Gov denies Verify could be used to spy on you

GDS issues rebuttal to paper claiming identity assurance scheme degrades your privacy

Government

The government has denied its new identity assurance service, Gov.uk Verify, could lead to mass surveillance of citizens, following claims made by a group of academics.

Verify reduces the privacy of citizens due to technical flaws in the system's architecture, wrote the three authors of a paper titled Toward Mending Two Nation-Scale Brokered Identification Systems.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) designed Verify as a way for people to prove they are who they say they are when using government services online, and HMRC is already using it with allegedly mixed success.

Verify relies on a central hub to mediate interactions between the departments providing a service, companies performing the identity checks and the citizens using Verify.

Users of Verify are passed to identity authentication providers, who ask questions and use official documentation to confirm citizens' IDs, the idea being to limit the amount of information the government or the providers have on people.

But the authors of the research, Lus Brando, Nicolas Christin, and George Danezis warned too much trust has been placed in the hub, through which all the information travels, as it has the power to read encrypted information coming from identity checks and users themselves.

"The excessive trust placed on the hub could be notably used to support undetected mass surveillance," the report read.

"Leaving the hub outside of the scope of privacy and security goals triggers serious problems. As currently inferred, [Gov.uk Verify] may actually degrade the privacy of citizens."

However, the GDS published a blog post this morning denying Verify could be used to spy on people.

It read: "Gov.uk Verify does not allow for mass surveillance. It does not have any other connection with or ability to monitor people or their data.

"Only minimal data passes through the Gov.uk Verify hub. The person's name, address and date of birth [and gender] is sent through the hub to a government department the person is trying to access.

"No data about the person's interactions or activities within certified companies or government departments passes through the hub."

But the GDS did say the report's findings added to the pool of knowledge around digital identity assurance issues, and has welcomed Danezis as a member of the government's privacy and consumer advisory group.

Verify's use by HMRC came under scrutiny this month after thousands were understood to have missed out on a marriage tax break because they were asked to provide documents many people did not actually have.

In response, HMRC is introducing an alternative process for those who have been unable to use Verify to apply for the tax break.

Featured Resources

Become a digital service provider

How to transform your business from network core to edge

Download now

Optimal business results with the cloud

Evaluating the best approaches to hybrid cloud adoption

Download now

Virtualisation that enables choices, not compromises

Harness the virtualisation technology that's right for your hybrid infrastructure

Download now

Email security threat report 2020

Four key trends from spear fishing to credentials theft

Download now

Recommended

Hackers using COVID vaccine as a lure to spread malware
hacking

Hackers using COVID vaccine as a lure to spread malware

15 Jan 2021
Cyber criminals bypassing MFA to access cloud service accounts
two-factor authentication (2FA)

Cyber criminals bypassing MFA to access cloud service accounts

14 Jan 2021
Capcom data breach adds another 40,000 estimated victims
data breaches

Capcom data breach adds another 40,000 estimated victims

13 Jan 2021
United Nations suffers potential data breach
data breaches

United Nations suffers potential data breach

11 Jan 2021

Most Popular

How to recover deleted emails in Gmail
email delivery

How to recover deleted emails in Gmail

6 Jan 2021
The fate of Parler exposes the reality of deregulated social media
Policy & legislation

The fate of Parler exposes the reality of deregulated social media

14 Jan 2021
Should IT departments to call time on WhatsApp?
communications

Should IT departments to call time on WhatsApp?

15 Jan 2021