Blockchain for Citizen Identity Services Urged By UK Think Tank

Blockchain, News | December 13, 2017 By:

Reform, a major think tank in the UK, is urging the government to use blockchain technology to create a secure identity for citizens to use across public services.

In a report titled “The Future of Public Service Identity: Blockchain,” Reform stated that the government should use blockchain technology to make identity management more secure and efficient. This means moving from siloed departments holding different and even contradictory versions of a person’s identity to a user-stored identity, in an identity app on a smartphone.

“User control will move from low to high, with blockchain providing the technology to achieve it,” Reform said. “Unlike today’s identity management model, individuals will have access to their public service identity and will authorize who can see it, and in what form.”

The think tank argued that centralized data storage is more attractive to hackers. It cited the 2015 cyber-attack on US government databases which resulted in the theft of personal information from over 19.7 milliom people, including social security numbers and fingerprints. Reform added that identity theft is at an all-time high in the UK, with almost 173,000 cases in 2016. “Paper-based identity verification documents are prone to loss or theft, potentially leading to identity fraud.”

Reform said that the government has already attempted to improve identity management through GOV.UK Verify, a scheme where an individual chooses one authorised company to verify their identity to access public services. Reform, however, said there are limitations to the Verify system.

“Uptake of Verify has been slow and departments such as HMRC continue to use their own identity model,” the report said. “This is because Verify provides limited information for certain transactions – meaning that departments need to request and check additional data.”

Reform said that the use of blockchain would be an improvement because it would move control of public service identity from government to the individual.”A blockchain network could be built across several departments and would act as a thin layer on top of current databases. This layer would enable citizens to view their data, via an identity app on their smartphone, and grant government access to it.”