HM Land Registry to embrace biometrics, digital identity

02/06/20

The UK's HM Land Registry is preparing to use more biometrics and digital identity technology.

The government body, along with the Law Society, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEx), said this week that it believes that cryptographic and biometric checking of identity, using microchip-enabled passports or identity cards, might present a new, robust and convenient answer to the need to maintain social distancing while verifying an applicant’s identity.

The four organisations have been working together, alongside representatives from across the conveyancing industry, to find ways to help the property market during the coronavirus crisis.

The current crisis has highlighted the immediate need for an easy-to-use, modestly-priced, remote and digitally secure way for conveyancers to securely identify the buyers and sellers of a property. We will be hosting a virtual event to explore how we can help identity solution providers to develop an accessible service for conveyancers. If you would like to be involved in this event, please do add your details to the sign-up form.

Recent guidance for the legal sector from the Legal Sector Affinity Group noted “As an alternative to face-to face documentary verification, legal practices and practitioners may adopt or further utilise electronic means of ID&V [identity and verification] where appropriate to the risks present in the client/transaction.”

As the market for conveyancing services expands again post lockdown conveyancers will be looking for solutions that support distanced working. There are currently nearly 4,000 active conveyancing businesses and they are looking to providers to give them the safe and secure solution they can rely on deliver great customer service at a distance.

Using cryptographic combined with biometric identity solutions presents a potential simple solution. When using these technologies the user places their smartphone next to their passport. The app then analyses the information from the passport chip to cryptographically check the validity of the passport. The user then records a video, which is then compared with the passport photo on the chip to achieve facial recognition. This can be done using a smartphone (Android and iPhones included), wherever they are, and the results are near immediate.

It is essentially the same technology as is used in the automatic immigration barriers at airports. The Home Office used the process for the EU settlement scheme applications of which 79% of users rated it as easy or fairly easy to use.

Evidence indicates this to be a more reliable and secure identity check than visual passport or other identity document checks.

The Land Registry would encourage potential suppliers of this technology to consider how they might meet the needs of the property market, so that conveyancers might use these cryptographic combined with biometric checks now and in the future.

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