Fresh out of ideas on how to crack the problem of digital identity, the UK government has put out a consultation asking what the hell it should do next.
The Cabinet Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's Call for Evidence paper [PDF] follows the revelation by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority that the current online identity system, Verify, is undeliverable.
Next year Verify is due to be palmed off moved to the private sector. Some £154m had been spent on developing Verify to date.
The department hopes the proposals will make "the process of identity checking online easier and more secure for people and businesses".
The document's introduction notes that despite "all the technological innovation of recent years, proving our identity or something about ourselves often remains difficult, time-consuming and repetitive".
No doubt the team behind Verify would agree: currently only half of people attempting to use it can, with just 4.6 million accounts so far created – well below the anticipated 25 million by 2020.
The document acknowledged there are a number of competing identity services used in government, including GOV.UK Verify, Government Gateway and NHS Login.
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It said the government is interested in evidence on how to meet demand for access "to check the validity of documents or attributes, while ensuring that this is only done with citizens' active consent and control (noting there will be exceptions where required by law)".
In addition to the call for evidence, a small pilot scheme will be launched using passport data for people applying for things like credit cards. It will begin with companies who currently provide digital identity services to government.
Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said: "These new proposals could make it easier for people to prove their identity without compromising their personal information and for businesses to conduct checks in a safe and secure way.
"This will help make sure more and more people benefit from the huge potential of technology and can use it to shop, bank and access Government services.
"Individuals applying to access selected services online could have their identity verified this way if they choose to. The scheme will then be opened up to a small cohort of additional private sector companies for use across a range of services."
The document stressed that the government is committed to enabling a digital identity system fit for the UK's growing digital economy "without the need for identity cards".