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‘Lingering myth’ holding up digital ID verification

By Michael Cross >>

(25 March 2022)

Lingering myths’ about the validity of digital identity checks should be discarded, professional services regulators have said in the latest stamp of approval for fully electronic working. 

In a joint statement, the government-backed LawtechUK initiative and its Regulatory Response Unit – convened to represent regulators including the Solicitors Regulation Authority – said legal services regulation does not prohibit the use of digital ID verification tools in any of the jurisdictions of the UK. 

Digital ID-checking tools, which combine biometric scanning with checks of on official databases, are already widely used in services such as banking apps. However LawtechUK says it has ‘identified reluctance within the legal community’ to adopt the technology, with many professionals insisting that clients physically produce documents such as passports as part of the ‘onboarding’ process. 

‘This hesitance often stems from misconceptions around regulation, and a lack of awareness of the technical capabilities available to support clients and legal businesses themselves,’ it says. 

In reality, when used correctly, digital ID verification can provide a fast, cost-effective, and reliable way to verify an individual’s identity and reduce money laundering and compliance risks, it claims. ‘It can make it easier to spot fake documents for example, make the client onboarding process faster and smoother, and support the legal community to keep pace with changes in international economic sanctions,’

However the statement concedes that ‘manual verification may be appropriate in certain circumstances, for example where the client is unable or unwilling to use a digital ID tool or where face to face checks are required in certain jurisdictions’. Practitioners should be comfortable using both digital and manual ID verification practices, it says. 

Jenifer Swallow, LawtechUK director, said: ‘The joint statement sets out to erase the lingering myth that legal services regulation prevents the use or reliance on digital means of identity verification in law. Responsible selection, adoption and implementation of these tools can help improve compliance practices and client service across the legal sector.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)