Headlines: December 21st, 1999

Extending the use of electronic public services beyond the current ‘getting information’ level depends on people feeling that no one can eavesdrop on messages they are sending or get personal data about them by deception. Plans announced by the Central IT Unit in the Cabinet Office aim to ensure that users of electronic services can securely identify themselves to central and local government. and to the health service and feel confident that any exchange of information is secure..The plans provide for citizens and businesses dealing with public organisations to be given the option to use authentication tokens such as smartcards or password codes for secure online access. Online banks already use a membership number, a pass number and the surname for accessing accounts. Once an authentication has been set up users will be able to access any public service. There is some concern that establishing an electronic identity is this way and using it in all dealings with public bodies will lead to a back door introduction of a national identity card.

The guidelines for the use of smartcards envisage that they will be used for travel concessions, health service applications and learning entitlements. It is also likely that they will be used for authenticating benefit enquires and tax returns.

Provision for the use of electronic signatures in is the Electronic Commerce Bill which it is expected will become law in Spring 2000.