Moscow rolls out online IDs to provide citizens with “single point of entry” for accounts

By Lucy Ingham

The city of Moscow, Russia, has rolled out online IDs that will allow citizens to use a host of online services, including banking, social media, payment of utility bills and access to medical data, through a single set of login details.

The system, known as Mos.ID, is intended to enhance security by holding all personal data in government databases while removing the need to remember multiple login details and passwords.

Developed by Moscow’s Department of Information Technology (DIT), it is open to businesses operating in the city, meaning individual companies can use the system to register and authenticate customers.

One company already doing so is Moscow City Telephone Network, which provides services including digital TV, broadband, home security systems and mobile and landline telephone.

It is also being integrated into educational institutions, with the system already live on the website of the Higher School of Economics.

“The new system will simplify life in the digital space, help to counter fraud and become a single point of entry into hundreds of internet services for citizens,” said Denis Zhikharev, head of projects at DIT.

“In other words, it will do away with the need to memorise numerous passwords for various accounts.”

Moscow online IDs see citizen data held in centralised government database

The Moscow online IDs are underpinned by government databases, which hold key details including full names, emails, addresses, passport data and telephone numbers. These will be verified using two-factor authentication, with only the relevant data shared with each service.

According to the DIT, the service also has the potential to be expanded to support services including car sharing, ad placement, credit referencing and remote education.

However, while the government is keen to stress the security and ease of use that Moscow online IDs provide, the move is also likely to attract concerns related to the levels of state control it affords.

Russia has already attracted criticism and allegations of authoritarianism over a number of policies, including fines for those who insult the state or government online and a law that is ostensibly designed to combat fake news, but which critics say is direct censorship.

The Moscow online IDs project may also be designed to further access to user’s online data, with the country already compelling technology companies such as Tinder to share user data with authorities.

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