office's Government Digital Service team said in a blog post this morning.

The firms promise to provide a way for citizens to securely prove who they are when logging into government websites. The GDS explained:

The identity assurance service will enable people to assert their identity online safely and securely, and allow government to be confident that users of online services are who they say they are.

We are pleased that these suppliers have chosen to invest in this phase of the programme and work with government to create this new market. We will now be working closely with those that have signed, who represent the range of types of providers needed to make online identity provision a success.

eBay-owned PayPal was in the running for a contract, but for now will not deploy its tech. Two other suppliers, Ingeus and Cassidian, did not bid for contracts after initially showing an interest.

The Register asked the Cabinet Office to comment on the absence of the aforementioned trio. A spokesman said: "We can’t speak for these suppliers, but they have decided not to participate for the time being. This doesn’t mean that they will not participate in the future."

As for the identity assurance (IDa) system, El Reg understands that the first trial of the tech will be used by company car drivers and employers filling in P11D staff expenses forms for HMRC.

In recent months, it has become clear that the Department for Work and Pensions' crisis-hit Universal Credit system would not be the first to use the ID assurance service as was originally planned.

Instead the five providers who have bagged the contracts will be involved in the first prototype, which is expected this autumn. It's expected to test how company car users will be able to choose between the suppliers within the IDa system.

It's less clear at this stage if additional government services will be authenticated in the same trial.

It's a much simpler test for a specific kind of user, which should mean that the authentication process is completed quite quickly. But it also points to another failure for Universal Credit: our source said that the DWP's one-dole-system-to-rule-them-all was unlikely to be in the initial wave of ID services that go online. Whitehall, when questioned, agreed.

The Cabinet Office told El Reg late last month:

IDa is not participating in the Pathfinder phase, but Universal Credit remains part of the future delivery plans for the cross-government IDa Service in development at the Cabinet Office.

It also confirmed to us that the IDa framework would currently use existing data protection law.

We are pleased to have developed an IDa solution that can be implemented without new legislation. Both the IDa Programme and our Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group will regularly assess whether future legislation is required as the service iterates and scales.

In the meantime, the IDa Programme will work with end users, government colleagues and industry partners to deliver IDA within the framework of existing legislation.

The original tender document, dated March last year, called for 44 ID providers to bid for government contracts. It said that the system would be "fully operational" from spring 2013. ®

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