back to article STILL TRUE: Facebook and co to handle taxpayers' ID

Cast your minds back to June 2011 when The Register exclusively revealed the Cabinet Office's plans to allow British citizens to sign into public services online via social networking log-ins such as Facebook. Now, if you glance at the national press today, you'd be forgiven for thinking that something new had happened with …

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  1. Bunker_Monkey
    Facepalm

    185 people

    to redesign a homepage....?someones buddy is cashing in! typical government spending again!

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      Re: 185 people

      So thats':

      80 people to render the animated gifs

      43 people to lay out the tables/write the html/using notepad and mspaint

      38 people to write a navigation system using iframes and javascript

      15 people to hack the navigation system into the rest of the site

      9 people to design a logo that says "Works best with Internet Explorer 6"

      1. leeeeeb

        Re: 185 people

        Or possibly:

        180 people implementing the PRINCE2 management process

        4 people with "UX" in their job title who have been in the same meeting since the start of the project

        1 developer

      2. ElNumbre
        Joke

        Re: 185 people

        You've completely failed to take account of:

        The Project Managers,

        Project steering commitee,

        Project Board,

        Executive Sponsors,

        Public Oversight Officers,

        Service Review Committee,

        Quality Assurance Officers,

        Risk Assessment Group,

        Technical Engineering Group,

        Technical Development Group,

        Developers of Technical Groups Dept,

        Europe Integration Specialists

        Welsh Steering Board,

        Scottish Steering Board,

        Northern Irish Steering Board,

        Financial Accountability Executives,

        Procurement Executives,

        and Jeff, the webguy who's actually building the site.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 185 people

          You appear to have missed: Joss-stick & Whale song coordinator

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      a disaster in waiting.

      I had to check the calendar, I thought it was the 1st of April again.

  2. mccp
    Headmaster

    gov.uk still a POS

    The article piqued my interest enough to go and have another look at gov.uk.

    There still seems to be a problem rendering fonts on buttons and dialogues (Chrome).

    I ended up on this page: https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement/y/full-time/starting/2012-07-01/2012-01-01/5-days

    If you calculate your holiday entitlement, based on starting this year on 1st July, with a holiday year that runs from 1st January it tells you that you have 14.1 days:

    It also tells you that this is calculated as: 5.6 (statutory entitlement) x (fraction of year: 0.50) x 5 (days per week) = 14.1 days

    This is wrong twice. For one thing, the calculation above equals 14.0 days. For another, the fraction of the year should be worked out in days (182/366) and not rounded. The equation should be 5.6 x 5 x 182 / 366 and you get 13.9.

    This is just the kind of pesky mistake that causes disagreements between employers and employees and just goes to show that the government should butt out of website development as well as the railways.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: gov.uk still a POS

      Strangely, I'm actually going to defend the final calculation here. July 1st is the 182nd day of the year, so your holiday entitlement would be for the rest of the year. Using 184/366 you end up at 14.07 - rounding to 14.1.

      1. mccp

        Re: gov.uk still a POS

        Well spotted.

        I wondered if I was right when the DirectGov website gave the same answer, but I still couldn't see my mistake.

        The calculation they show on the page is still wrong though.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Another waste of money duplicating the functions of directgov on gov.uk, whats the benefit to the tax payers?

    And if its anything like previous changed and update to government websites links will get broken and not redirected to the correct pages. The amount of times i have typed a link thats been provided from a government document to find 'that page cannot be found' error and have to go to google and do a search to find where the info had been moved too. HMRC is particularly bad for this and so is the Environment agency.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True fact, the money went on equipping everyone at GDS with iPhones and Macbook Airs so they can hot desk at Aviation House.

    Rumour also has it that the reason they went back to the old IA is they couldn't get search to work.

    Anon for obvious.

    1. h4rm0ny

      "True fact, the money went on equipping everyone at GDS with iPhones and Macbook Airs so they can hot desk at Aviation House."

      If that's true (and I could believe it), then that particular piece of information deserves a lot wider attention and a few heads on the chopping block. There's a much cheaper way to hotdesk. It involves roaming profiles and a sysadmin that knows what they're doing. How many people does "everyone at GDS" equate to? Are we talking ten, fifty, a hundred? Also - security!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Very, very true. We are talking all staff at GDS so maybe 2 to 300 people. That maybe why the fonts are so big on gov.uk, normal type is hard to read on a 11 inch air screen. Although devs do get nice 24 inch monitors to plug them into.

