back to article Cabinet Office talks to Facebook & co about new ID system

Facebook and other social networks could be used by British citizens to sign into public services online, The Register has learned. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman confirmed to us this morning that the department was speaking to "a range of industry" about its ID assurance scheme, a prototype for which is expected in October this …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Fake Facebook IDs

    They'll drop the whole idea as soon as someone creates a fake Facebook ID for a government minister or one of their close family members and then uses it to dig some dirt on the minister in question. I guess that will be about 5 minutes after the government opens any government services to such farcebook authentication.

  2. furtherstill
    Thumb Down

    Surely, they can't be serious

    Every single thing about this idea is wrong. This Maude fellow needs to be downed by a t-shirt barrage like his more reputable namesake.

  3. The BigYin


    No, no, no, no!

    Going to let a private corporation own our legal identity? Feck that for a game of soldiers.

    My on-line identities do not equate to my legal identity nor should they IMHO. Sure, my bank can match my login to my legal-self, but I trust my bank slightly more than I trust FB. Why would somewhere that I may post picture of kittens doing somersaults have any need to equate to my legal self?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Verification of what

    Like others, I doubt that UK Gov want Facebook for upfront ID validation.

    But using Facebook to check out benefits claims seems a no brainer.

    Claiming for incapacity when your pics show you skydiving.....etc ....etc......

    1. M Gale

      Facebook to verify benefits claims

      This happens anyway. I'd paste you a specific URL but there seem to be a ton to choose from. So, I'll give you this instead:

      Although why stripping all of the "&client=ubuntu" extraneous crap from the URL should swap results 2 & 3 around, who knows?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is such a preposterous idea...

    It might just happen.... A bit like the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and bankers bonuses after they've had their jobs saved by the taxpayer....

    I, truly, cannot think of a good thing to say about an idea that incorporates one of the companies I least trust to use any information provided in confidence in anything other than a profiteering and reckless manner. When the chips are down in 10 years time and Facebook has been put aside for the 'next big thing' and they turn to the Government and say, "actually, we need to make a bit more money out of this data or it will all tits up boys" What will our Government do? I've no idea and I bet the Government hasn't even thought about a 'Post Social networking' future... But it won't matter as it will be somebody else's problem ie Ours!

  6. D Moss Esq

    A Talk in the Park

    G-Cloud, Whitehall in Control [1]

    A new soap opera in the 21st century policy-making series [2]

    Episode 1 -- A Talk in the Park:


    The scene: Ian Watmore sitting on a park bench, the detritus of his Bargain Lunch all around him – rabbit food sandwich, cranberry juice, choice of crisps, £4.75 – trying to work out how best to present the budget for G-Cloud to Francis Maude. Go in low at £5 billion to let Maude think it wouldn't cost so much, not when all the mythical savings are taken into account, and let it drift up? Or go in high at £15 billion to flatter Maude's importance and let it drift up from there? It's a poser. All of a sudden Mark Zuckerberg sits down next to him.

    MZ: Hello Ian.

    IW: Hello, er ..., who are you?

    MZ: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook.

    IW: Mark, a pleasure to meet you!

    MZ: Please. It's ... Mister ... Zuckerberg.

    IW: Yes, of course. What a coincidence. I mean me being here and you being here.

    MZ: Don't be silly, Ian, we don't do coincidences, Facebook doesn't guess, it's wasteful. We know everything.

    IW: Everything?

    MZ: Yeah, like we know why the Rugby Football Union chose Woodward and not you. Can I have your potato chips, Ian?

    IW: I didn't bother to pick them up. Watching my figure.

    MZ: That's a shame, Ian. I like potato chips. If you used Facebook, you'd know that. And you'd know that I like to get what I like. Like G-Cloud.

    IW: There I'm afraid you face competition. Some stiff competition. From three start-ups.

    MZ: Yeah, right. The personal data store guys. The guys who want to connect every PDS with pipelines to every organisation, private sector and public sector. The guys who want to provide taps, so that data-sharing can be turned on or off. That competition?

    IW: Precisely. Their designs are very far advanced.

    MZ: Yeah, right. Look old chap, Facebook already has 500 million PDSs including tens of millions in the UK. Facebook already has the pipelines. Facebook already has fCommerce. You wanna start from zero or from tens of millions?

    IW: The problem is the taps, Mr Zuckerberg. You keep turning yours on and off from the centre. The users aren't in control. With the start-ups, the users would be in control.

    MZ: Yeah, right. Look, privacy is a dynamic area, you shouldn't obsess about privacy, the start-ups will work that out, it's all about saving money. And that's your job, Ian, at the Efficiency & Reform Group. At least as long as you have that job, it is.

    IW: I see what you mean, Mr Zuckerberg.

    MZ: Good. Eye to eye. Man to man. That's good, Ian. We have competition. The banks. The telcos. The credit reference agencies. But then again, we already have the banks and the telcos and the credit reference agencies. So really, we don't have competition, do we?

