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Pitchforks at dawn! UK gov's Verify ID service fail to verify ID

Enraged farmers rip 'complicated' Experian tech to shreds

The UK government has been forced to defend its gaffe-ridden Identity Assurance scheme, dubbed "Verify", after a public beta version it released failed to work for some farmers who tried to register for a service using the new system.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has been testing the tech provided by credit agency Experian, confessed that the system was suffering from supposed teething problems.

A select number of farmers were among the first guinea pigs for Verify when registering for Defra's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) information service.

But gripes about the system are already stacking up, after Verify replaced the Government Gateway login service for CAP on 17 October.

"This couldn't be more complicated if you tried we are farmers not computer experts," moaned Davina Emmett in the comment section of the CAP reform blog post that announced the introduction of the new tech.

While frustrated farmer, Simon Caudwell, complained:

Unable to register with Experian. Been through the whole process twice now and talked to Experian help line on both occasions but they are still unable to make it work. Latest advice is to leave it until next week and try again!

"I was also unable to register as the Experian identity verification process couldn't be completed. They seem to think I have credit card numbers which I do not have. I have discussed this on the phone with them and have been unable to resolve this," added farmer WJ Wilcocks.

"I look forward to receiving details of alternative ways to access the CAP information service."

Others whined about the system being too "excessive" about the amount of details needed to provide proof of identity.

"[T]he farmers using this service are not computer whizz kids, (not being rude) and it seems that there has been little thought as to how they would find using this service," argued E Davey.

By Thursday, Defra's Emily Ball, who had been fielding the complaints, was claiming that the new system "will make managing an application simple and effective without the need to fill in paper forms."

She said:

We have been gradually inviting customers to try the beta version – this is a first version of a new service designed to be easier to use than the services they replace. During the beta phase we are gathering feedback from customers and data to make further improvements – it is not a finished product.

The service will keep changing and improving as we introduce new parts and amend others based on customers’ comments. Once we are satisfied this feedback has been addressed we will continue to increase the number of customers invited to register.

Experian remains the only certified company providing GOV.UK's Verify system, she noted and added that more ID outfits would "come online in the near future."

Ball said:

The security questions asked by certified companies are all based on information they already hold about you and they are just asking you to confirm these details are right, so they know it is you sitting at the computer. In answering the questions customers are not providing the companies with new information about themselves.

The questions are varied and detailed in order to meet modern security standards suitable for the levels of financial transaction involved in making payments under CAP schemes.

Whitehall is hoping to shift all government departments over to the Verify scheme by March 2016.

Good luck with that!

Meanwhile, those in doubt that the government isn't introducing an ID card sans the card, might want to pay close attention to this comment about Verify made by cabinet minister Francis Maude earlier this week:

It will allow government – and eventually private sector services too – to trust that a user is who they say they are.


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