Editorial

UK Government: ID cards off the table

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman says UK is committed to “a cross-government identity system” without ID cards

Posted 26 October 2020 by

ID cards will not be mandatory under government plans to push digital identity in the UK, according to a report in The Times.

The government last month announced plans to update existing laws to enable digital identity to be used as widely as possible.

However, The Times highlights comments made by digital infrastructure minister, Matt Warman, in a report published today where he says that neither physical nor “digital cards” will be required.

In the Policy Exchange think tank report on the future of digital identity, Mr Warman writes: “This government is committed to increasing online security, delivering personalised services, increasing productivity and boosting the economy. It is committed to developing a cross-government identity system focused on user need. It is also committed to doing this without the need for ID cards.”

He added that the government was “working at pace to realise this ambitious vision and continue to collaborate with industry and civil society groups to develop the next phase of the digital identity economy.”

No biometric ID cards

The report notes that the UK differs from many European countries because it lacks a Government-mandated and centrally supported biometric ID card. These often provide the basis of national digital ID schemes and can be used by citizens to access online services provided by both the public and the private sectors.

“The UK Government has a long-standing political commitment not to introduce biometric identity cards or establish a central database of citizen attributes, following the repeal of the Identity Card Act in 2011 (a decision taken in part on grounds of civil liberties),” it says.

It adds that the report does not call for mandatory biometric ID cards supported by a centralised register of UK citizen attributes. Instead, it explores how to improve identity verification in the public and private sector.

The Times points out that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, is understood to be working on multiple projects related to the state’s use of data. He described the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation as “a legal and bureaucratic nightmare” in a blog post in 2018.