A national secure digital ID for every Brit in the UK?

The legislation will be in place to enhance trust in digital identities and reduce reliance on traditional physical documents such as passports, driving licenses.
14 March 2022


  • An interim body called the Office for Digital Identities and Attribute (ODIA) will be established to govern use of a digital ID for private UK citizens
  • Digital identities will not replace physical documentation, and there will be no obligation to create a digital ID in the UK
  • The digital ID will be accessible via mobile apps and websites

In July 2021, the UK published its digital ID and attributes consultation as a roadmap to seek public opinion and feedback regarding the government’s proposal to encourage the use of secure and trusted digital ID products in the country. Nearly 20 months later, the UK government now has plans to introduce legislation to improve the security of digital identities.

Although the UK has been lagging behind other countries when it comes to introducing a national, digital means to ID individuals, the progress announced comes at an opportune time, with citizens becoming more comfortable accessing services digitally in the wake of the pandemic. In fact recent research by Okta and Statista indicates that over three-quarters (76%) of Brits said they would be comfortable having some of their data incorporated into a digital ID.

In a statement last week, the British government said it intends to bring forward the necessary legislation when parliamentary time allows for it. The legislation would allow for the establishment of a robust and secure accreditation, certification process, and a new trustmark. “So organizations can clearly prove they are meeting the highest security and privacy standards needed to use digital identities,” the statement reads. 

Additionally, the proposed legislation would create a legal gateway to allow trusted organizations to carry out verification checks against official data held by public bodies to help validate a person’s identity. It would also confirm the legal validity of digital forms of identification is equal to physical forms of identification, such as physical passports.

Resonating the privacy concern, Okta’s CSO for EMEA Ben King in a statement said that “Governments and organizations have a key role to play in demonstrating the privacy and safety of these kinds of initiatives in order to win over the public. Trust is key here. If one data mishap were to occur, public trust would be lost, and the whole system could come crumbling down.” 

The UK government is also committed to “ensuring digital identities are not compulsory and people will still be able to use available paper documentation”. Data Minister Julia Lopez noted that the government is committed to unlocking the power of data to benefit people across the UK. “The legislation we’re proposing will ensure that there are trusted and secure ways for people and organizations to use digital identities, should they choose to.”

The response to public consultation on digital ID

Besides legislation, a new Office for Digital Identities and Attributes (ODIA) will also be set up in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as an interim governing body for digital identities. The DCMS emphasized that digital identities will not replace physical documents, but can be used if anyone wants to.

To put it simply, there will be no obligation to create a digital identity in the UK. The ODIA will also have the power to issue an easily recognized trustmark to certified digital identity organizations, to prove they meet the security and privacy standards needed to handle people’s data in a safe and consistent way.

Additionally, the UK government noted that digital ID solutions can be accessed in a number of ways such as via a phone app or website, and can be used in-person or online to verify a person’s identity. “It will be for people and businesses to decide what digital identity technology works for them to prove their identity, should they choose to create a digital identity at all,” the statement reads.

Overall, the UK officials reckon that embracing digital ID can also help tackle fraud by reducing the amount of personal data shared online and making it harder for fraudsters to obtain and use stolen identities. An estimated 5 million cases of fraud was recorded in the year ending September 2021.