The guide sets out how businesses tasked with verifying the identity of individuals using Government services (40-page / 732KB PDF) can achieve various levels of assurance about the identity of such users.
In order to demonstrate compliance with the lowest standard of assurance about individuals' identity (level 1), businesses need only obtain an 'identifier' from them that can be used to "recognise" that same person in future, confirm the "existence" of the identifier and that the application is in possession of that identifier. No further evidence of individuals' identity is required nor are further validation or verification checks required. In addition, no counter-fraud checks are required to be undertaken in order to achieve a level 1 standard.
However, to achieve the highest level of assurance about individuals' identity (level 4), businesses would need to obtain a combination of evidence about individuals that meet set standards. The evidence could include individuals' biometric passport and bank statements. The firms would be required to then validate the documents and verify they belong to the individuals in accordance with other set standards, such as by conducting a biometric comparison between applicants and the evidence they have given of their claimed identity.
In addition, to achieve level 4 standards, businesses would need to ensure that the evidence provided by applicants demonstrates their activity over a period covering at least 1085 days, whilst a number of counter-fraud checks that the identifying evidence being relied upon by an applicant is not being used for fraudulent purposes.
"Within the UK there is no official or statutory attribute or set of attributes that are used to uniquely identify individuals across Government," the joint Cabinet Office and CESG guidance document said. "Neither is there a single official or statutory issued document whose primary purpose is that of identifying an individual. Without such attributes or documentation it is difficult for any person to be absolutely certain of the identity of another."
"This guide is designed to demonstrate how a combination of the breadth of evidence provided, the strength of the evidence itself, the validation and verification processes conducted and a history of activity can provide various levels of assurance around the legitimacy of an identity," it said.
Other countries in Europe currently use identity cards as a means to verify the identify of individuals.
A new identity assurance scheme is currently being developed for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The scheme is to be used to verify the identity of individuals who register online and apply for benefits. Under the proposed service, the benefits claimants would be able to "choose who will validate their identity by automatically checking their authenticity with the provider before processing online benefit claims", DWP said last year.
"The online Identity Assurance model will be incorporated into Universal Credit as it's developed and rolled-out," DWP said in November 2012. "Over time Identity Assurance will become available to all UK citizens who need to access online public services."