A Cumbrian tech company could enable the rollout of national digital ID cards without giving the state access to citizens’ personal data.
Former Labour and Conservative leaders Sir Tony Blair and Lord Hague recently urged the adoption of compulsory digital ID cards that would allow people to prove their identity, age, driving licence validity, right to live and work in the UK and even their educational qualifications.
The former Labour Prime Minister, Sir Tony attempted to introduce ID cards when he was in office only to run into opposition from civil liberties campaigners concerned at what they saw as unnecessary data collection and intrusion by the state.
But SMS Speedway, based in Carlisle, has developed a system that allows users to prove their identity without sharing sensitive personal data.
Its KnowingMe ID app, developed in a joint venture with the Swedish company Svipe, is already available to download for Android devices with an iOS version for iPhones due to launch soon.
Users scan their biometric passport with their smartphone. They can then use the app to confirm their identity to any organisation, a bank, for example, that needs irrefutable proof that they are who they say they are.
Brad Kieser, chief executive of SMS Speedway, said: “Our app allows people to take control of their data. That data sits securely, encrypted, on your phone.
“When a business or other entity needs to verify your identity, they send a request which you can accept or deny. If you accept, they get confirmation of your identity but they never get access to your data.
“It is absolutely secure because it relies on the biometric chip in your passport. Photographs can be manipulated but the chip is tamper-proof.”
SMS Speedway has already identified dozens of commercial applications for the KnowingMe ID app from verifying applications for mortgages, bank accounts and tenancy agreements, to proving that individuals are not on a sanctions list, assisting with lost password recovery and enabling access to hotel rooms.
Brad believes that the technology could easily be adapted to offer a national digital ID card, should a future government decide to pursue that, without the need for citizens’ personal information to be held on a central database.
He added: “This is absolutely going to revolutionise life in the UK. From an ethical and moral standpoint, people should have control over their personal data and our app allows them to have that control.”
The system is attractive to businesses too because it relieves them of the risks of holding customers’ personal information.
British Airways, for example, was fined £183m in 2019, later reduced to £20m, after hackers stole the personal data of more than 400,000 customers.
There have also been ransomware attacks where hackers seize control of data then blackmail the business, threatening to release data unless they pay up.
Brad said: “Our system allows businesses to request information from you at the point of purchase. They don’t need to store your information and put themselves at risk by keeping sensitive stuff that hackers might want to get at.”
Other potential future uses include storing medical records and details of allergies, combating benefit fraud, and personal safety allowing householders to verify that cold callers, perhaps claiming to be from a local authority or utility company, are genuine.
For further information, visit: www.knowingme-id.co.uk/
The KnowingMe ID app for Android devices is available to download from Google Play.