https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/2016/03/14/making-gov-uk-verify-the-default-way-to-access-digital-services/

Making GOV.UK Verify the default way to access digital services

Point 14 of the Digital by Default Service Standard says “Encourage all users to use the digital service (with assisted digital support if required), alongside an appropriate plan to phase out non-digital channels/services.”

This post describes how we’re working to make GOV.UK Verify - which is an entirely digital way to prove who you are - the default way to prove your identity online when accessing government services. That means that any digital service that needs to know who you are will be accessible through GOV.UK Verify.

GOV.UK Verify is for everyone - we have about 50 services in our pipeline preparing to adopt it. As services adopt GOV.UK Verify over time they will be able to phase out other ways of verifying people’s identity (mostly these are manual checking processes, like asking people to send identity evidence in the post or show it in person at a counter service.)

Because GOV.UK Verify forms part of many services, each with their own characteristics and groups of users, rather than being a service in its own right, we look at this question from the perspective of users trying to access services through GOV.UK Verify, rather than from the perspective of all users of GOV.UK Verify.

Our responsibilities in that context are:

  • to make GOV.UK Verify work for as many people as possible
  • to make GOV.UK verify work as straightforwardly as possible for people
  • to help departments implement GOV.UK Verify in ways that are likely to work well for users
  • to help departments design effective assisted digital support for the GOV.UK Verify elements of their services

To do this, we draw together GOV.UK Verify performance data with our findings from user research and feedback from users, and work directly with each service planning to use GOV.UK Verify, to build a rich picture of how GOV.UK Verify is working, where it could be improved, and what support might be required for users of each service.

Each service is responsible for designing and providing assisted digital support for those who are not able to use online services independently. That includes the GOV.UK Verify element of each service. However, we’re here to help services understand user needs in relation to GOV.UK Verify and design assisted digital support to meet those needs.

Making GOV.UK Verify work for as many people as possible

In January we blogged about work we did with the Office of National Statistics to estimate what proportion of the public will be able to use GOV.UK Verify. The results of this work, combined with the performance data, have helped to inform how we direct users towards certified companies that are likely to be able to verify them.

We’re not able to verify everyone yet using GOV.UK Verify but we’re working to make it possible for people to use a range of evidence to prove who they are and certified companies are introducing new methods all the time. Once GOV.UK Verify goes live we expect 90% of the overall UK adult population to be able to use it.

Making GOV.UK Verify work as straightforwardly as possible

We’ve been working on the design of the GOV.UK Verify user journey throughout the life of the service, iterating and improving it to make it as clear and straightforward as possible for users.

As part of the work to improve GOV.UK Verify, we have been running A/B tests on specific pages in the journey to look at new ways to describe GOV.UK Verify and how to make it clearer for users what evidence they will need to verify.

Helping departments implement GOV.UK Verify in ways that are likely to work for users

GOV.UK Verify works best for users when it is implemented as an integrated part of a transformed digital service.

When users are given a choice between using an offline or online service, there needs to be a compelling reason for them to try the digital option. Each digital service needs to be so good that people choose to use it and can see the benefit of securely accessing it through GOV.UK Verify.

For example, if accessing a service online will clearly save you time, effort or money, and it’s clear to you why your identity needs to be verified to protect you from someone pretending to be you, then you are much more likely to be willing to spend an initial 10 minutes verifying your identity than if that’s not the case.

We’re learning all the time, and we’re continuing to work with departments as they integrate with GOV.UK Verify to share what we’ve learnt so far and help them to build identity assurance into their services in the best way.

You can follow Jess on Twitter and subscribe to the blog to keep up to date with GOV.UK Verify's journey from beta to live.

8 comments

  1. MarkK

    The Verify sign-up suggests that it is free to use, but Yubico and Digidentity are offering the opportunity for "UK citizens" to purchase a FIDO U2F authenticator specifically for use with gov.uk Verify. Does this mean we need to pay if we want the secure version?

