The Cabinet Office has confirmed that social networks including Twitter and Facebook could be used to access some government services.
The government’s “ID Assurance” scheme, which could be used to access benefits and other state services, is set to include social networks, a Cabinet Office spokesman has confirmed.
Sources close to the project, however, said that only “appropriate” services would be useable with the relatively low-security provision for identity verification that social networks provide. That could mean, for instance, that financial transactions would be possible with a bank-based identity system, but only commenting on web pages would be available via social network logins. “Nobody wants a system that increases fraud or threatens privacy”, said the source.
ID Assurance is the Government’s proposed scheme that will allow online transactions involving the state to be independently verified as legitimate.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told The Register that "a range of industry" providers would be involved in the ID assurance scheme, for which a prototype is expected in October this year, adding “social networks could possibly be involved with the system".
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told Parliament in May that "people will be able to use the service of their choice to prove identity when accessing any public services [via the internet]." Unlike the previous government’s ID card plan, the new system will not hold data itself, instead utilising a number of suppliers including banks and credit agencies.
The Government has already informed privacy campaigners such as the pressure group NO2ID about the scheme, in an attempt to avoid the civil liberties outcry that ultimately destroyed ID cards.
But Guy Herbert, NO2ID’s general secretary warned last month that “the devil will be in the details and especially the legal details” of the new scheme. He said the Cabinet Office had not yet offered details despite its tight schedule.
“It’s not a bad thing in itself to check that the person you are talking to is the person you want to talk to,” Mr Herbert said. “But whatever the good intentions at the outset, the fear will always be that the bureaucratic imperative to collect and share more data about the public will take over.”
The Cabinet Office told The Register that "There's no more data held than we already have”, however.
Initially, the scheme is set for use with the projects including the Department for Work and Pension’s universal credits, NHS HealthSpace, HMRC’s one click programmes and the Skills Funding Agency.