    IW: You're forgetting Google.

    MZ: Oh Google, yeah you're right, I'm always forgetting Google. Ian, listen to me, you know where Eric is right now?

    IW: Eric?

    MZ: Yeah, Eric Schmidt, Mr Google, Eric Shmuck as we call him, he's still waiting for you in that snack bar, by the Bargain Meals shelf. Google's artificial intelligence can do location. But they keep getting the time wrong! It's a cryin' shame. Maybe it's something to do with the guys they've got working on AI. The guys who used to work for Facebook. Ian, we got Google. We got Gmail. The Chinese keep taking the fall for hacking into it but it's not them. Ian. I'll say this once more. No competition.

    IW: I'll mention it to Francis.

    MZ: Who?

    IW: Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister.

    MZ: Who? We only monitor decision-makers.

    IW: Mr Maude is the decision-maker. He used to be managing director of Morgan Stanley.

    MZ: Oh, that Francis. Hey, funny story for you. Morgan Stanley doesn't have a managing director. Morgan Stanley has thousands of managing directors. "Managing director" is the title they give to any interns who can speak without tripping over their frat shoelaces. You're the decision-maker, Ian, you know that, what does Francis know?

    IW: Nevertheless, this is a political matter, G-Cloud must be demonstrably a benefit to the UK economy.

    MZ: Hey Ian, funny story, the UK doesn't have an economy. Does it. The UK has a debt repayment programme. Not an economy.

    IW: That's pretty rich coming from you, the US has a trillion dollar deficit.

    MZ: Ian, who ever said Facebook is a US company? Look, it's been nice talking to you, no no don't get up, but think about our little talk will ya? That would be appreciated. Bye now.




  7. jestersbro

    I can't wait to put my trust in their hands

    Fantastic! The whole idea of giving some corporate entity real control over my ID is really exciting. I'm looking forward to the day the UK Gov gives all our ID data to an offshore organisation based in a nation that doesn't respect international boundaries or agreements. I'm simply limp with delight at the prospect.

    Roll on becoming citizens of CorpCo, you're friendly and trustworthy companion.

  8. Lamont Cranston
    Thumb Down

    I can't think of anything worse

    than tying up my bank login, my facebook login and any activity with public services. A big sign marked "Please rob me" affixed to my back would be just as desirable.

    If we must have a unified ID, then the National Insurance database will probably suffice (the NHS already has its own system for identifying us).

  9. Adam T

    Goodbye UK

    If they go ahead with this, I'm emigrating.

    This country is being run by utter fuckwits.

  10. John I'm only dancing

    Facebook app ID theft wants to access your list of contacts

    No more needs to be said

  11. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    What do Govt and Facebook have in common?

    Two organisations I want as little to do with as possible.

  12. Cam 2


    There might be issues with how much the general public should trust Facebook, and whether it's morally right to use a private company to provide identity services like this when they would gain considerably from the privilege.

    Nevertheless Facebook are in a position to provide ID services because they are so large, and because they are using the technology (OpenID). I think they do have something to bring to the table.

    In an ideal world the Post Office would have made a profitable business unit from key signing, two-factor crypto and identity services starting about the same time as the relevant technologies emerged - but this hasn't happened.

  13. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Down

    Wrong in every respect

    I trust the gvt as much as I trust Facebook. Not at all.

  14. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Does the British government have any idea...

    How easy it is to spoof an identity on Facebook, or to hack someone's FB account? Do they have any idea about how users of one FB account can compromise the security of another account holder based on whether they link contact data for that other person, or tag their name to photos, etc?

    Facebook is fine for chatting with friends, organizing events and showing the world your latest vacation photos, but its about as an ID verification service it is about as as sturdy as a cardboard box.

    I'm glad the Reg's "Fail" icon is not somebody's royalty-based IP, as the last few weeks I have found myself using it with alarming and otherwise expensive frequency.

  15. Munkstar


    Interesting because If the government were to ask for all of the details that Facebook cream from you, there would be a giant 'big brother' ranting!

  16. JaitcH

    How does "insist that privacy would be at the forefront of such a system" work with Facebook?

    Apart from the fact Facebook and security are incompatible why should I have to sign up with any non-governmental system to access my entitlements?

    Or is it a tacit admission that the UK's purported world leading cyber 'experts' can't handle secure logins?

    Making one of the early users the pensions scheme is more than nutty - these people are more likely NOT to have InterNet access as well as being MORE likely to less computer literate.

    I am fed up with people expecting myself and fellow employees to obtain FB or Twit accounts so we can learn some information. I simply refuse to use Twit and the decision about FB has been made as the government of the country I live in has blocked FB very, very effectively.

    The UK government is my government so why the hell should I use American gateways to access my UK government, gateways that the American government has total access to.

    Bet the French wouldn't do this - or the Americans - they have a sense of pride in their countries.


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