Forum to discuss virtual ID system

Further details of a "virtual identity" system being introduced by the Government will be announced next week when cyber experts gather for a conference in London.

Chris Ferguson, head of the Government Digital Service's Identity Assurance Programme, will discuss plans for reducing the threat of online identity theft at the RSA Conference Europe on Tuesday.

The scheme will allow users of public services to verify their identity by choosing from a range of providers – organisations such as the Post Office, banks, mobile phone companies, retailers and social networks. Later this month the initial list of Identity Providers will be announced by the Department of Work and Pensions for use in the roll-out of the Universal Credit System.

Patrick Barwise, of the London School of Economics, who is chairing the RSA debate, said: "The UK is a leading economy in terms of online shopping and what we need is something trusted, efficient and simple."

The Identity Assurance Programme team is anxious that its system is designed to suit users and not government. But Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said he still had concerns over the implementation of the programme. "The ID providers have got to be absolutely transparent with consumers about how they are using data," he said.

He expressed doubts that mass social media companies, such as Facebook, could give sufficient security guarantees to satisfy government identification standards for most public services.

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