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The collapse of GOV.UK Verify: serious questions on the validity of national ID systems

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TrustCloud | The collapse of GOV.UK Verify: Serious questions on the validity of national ID systems

After struggling with a variety of issues from the outset, the UK government’s identity verification platform, Verify, launched in 2016, was shut down for good in April 2023. 


he system faced criticism even before its launch. Already back in 2015, a paper signed by academics at University College London pointed out that Verify had serious privacy and security problems, including a major flaw in its architecture that could lead to “mass surveillance.” After several delays, however, the project moved forward. 

Citizen identity verification as a gateway to multiple services 

Verify was designed to simplify and secure citizen access to a variety of online government services, eliminating the need for multiple credentials and providing a unified, officially supported method of digital identification.   

By registering on the platform and completing the identity verification process, users could perform a variety of actions, including filing taxes, applying for welfare and social assistance programs, health services such as managing medical appointments or accessing records, traffic or education and employment-related paperwork (scholarships, grants, etc.). 

Difficulties in managing digital identities that led to failure 

The failure of the GOV.UK Verify platform cannot be attributed to a single factor, but to several interrelated issues.   

  • Low adoption. In its mere 7-year history, only 27 public services adopted Verify. According to official sources, this is less than half of what was expected. Moreover, the platform at its peak reached just under 10 million individual accounts, versus the 25 million potential users.  
  • Technical issues. The presence of technical and design problems posed privacy risks and undermined overall confidence in the security of the project.  
  • Competition. Certain government departments developed their own identity verification systems internally, weakening Verify’s impact as a centralized authentication standard. The platform offered no user incentives or added value to these other projects.  
  • Cost. Verify cost the UK public wallets over £200 million. Such a disproportion between the volume of expenditure and the results convinced the authorities to cancel the project and look for alternatives.  
  • Complexity. The initial forecast for the percentage of successful verifications was around 90%. The reality was quite different when the platform faced an abandonment rate of 52%, largely due to users’ difficulties in understanding the registration.   

Contact our digital ID experts and learn how TrustCloud’s advanced video verification can help correct abandonment rates in your company.  

Lessons and alternatives for secure citizen identification 

The story of the GOV.UK Verify failure offers several readings. First, it is obvious that without a direct and transparent communication campaign it is difficult for citizens to understand the benefits of such a complex project. Moreover, if there are doubts about key factors such as the effectiveness and security of the platform, the project is doomed to failure. This is why it is so necessary to insist on clear communication and informed consent for the processing of personal data.  

The need for flexibility and adaptability in government projects is evident in the case of GOV.UK Verify. Its inability to adapt to changing conditions and modify its approach contributed to its disarmament.  

The closure of GOV.UK Verify prompted the search for alternatives, such as One Login. The first steps to implement this new centralized identity verification system took place in 2021. 

The Government Digital Service (GDS) launched One Login for Government (or simply One Login) as part of a strategy to unify the more than 190 forms of identity authentication used to access public services in the UK. 

The goal is clear: to simplify processes and provide a more integrated and personalized online experience for citizens when interacting with central government departments and agencies. One Login’s aim is for users to share their information only once to prove their identity.   

Aside from making online services more user-friendly and extending the digital reach of government services, One Login also offers benefits such as resource optimization and control of fraudulent activities 

Currently, several key government departments fully support the One Login platform. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), an agency that conducts background checks and discloses criminal convictions, was the first to test a beta version of One Login in April 2022, followed by the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC, the UK tax authority, which launched a program to migrate users from its old platform to the new digital ID system. 

Since April 2023, citizens can already use One Login for government services, which are being progressively expanded. Some of these services include claiming compensation after legal proceedings, signing mortgages and rental contracts or applying for driver’s licenses 

One Login aims to make the leap to efficient and secure digital identity management, as well as rectify the mistakes of the failed Verify project. Whether this new option succeeds remains to be seen. 

The failure of national identity systems often reflects a critical misalignment between implementation and the needs of the average citizen. To be successful, these systems must be educational, understand the needs and concerns of the population, be transparent, and above all, be straightforward. Bureaucratic complexity, lack of education on proper use, fragmentation and lack of clarity in data management, contribute to distrust and resistance to adoption. The key lies in designing systems that not only meet technical and regulatory requirements, but also align with the experience and demands of respect and privacy for sensitive citizen information, thus fostering the acceptance and trust necessary for long-term success.  

Click here and find out how TrustCloud’s secure verification avoids financial losses and optimizes your company’s resources.  

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