I had occassion to become a beta user for the Government Digital Service sponsored Verify service (previously known as IDA – Identity Assurance). I’d come across this before at work, I spent the first six months of 2014 as the product owner for a digital service that was looking at integrating verify at a later stage.

Right now there are only two accredited providers, although there are several others building their services for later stages. You have the choice of either Digidentity or Experian. Both of these have been through an accreditation process with GDS. I initially chose Digidentity because I’m in favour of competition and it was less recognisable to most people than Experian is.

Digidentity

I really liked the way that Digidentity looked, and they had a clear process on their initial screens.

It was a three step process.

  1. Validate my passport,
  2. then my driving licence and
  3. then my bank account.

In between each step it brought me back to the three step screen with big green ticks on the bit I’d just done and then a GDS style green ‘Next >’ button to carry on. The passport and driving licence stages were straightforward and I had all the info to hand (because I keep a note of my passport details on my computer and my driving licence card is usually in my pocket).

Unfortunately when it came to the third step, validating my bank account, it failed totally. I’m not convinced that this bit is implemented properly, for a start it only asked me for an account number and not also the sort code which is what the minimum set usually is for identifying an account.

Also when I wrote to the help account about the problem I’d hit and why it didn’t work it took them just over a week to reply. The reply I got was to the effect that they were sorry it didn’t work for me but that they couldn’t fix it yet.

Experian

I then fell back on Experian. This was a less friendly feel to it and also it asked a lot of questions, not all of which I knew the answers to. It was very much an old-school twenty questions approach.

Luckily my wife fired up the tablet on the other end of the sofa and researched our shared financial history to answer the experian questions (e.g. how much did you pay for your mortgage last month – I know the ballpark amount, but not down to the penny). The Experian process did work though, and I could then get on and use the Gov.UK service that I wanted use.

Overall Experience

One thing still annoys me though, which is the two factor authentication. When you login it wants a code that is sent by SMS to your phone. This is fair enough, and I’m sure it adds something to the security. However there is usually a minute or more time lag between completing the first part of the login (username and password combo) before the code arrives on the phone. This breaks the flow and makes it all take longer than I’d like.

Still, it beats the old Government Gateway approach that sent you your password in the post!