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Bringing proof of age into the digital age

December 7, 2021

We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) to develop a new standard for a universally accepted proof of age which can be displayed on a smartphone, rather than requiring you to carry a valuable physical document when you go to the shops or out for a pint.

The PASS Board has already approved a new standard which defines the requirements for how a digital proof should appear on a smartphone’s screen, so it can be easily recognized by staff, and the essential security mechanics needed to prevent fake or altered images being accepted at tills.

This standard also expects issuers of digital proof of age to explain how their solution is “interoperable” with proofs supplied by other issuers, because the community of acceptors, such as retailers and bars, are clear that they want to be able to recognize proofs supplied by any certified issuer.  However, the PASS Board has asked the suppliers to come up with a plan for the manner in which this “universal acceptance” is delivered.

As the trade body representing a large number of these suppliers, the AVPA is stepping forward to facilitate the process to achieve a consensus across all current and prospective issuers (not restricted to AVPA members), as well as other key stakeholders such as the retail, gambling and hospitality industries about the requirements for a solution which delivers interoperability. These will then be agreed with the PASS Board, before the AVPA issues them early in 2022 in the from of an invitation to tender, in the hope and expectation that innovative technical solutions will be forthcoming.

The requirements are likely to include:

  • The ability for a retailer with minimal technology (e.g. just their own smartphone or widely used Point-Of-Sale devices) to validate a digital proof of age from any approved issuer
  • A mechanism for monitoring the number of digital proofs of age provided by each issuer
  • The ability to authorize and de-authorize proofs already supplied by each issuer centrally.
  • Decentralised and scaleable
  • An outline of a commercial model to make the interoperability solution self-funding, including an equivalent contribution to the administrative costs of the PASS governance to that in place for physical cards.

But these will be subject to discussion with the issuers and other stakeholders to agree the final set.  We are entirely open-minded about which technology is most fit-for-purpose, but will be keen to see suppliers have considered existing global open standards, and take note of the emerging requirements for a UK Digital Identity and Attributes Framework.

The issuers and other stakeholders will then be invited back to discuss the proposals received, with the aim of achieving a consensus as to which solution is most suitable for adoption by them all.  The AVPA will then ask the PASS Board to approve a new standard for interoperability, reflecting the solution it has selected.

The Home Office is currently running an experimental “sandbox” which is enabling the use of automated age verification in a variety of licensed premises. This trial period is due to finish in the Spring and the aim is to have selected a solution for interoperability by then.  This will allow the PASS Board to report back to ministers that industry has agreed a new national standard for digital proof of age and tested the technology in the field to demonstrate that it can improve levels of compliance, triggering revised advice from central government to local enforcement bodies about the acceptability of these modern time-saving solutions for the purchase of age-restricted goods and services.#

If you would like to be part of the consultation on the ITT or respond to it, please contact us.

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