        Saying that no need to believe a random post, this is of course a matter of public record, or if not should be.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      where can i get this job at aviation house? do i need skills? what if i just bullshit them a fat one about how great i am?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed opportunity...

    ... I knew I should have placed a bet on this outcome, I'd be rolling in it like a government gravy train passenger, also known as a GDS employee in this case.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Semantics

    I hope they leave it as 'allow' rather than 'require', because you won't catch me signing up for any ID that weasels Farcebook or its pointless chums anywhere near my life thanks.

    Government should stop trying to be so nauseatingly 'down wid da kidz innit' and get on with something useful, like calling an election. This isn't it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Semantics

      "Government should ....get on with something useful, like calling an election"

      For what point? So a different numpty can move into number ten, making the same vacuous noises, with exactly the same incompetent and sh1theaded policies, the same out-of-touch disregard for the workers and taxpayers of this country, and the same fatuous focus on "solving climate change". The "big society" becomes "one nation". Woohoo.

      We tried having an election to get rid of Smiley Brown, and just got Tony Blair Mk2. Kicking this shallow, spineless twerp out sounds good, until you notice that the only possible replacement is no different. He's never done a proper job, is another Oxbridge toff and party hanger on ("I say! You rough looking fellows! We're all working class here in the Labour Party, what what!").

      It's Guy Fawkes we need, not the sad panda.

      1. GrumpyJoe

        Re: Semantics

        To be fair to Milliband, he WAS schooled in a state school, but yes, he's as wet as a Welsh Summer Bank Holiday.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Semantics

        The best comment I have ever read on The Register.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Semantics

        I thought Cameron had done a stint as a TV executive or something? Probably not as real life as Major having been born into the circus before becoming an accountant but still.

        Facebook implements OpenID doesn't it (along with Google, Yahoo, et al.) If that's what they want to implement, it's pretty robust and well proven (and free). And it doesn't mean Facebook gets to see what you're looking at. They just provide the authentication.

  7. frank ly
    Happy

    Proof of identity

    At last, I'll be able to prove that I really am Mongo The Magnificent and that I have lots of friends.

    1. ukgnome

      Re: Proof of identity

      Mongo, I have been looking for you. Please accept my friend request and click on this link www.iwillcommitfraudthankstotheslightlyimperfectwaythegovernmentisgoingtohandlethis.con

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Proof of identity

        88 characters is of legal length, right, but .con ??? I didn't look at the fTLD list, did anyone try establish a .con TLD?

  8. Why Not?
    Big Brother

    why not

    OpenID?

    http://openid.net/government/

    http://openid.net/u-s-government-openid-pilot-program-participants/

    If there are issues with it they can help fix them and if it needs developing / administering it then they can help fund it.

    Beats funding a for profit organisation

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not, you ask?

      The government is trying to be seen as *not* holding the data, so they can't be to blame for the inevitable dvd in the mail or usb left on a bus or what have you. So, yes, openid fits the "it's not us, honest" bill, it already exists, and it doesn't necessarily mean you're now forced to give your everything to teh zuck... bitch.

      All upsides, right? No, not quite.

      It's still the government shirking its responsibility to get it right. And from their perspective, there's no single party to blame when the inevitable happens, so that's low on "accountability". Also, how would you verify the person behind the made-up email address? So that doesn't fit well in their model. Now I'm the first to say their models need changing, but that doesn't automatically mean openid will be at all suitable.

      But the main problem is that it's yet another "we need something, this is something, we need this" type "solution". The lack of understanding, verily the lack of thought at all is what's the real problem here.

      You shouldn't go "hey, we can try $whatever, why not?" but instead you really need to understand what they're trying to do, list all the requirements and non-requirements, then find a list of candidates, sort them by desirability, cut the undesirables, then see what's left. I suppose it's possible openid will be "good enough". It's also possible that we need something new entirely.

