UK reveals role in European identity scheme

The principles and work behind STORK (Secure Identity across Borders Linked), a scheme which will provide online access to public services across EU borders, has been revealed.

An industry workshop for the three-year 20 million (15.9 million) scheme was held at the ISSE 08 security conference in Madrid. Individuals working on the scheme described some of the work already done as well as the real-world pilot schemes for the ambitious project which includes 14 member states including the UK, Germany, France and Spain.

Jim Purves, head of product strategy for the UK government gateway at the Department of Work and Pensions, was one of the individuals at the forefront of the scheme and described a case study for one of the pilot schemes that he was going to be involved with.

He gave an example of an Estonian resident who wanted to work in Belgium. For this he would have to enroll in its portal, an existing service. He said today you would have to fill in your details manually, but the aim would be to link it to the STORK environment so it could be done in an automated fashion.

He said: "The first step is around authentication, with the Estonian resident authenticating to the Belgium portal with their ID card. The first thing we would be implementing on the STORK portal would be a list of services that can be accessed.

"This is one central place where the user can come to and understand what services are available to them in a cross-border context. The user has navigated to the STORK portal and see they can access the Belgium portal."

It was made very clear that the STORK project would not get directly involved in the national electronic identity technology of individual members, but rather develop common rules and specifications to assist the recognition of these identities across the different countries involved.

When asked about the UK's role in the scheme Purves said: "It's not a question of influence, it's about collaboration. The UK is collaborating on this because we believe it's the right thing to do.

"The lead department for in the UK for this is the Identity and Passport Service (IPS). As you know our identity passport service is very much focused on the national identity scheme. The Department of Work and Pensions currently runs the e-infrastructure associated around the government gateway."

The UK is set to see the first ID cards given to so-called foreign nationals next month.