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Digital draft standard for enhanced level of checking identity open for comment

Announced last week, the government department has set the deadline for comment on its draft identity-checking requirements.

The drafted document sets out to create a ‘Safe Harbour Standard’ for Conveyancers when checking a client’s identity and it is hoped that it will provide clarity for software developers as well as property lawyers.

Mike Harlow, general counsel, deputy chief executive and deputy land registrar at the department, said in his recent blog the aim is to do “what we can to support the sector to see the development of easy-to-use, modestly priced, remote and digitally secure options for conveyancers to use with their clients”.

“Ensuring you know who you are dealing with in an increasingly digital and online world is vitally important to the trust and confidence in the registration of land, and conveyancing process more generally,” he said.

The draft requirements are aimed at encouraging digital checks and helping law firms overcome barriers to entry. Through a consultation with industry software providers, HMLR looked at what solutions were already available;

“It was apparent that there is existing usable technology that has the potential not only to meet conveyancers’ needs, but to give consumers and property businesses greater security and convenience,” he said.

It was noted that there was not a desire for an accredited process, rather easy to use, apply and understand requirements;

“Ease of interpretation is important as we do not plan to manage an accreditation process for identity providers or provide lists of suitable providers to the market. Instead, we hope the brevity of the requirements will allow simple self-certification by identity providers,” Harlow said.

In its document which sets out the draft standard and requirements, the department said that there is scope for “an alternative higher standard of identity check – one that uses biometric and cryptographic technology, is defined and gives clarity and certainty to the conveyancer that they have discharged their duty on identity verification in connection with land registration applications”.

Covering the set of requirements, the Safe Harbour Standard is an enhanced level of checking which includes obtaining evidence, such as passports or driver licence to ensure the person is who they say they are.

The evidence must then be checked to ensure it is not forgery by reading the chip using near-field communication by providing any required cryptographic keys before checking that the person presenting the information matches the photo in the evidence provided.

The final requirement is to obtain evidence to ensure the “transferor, borrower or lessor is the same person as the owner”, by checking two examples of evidence, such as utility bill, council tax or similar.

The government’s department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is creating a trust framework with expected standards for digital identity that will guide the whole market to help protect the economy, so the latest draft from HMLR is in alignment with this.

Interestingly although there will not be a requirement for conveyancers to all use the biometric facial recognition technology, Harlow did comment;

“However, those who can demonstrate that they have met the new standard will be protected, as HM Land Registry would not seek recourse against a conveyancer in the event their client was not who they claimed to be. That’s a demonstration of our confidence in the additional security offered by these techniques,” he said.

The draft standard is open for feedback until 11 December 2020.

Make sure you hear it first direct from HMLR in our latest webinar on 3rd December

Register here to watch it live or on demand.

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