      I haven't done a thorough investigation but my hunch is that zero knowledge-proofs will prove necessary for a long-term, scalable solution --scalable in the number of uses, as that will inevitably increase, and not so much in the number of users, as that's been done clear enough--, unless privacy is simply unimportant. But really, the government needs to start trying to understand what it's trying to do, and so far it's been failing horribly. No ready-made solution can fix that. Not even the hiring of an ex-grauniad hack.

  9. Test Man
    WTF?

    What is the point of gov.uk? Is it because DirectGov is a Labour creation? Couldn't they have redesigned DirectGov? Or is the gov.uk site's backend completely different or something?

    1. Elmer Phud

      got it in one - it was the other mob that gave us DirectGov so they must change it or it's an admission that either it sort of worked or not enough mates were passing dosh through the Caymans.

      The wheel MUST be reinvented if the other mob brought it in.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Roll on October 17th

    Those of us complaining about gov.uk have been whingers in the wilderness but when it goes live on October 17th, we'll be faces in the crowd.

    The GDS mob have been all about playing with cool technologies, and very little about user and stakeholder requirements. A typical example is a recent blog post about how they have rolled all their own MI tools because , clearly, nothing on the shelf could possibly be good enough.

    A cynic might say that a bunch of highly-paid people on short-term contracts have spun out an opportunity for on the job-learning and self-congratulatory networking to make sure their next gig is even better paid.

    That ignores the fact that at their next interview, they might get quizzed on what they actually delivered, rather than what they promised or experimented with.

    And, with all the debris they have strewn and folks they've pissed off, they can forget working in government again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Roll on October 17th

      You're obviously don't work for a government contractor. There's not a whole lot they can do to get kicked off of the gravy train.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am not on facebook...

    .... can I use Fetlife instead?

    anon for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am not on facebook...

      They ought to use 4chan's ID system...it will save everybody a lot of time in the long term.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: Am not on facebook...

        I'm sure moot would license it to them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought the purpose of any government dept was to re-invent the wheel at every opportunity?

    (anon coz I like the icon)

    1. Elmer Phud

      Jobs for somebody elses boys?

  13. Naufana
    Thumb Up

    It seems like a great scheme

    The article places too much emphasis on the idea of Facebook as an identity provider -- from what I've seen of the scheme (at a few conferences, and before it was "revealed" in June, 2011), it seems to be a pretty good thing. The government won't be required to create a national database to store user's identity, and there will be a free market for identity providers. Facebook is the example that always seems to be raised, but I imagine other people will want in on the scheme. I believe Logica (or Capita, can't remember which, and maybe both) are selling a platform that can be repackaged by companies wishing to act as identity providers (think Tesco, banks etc.).

    I imagine a lot of these providers will make money not from a subscription fee for the scheme, but by using aggregate data for marketing purposes. For the more security conscious (like me), this model creates a great opportunity for somebody to step-up and offer a subscription-based service that guarantees to not resell your data, individually or in aggregate.

    It just seems like a government IT project that is well thought through, providing single sign-in authentication without ceding more control to central government (ala New Labour).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It seems like a great scheme

      Oh great! Logica, Capita, Tesco... My enthusiasm really knows no bounds now.

      The idea is sound, the participants just aren't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It seems like a great scheme

      "For the more security conscious (like me), this model creates a great opportunity for somebody to step-up and offer a subscription-based service that guarantees to not resell your data, individually or in aggregate."

      [IANAL] but as I understand it the problem is that when a commercial company goes bust, its remaining assets [such as a database of identies] are flogged off and the purchaser is not bound by any guarantees or assurances the original company gave with respect to the database. So the guarantee is only as good as the solvency of the company!

    3. cleidh_mor
      Facepalm

      "A Free Market for Identity Providers"?

      You have to be fucking joking! My identity is not a commodity to be sold.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "A Free Market for Identity Providers"?

        Identity provider? No thanks, I already have one.

        Oh, you meant "identity thief". You want to take my identity so that you can make money out of giving it back to me when I need it online.

  14. Peter Fox
    Thumb Down

    I've just stolen Peter's identity

    Let's see how he untangles that. Who will he ask first? Where can he go to find where his 'on-line' identity is used? If I get his benefits redirected to my account and new address and make a fraudulent claim how on earth will that be sorted out? Probably as Peter himself defrauding the system.

