Responsibility for policymaking in the area of digital identity has been moved from the Government Digital Service to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
DCMS will not be providing accreditation for individual digital-identity services, nor will it mandate the use of particular products or platforms.
But it will have a remit to formulate digital-identity policy that boosts citizens’ confidence in the digital economy – covering the provision of services by entities in the public and private sectors. In this work, it will consider the relative merits of existing identity schemes – seemingly including, but not limited to, the GOV.UK Verify tool.
Responsibility for the development and rollout of Verify will remain with GDS.
A digital identity constitutes one or more pieces of information that can be used to confirm that a person, organisation, device, or application is what or whom it claims to be. An identity can rely on the likes of email addresses, passwords, or age-verification methods.
Digital identities can be used to gain access to online accounts or services. The GDS-developed Verify tool relies on users’ digital identities from the likes of Barclays, Experian, and the Post Office to grant access to a range of government services.
The shift of policymaking responsibility, which is understood to have taken place about six weeks ago without any formal announcement, is the second such move this year. On 1 April, responsibility for data policy, governance, and data-sharing initiatives was migrated from GDS to DCMS. About 15 policymakers moved between the two organisations as part of that rejig.
No further individuals have been ported over to DCMS as part of this move, although a handful of those that came over at the beginning of April will be redeployed to create a new team that will focus on digital-identity policy.
As the department with responsibility for the digital economy, it is understood that the government considers DCMS to be the most suitable home for all digital- and data-related policy. The recent redeployment of responsibilities is designed to promote more joined-up policymaking.
A recent report from think tank Policy Exchange – which featured a foreword from former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude – called for GDS to be moved wholesale into DCMS. But minister for implementation Oliver Dowden – whose brief includes responsibility for GDS – has said that the digital-delivery unit will remain within the Cabinet Office.