HM Land Registry: ‘Cryptographic and biometric identity checks may be the solution for conveyancers when verifying an applicant’s Identity’

“The current processes in conveyancing do not feel very 21st century and they have proved difficult to maintain in the current crisis. So what can we do about it?”

Posted 4 June 2020 by Gary Flood

“We believe that cryptographic and biometric checking of Identity, using microchip-enabled passports or identity cards, might present a new, robust and convenient answer to the need to maintain social distancing while verifying an applicant’s Identity.”

‘Mor Tor & The Ridge, Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, England’ by westport 1946 on Flickr

Quite a firm commitment to ID, then – and from no less a figure than Mike Harlow, HM Land Registry‘s General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar, Mike Harlow.

Actually, it’s even bigger than that – as we’re talking about not just his public sector entity, but three other major stakeholders in the British property market: The Law Society, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEx).

In a new blog of the HM Land Registry part of GOV.UK, Harlow outlines the partners’ response to what he describes as ‘the Digital Identity challenge‘.

Why ‘challenge’? In Harlow’s own words, “The current processes in conveyancing do not feel very 21st century and they have proved difficult to maintain in the current crisis. So what can we do about it?” There is also the on-going issue of the novel coronavirus and all the pressure it’s bringing, too.

The answer, we learn: “The current crisis has highlighted the immediate need for an easy-to-use, modestly-priced, remote and digitally secure way for conveyancers to securely identify the buyers and sellers of a property.”

“Using cryptographic combined with biometric identity solutions presents a potential simple solution,” he states.

When using these technologies, the user places their smartphone next to their passport. The app then analyses the information from the passport chip to cryptographically check the validity of the passport. The user then records a video, which is then compared with the passport photo on the chip to achieve facial recognition. This can be done using a smartphone (Android and iPhones included), wherever they are, and the results are near immediate.

The four like this approach – and even more that it’s been so successful in the EUSS scheme we recently wrote about as a very, very rare UK IT Government project success.

To make that start happening, HM Land Registry is promising to hold a virtual event to explore how we can help IDPS (Identity Solution Providers) develop an accessible ID service for conveyancers.

“We would encourage potential suppliers of this technology to consider how they might meet the needs of the property market, so that conveyancers might use these cryptographic combined with biometric checks now and in the future. We encourage any providers interested in joining us for the virtual event to add your details to the sign-up form.”

So, ID tech providers; time to pitch in!