    One identity for everything is really bad news. (I'm a bit miffed that Peter has a Facebook account in another name as I can't get that - Yet.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've just stolen Peter's identity

      The key question when entrusting ID to any scheme is, 'who owns the risk?'.

      In this case, it's probably YOU

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If I own the risk...

        ... I demand the control to go with it, thanks.

        This more or less implies doing away with the notion of identity providers as a separate class, as otherwise the rest ends up second class.

        It's not impossible, in fact it's possible, but none of the existing solutions is up to the task. And so far the government wouldn't even understand how it could possibly work at all, and neither do its "advisors".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I own the risk...

          Oh come one - all we're talking about is granting access to your benefit, health and tax records, passport and driving license based on your Google login.

          What could possibly go wrong?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would like to authenticate via 4CHAN.

  16. Graham Marsden
    Black Helicopters

    By using this application...

    ... you consent to allowing your personal information, friends list, likes, favourite activities, blood group, dna sample and any other piece of crap we can get out of you to be spread far and wide to anyone we deem might want to get a look at it, preferably in return for a few tidy back-handers, whether or not you want them to see it...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can have my FB page, three photos from a year ago and a rant about someone cutting me up at a traffic light just after Xmas! As for the mobile number that was required, it's a shitty PAYG card that's in the car for emergencies and last used properly about 18 months ago!

    As it should be, my FB has nothing to do with my life just a way for my extended family to find me and invite me to meals once a month!

    1. Mark #255

      As for the mobile number that was required, it's a shitty PAYG card that's in the car for emergencies and last used properly about 18 months ago!

      It's very probably been cancelled then.

  18. Downside
    FAIL

    I just dont get it..

    I've got a unique ID already... my national insurance number. Isn't that managed by the govt? Don't we employ a doughnut full of security experts that could implement some uncrackable authentication mechanism?

    I'm assuming we'd have to pay someone to knock this up, why not pay our own civil servants to do it?

    Or is it going to be a legal requirement to have a valid, genuine, your-name-here facebook account?

    b-o-n-k-e-r-s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      NI Numbers

      wasn't there a story a while back about duplicates creeping into the system ?

      Back in the 90s, a friend was denied unemployment benefit, because the DHSS claimed they hadn't paid their NI. After being confronted with 2 years worth of payslips proving she had, it turned out her contributions had been credited to another account, with the same name. And incredibly, there was nothing they could do.

    2. Why Not?
      Stop

      Re: I just dont get it..

      there are more active NI numbers issued than people legally in UK.

      They issue them like smarties.

      Basing any database against them would be foolish, surprised it hasn't been mandated.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I just dont get it..

      NI numbers aren't unique

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK

    So you get rid of one web site that you don't like and the replacement is just as bad - in fact it turns out to be largely the same as the old one.

    Why is this such a surprise? Considering it's being organised by politicians that's exactly what we should expect - like everything else they do.

    My guess is that the civil servants and web designers are largely the same and just getting paid for doing the job a second time. Again, no surprise there. It's the same in most policy areas.

    In our democracy, you're just voting to change the front man, not the way the country is actually run. To change that, you need to step outside the box and do a bit of protesting, preferably in a way that the politicians really hate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: OK

      Yep, that's the problem with all forms of government, save dictatorship, which has it's own special problems.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK

      "My guess is that the civil servants and web designers are largely the same and just getting paid for doing the job a second time. Again, no surprise there. It's the same in most policy areas."

      That would almost make sense. In fact, it's another lot, so we're paying twice. And, we've been here before: before gov.uk, ditectgov; before directgov, ukonline. And let's know forget DotP.

      I would love to know how many tens of millions have been spunked on government supersites and failed attempt to centralise government web sites. As far as I know it's:

      Directgov - £126 million over 7 years

      www.gov.uk beta - £4.5 million so far

      DotP - £35 million

      ukonline - don't have any idea, sadly

      Anyway, even that undoubtedly incomplete picture adds up to £165.5 million, which is a lot for running a website. And that doesn't include the costs of the un-assimilated government websites

      So, www.gov.uk - 3rd or 4th time lucky? Don't bet on it

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