Government Tests Social Media Accounts to Verify Identity

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is testing ways to use people’s social media accounts to help prove their identity online.

Staff working on Verify, the identity assurance system being developed by GDS, evaluated the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and PayPal to develop a process that proves people are who they say they are when logging in to government websites.

Verify works by asking users to set up an account with one of a selection of third party identity providers, such as the Post Office, Experian or Verizon.

Each company will then ask the user to prove who they are, using data such as their credit history, or by allowing electronic access to documents such as passports.

The Verify team evaluated use of social network data as an additional source of information. Users in the tests had to agree to allow access to their social media accounts.

However the use of social networks in this way does not mean that users will log in to online public services using their Facebook log in details for example.

A blog post by Livia Ralph of GDS, said: “Our research suggests that people appear to be becoming more amenable to using online activity verification and allowing certified companies access to their personal online accounts to acquire a verified identity that gives safer, faster access to government services."

If the current plans are successful, as many as 50 digital government services could be using the Verify identity verification system within months.

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