The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) recently published a proposal for future work on the topic of digital identity.
UNCITRAL brings together governments, academics, lawyers and industry bodies to develop legal instruments that support international trade. Given the range of countries and experts involved, UNCITRAL’s work on identity is a good forum to discuss how national approaches to identity assurance can interact with each other, consider how to support the development of an international market for identity services, and spot opportunities to make government services better for users by learning from other countries.
We are going to be following the group’s work over the coming year. We’ll use the opportunity to keep up to date with what other countries and the UN are thinking about in relation to identity at an international scale, and to share how the UK has approached identity assurance.
UNICTRAL’s work on identity is in early stages of discussion. One possible outcome would be a convention - that’s a type of international agreement that countries can choose whether or not to participate in.
UNCITRAL’s work could be an important tool for establishing mutual recognition of different national identity systems across international borders. In the EU, the eIDAS regulation has set the technical specifications and legal requirements so that identities issued in one country can be trusted when they are used for online services based in other countries.
Being able to prove your identity using digital identity assurance opens up possibilities for transactions to take place online that could only previously happen face to face. That will affect on online transactions of all kinds, in international trade, health, justice and many other sectors. The fact that a group like UNCITRAL is considering identity as a subject for future work reflects the numerous potential use cases for digital identity assurance services in the public and private sectors, and that the market for identity assurance is international, both in terms of the companies providing it and the people using it.
Over the next year, UNCITRAL’s working group on e-commerce will be exploring the topic of identity to develop a clearer picture of what a convention on identity might look like. We'll blog again when the UNCITRAL Commission has thought more about the scope for this work.
If you are interested in UNCITRAL’s work and would like to know more, see their website where many resources are publicly available.