Post Office embraces biometrics for new digital identity app

Customers can be identified for passport and driving licence renewals from the safety of their homes

The Post Office has announced plans to launch a free-to-use app that will use biometrics to authenticate customers and prevent fraud.

The new app will be based on software supplied by London-based company Yoti, which launched in 2014 and specialises in digital identity technology. It will take advantage of biometric-face matching and liveness detection in order to ensure the privacy of Post Office customers and prevent potential imposters from obtaining sensitive information.

The app could help to ensure social distancing by enabling customers to be identified for passport and driving licence renewals from the safety of their homes, without the need to attend a post office in-person.

Set to launch in the spring, the app will also enable customers to use their digital identity to carry out a range of online and in-person transactions such as one-click bank account applications, job applications, mortgage applications, picking up parcels and for travel purposes.

Along with this will be new in-branch services for customers who do not have access to a smartphone, or who prefer face-to-face contact when asked to confirm their identity.

As part of this partnership with Yoti in July, a pilot, initially at around 750 Post Offices, will offer these new in-branch services. This will enable those people without a smartphone, secure internet access, or photo ID to complete their identity verification at a Post Office. Those who simply prefer face-to-face transactions will also be able to have their identity verified by a Postmaster in-branch.

Post Office chief executive Nick Read said that he is “delighted that Post Office and Yoti are joining forces” in order to expand the former’s identity services.

“We have an ambitious strategy to deliver a unique offer to the market that integrates digital and physical identity verification at scale benefitting both individuals and businesses,” he added.

“Post Office is embracing new technologies and this partnership will enhance our reputation as the trusted go-to destination for identity solutions. Whether it’s proving your identity on a smartphone or face-to-face with a Postmaster, we will make transactions faster and simpler than ever before.”

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Yoti CEO Robin Tombs said that the company had “already invested over £85m creating a world-leading ID platform that removes the friction from outdated ID processes, puts individuals in control of their identity, preserves privacy and helps reduce identity fraud”. 

“Together with the Post Office, we will help drive the UK’s digital transformation, making life simpler and safer for individuals and businesses online, in-branch and on the high street,” he added.

Commenting on the partnership, Cabinet office minister Julia Lopez said that “products that help digitally to verify a person’s identity are becoming increasingly important as more areas of our work and home lives move online”. 

“Creating a common trust framework will give greater clarity and certainty to organisations who want to work in this field about what is expected of them. More importantly, however, it will help to deepen users’ trust and confidence in digital identities and the standards we expect in the safeguarding of their personal data and privacy.”

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