Beginner’s guide to certified companies and GOV.UK Verify

GOV.UK is the new online home for Government services right? So why aren’t all aspects of it being run by the government? Up until now, the Government hasn’t asked us to choose from a list of private companies when we needed to prove who we were on line, so what’s changed?

Digital access to government services is being overhauled and updated for the 21st Century. If you’ve become used to shopping or banking on line then you’ll like the new processes being introduced at GOV.UK, but you’ll notice some changes and you’ll probably have questions (See our FAQ section).

One of the first things you’ll notice is that you need to choose a “certified company” to verify your identity before you can access the private services you want. This is one aspect of the new system that many people struggle to understand. Over the past six months, as part of our research and development programme for SecureIdentity,  we’ve spoken to thousands of UK citizens. The question of why people are being asked to choose from a list of private companies when they want to verify their ID and access services at GOV.UK comes up time and again.

When you think about it, it’s actually not all that unusual. These days, when you’re shopping on line, it’s pretty common to be directed to a third party once you get to the checkout. Online retailers specialise in the merchandise they sell and the range they offer. They are less well-equipped to guarantee secure credit card transactions, so they usually partner with a specialist like Worldpay or Sage Pay.

You might say the people at GOV.UK think in a similar way. Their commitment is to make sure that the best range of services are always easily available to citizens on line. To make sure that access to these services is always secure and straightforward, they’ve partnered with private companies that have expertise in securing identity online.

Competition delivers greater security

By offering citizens a choice of certified companies, the Government has created a competitive market for ID verification at GOV.UK. This ensures healthy competition and it puts you in control. At SecureIdentity we’re one of nine verification services you can choose from and we understand how critical it is to deliver the secure, straightforward service you need.

Each certified company has a track record in online security solutions or some aspect of online transactions where safeguarding data is a sensitive and critical issue. All of them meet the certification requirements set out by the Government.

Putting you in control

The first time you use GOV.UK Verify to access services, you’ll be given a choice of nine certified verification companies to obtain your own personal secure ID, so there’s plenty of choice. Choice is always great, but since the idea of choosing a certified company to keep your identity safe is new, how do you choose? Get a heads-up by reading our 5 things to know before choosing a GOV.UK Verify certified identity supplier.

5 things to know before choosing a GOV.UK Verify certified identity provider

If you want to access secure services at GOV.UK you need have a secure ID account. But it’s not the government that supplies you with this secure ID, it’s a private company.

SecureIdentity is one of seven services “certified” by Government to verify your ID and protect your privacy at GOV.UK.

As part of our development programme, we’ve spoken to thousands of people who expect to start using GOV.UK soon.

Whenever we explain the new GOV.UK Verify process to them the first questions they always ask us are: Why are private companies involved and how do I choose between them?

Why are seven different companies offering ID verification at GOV.UK?

The Government knows that security online is changing all the time. It believes that the best way to make sure that citizens can benefit from the very latest security is to introduce competition.

That’s why they’ve certified a number of services to validate your ID at GOV.UK Verify. The Government explains the idea of certified companies like this:

“Certified companies (also known as ‘identity providers’) are organisations that have met government and industry standards to provide identity assurance services as part of GOV.UK Verify”

In a competitive market, with seven different companies competing for your “business”, you can be pretty sure that the most advanced security systems will always be on offer.

How do I choose between the certified companies?

The idea of choosing a certified company to keep your identity safe is new.

At the moment, it’s pretty difficult to know what you should be looking for when you need to choose a provider to create your secure online identity. On the face of it, all providers might look very much the same.

Some basics you should know before you choose a certified company at GOV.UK Verify

No matter which provider you choose, the verification process will take about 10 minutes. Since all providers meet certification standards set out by the Government, you can be sure that any provider you choose has already convinced the Government that they’re up to the job and should be able to safely protect your identity online.

The big differences between suppliers will only become apparent in time. It’s a little bit like when the Government privatised BT and created competition in the UK telecoms market. At first, it was quite difficult to see any difference in the services provided, but these days, BT looks quite different to Virgin Media or TalkTalk.

When we ask people why they choose SecureIdentity, they say they like the fact we’re secure identity specialists who have been working with Governments behind the scenes to protect citizen’s privacy for over 20 years. They like that the security features we can offer go way beyond the standards set out by GOV.UK for certified identity providers, and they like the fact that we don’t do lots of other stuff too, like retail, banking, consumer credit or credit checking services.

But SecureIdentity is not the only choice and it’s not everyone’s choice. Some like the idea of having a secure ID with a company they already use for other things, like banking or online shopping.

What is clear is that almost everyone just wants the process of verifying their identity at GOV.UK to be as simple and straightforward as possible. So here are five facts worth knowing before you choose an ID provider at GOV.UK Verify.

Choosing a certified identity provider for GOV.UK Verify: 5 Key things to know

  1. All services are free.
  2. All certified providers meet government defined standards.
  3. The verify process will always take about 10 minutes regardless of supplier.
  4. You’ll need to have some form of ID to hand, like a passport or a UK driving licence.
  5. You can change your supplier at no cost whenever you want.