    The sign-up pages typically require a tick that you have read the terms and condition and the privacy policy of the provider. Perhaps I'm a slow reader, but these alone seem to require more than 10 minutes.

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    • Rebecca Hales

      Hi Mark

      GOV.UK Verify is designed to be safe and secure and there is no charge for the service. Users now have the option to use their YubiKey - which works for logging into commercial services too - if they wish.

      Verifying your takes around 10 minutes. This is based on what we've seen to be the median time taken to verify. We'll continue to review the times and if the time taken increases we will update our messaging accordingly based on evidence.

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      • Vicky

        Dear GOV.UK,

        I am writing you to inquiry that your service officially supports U2F-enabled YubiKeys for authentication? Is there official announcement from you about this?

        Thank you very much.

        Sincerely

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        • Rebecca Hales

          Hi Vicky

          When you use GOV.UK Verify to access a government service, you choose from a range of companies certified to verify your identity. They offer different ways to verify your identity and the U2F method you mention is offered by one of our certified companies. We have not made an official announcement about this.

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  2. Milad

    I don't have a British passport so how can I do the verification process?

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    • Rebecca Hales

      Hi Milad

      Thank you for trying GOV.UK Verify. It is a new service, currently in beta (trial) and is being constantly developed and improved. GOV.UK Verify may still be able to verify you.

      If you return to the service you were trying to access and select GOV.UK Verify, you will be asked what identification documents you have and will be offered the option of certified companies that may be able to verify you with a non-UK passport.

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  3. Benny

    Hi Gov.UK Verify,

    I am interested to know what assisted digital (AD) support you believe a service can/should offer a user to assist them in getting through the authentication process of Gov.UK Verify to access their service.

    As the questions asked to the user are predominantly, related to finances and sensitive information, most users would not want to disclose this information to a third party (offering AD) in an attempt to verify their identity. Therefore, providing AD support is obviously going to be very difficult for service providers, as most users would only trust a close friend or family member to assist with the process.

    Most government departments can usually rely on third parties such as the Post Office or local libraries etc to help provide AD support to members of the public when using online services, this will not be the case for Gov.UK Verify, as people will not know what information they would need to take with them (even if they were prepared to disclose this) to access a service.

    The users that are most likely to require AD support are those at the lower end of the Digital Inclusion scale (1 - Never have, never will, 2 - Was online but no longer 3 - Willing and unable, 4 -Reluctantly online). These people are unlikely to have email accounts in place, which is also requirement when using Gov.UK Verify so this adds another step in the user journey.

    Would providing this additional layer of AD support be expected from service providers to be able to pass a Beta or Live service assessment?

    Do you have any additional advice for service providers in offering AD support to users and are there any plans to make the initial authentication process simpler for the user?

    Thanks you,

    Benny

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    • Jess McEvoy

      Hi Benny

      Each service is responsible for designing and providing assisted digital support for those who are not able to use online services independently.

      There are usually multiple ways for people to use a service so its important that services consider all of these when designing their assisted digital approach. We work with each service that onboards to GOV.UK Verify to understand their approach and give advice and feedback.

      We have published guidance for services around supporting individuals from GOV.UK Verify: https://assisteddigital.blog.gov.uk/2015/09/15/including-gov-uk-verify-in-your-assisted-digital-support. We say that if a service provides face-to-face support, users should type in their own information where possible.

      The guidance also lists some of the items a user may need to verify their identity, so services can prepare users for the process.

      GOV.UK Verify does require users to provide an email address in order to create a verified account with a certified company. Although this may require some users to create a new email account when they initially verify their identity, they will then be able to access an increasing range of government services safely and straightforwardly using GOV.UK Verify.

      We’ve been working on the design of the GOV.UK Verify user journey throughout the life of the service, iterating and improving it to make it as clear and straightforward as possible for users. This work will continue for the benefit of all users, now that we're live.

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