HM Land Registry, along with the Law Society, the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers recognised the need within the conveyancing industry for a ‘secure, efficient and convenient means of identifying the parties to a transaction, particularly during a pandemic’.
Enter the ‘Safe Harbour’ announcement. So, what does this ‘Safe Harbour’ standard look like? When will this proposal come into effect? Most importantly, what does this mean for conveyancers? We discuss the above and more below.
What does the proposed ‘Safe Harbour Standard’ mean?
Of course, this prompts the question: what are the requirements that, when met, guarantee conveyancers this ‘Safe Harbour’? 1) Obtain evidence from the client
To meet this requirement, they must hold a form of evidence that can be checked by verifying cryptographic security features within that evidence. The security features must include an electronically held photo of the identity against which biometric facial recognition checks may be made. This can be a biometric passport, identity card or UK biometric residence permit.
2) Check that this evidence is a valid document
Conveyancers must verify that the evidence they obtain from a client is current and is not a fraudulent document. This can be done by using a Digital Identity Check provider – this will check documentary and cryptographic security features of the evidence are genuine.
Now, here’s the part that’s caught the industry’s attention: the identity check provider’s system must read the chip within the evidence using Near Field Communication by providing any required cryptographic keys.By scanning an NFC chip, the provider will be able to match a digital signature and extract biometric information from the evidence supplied by the client. What next?
3) Make sure the evidence matches the client
This is somewhat self-explanatory. Conveyancers must make sure the person presenting the evidence matches the photo on the documents gathered. This must be done using a Digital Identity Check provider, so that the biometric information gathered using the NFC chip can be matched with a ‘liveness test’. What exactly is a ‘liveness test’?
A ‘liveness test’ uses photographs or video (captured live during the ID checking process) to verify that the person taking the check is real. For this to meet the ‘Safe Harbour standard’, the Digital Identity Check provider needs to also ensure this image/video is captured under controlled quality conditions (i.e., controlled light/noise). The ID provider also must have a false match rate of below 0.01% and use a biometric algorithm that’s proven to be effective against a recognised benchmark, like the National Institute of Standard and Technology’s (NIST’s) face recognition vendor test guidance.
There are further requirements for conveyancers representing a borrower, transferor or lessor. A full, in-depth explanation of these requirements can be found here.
When will these come into play?
This is tricky to pin down. The Land Registry’s consultation process ended on 11th December, and it’s expected that the industry will see developments as soon as early 2021.
How will this affect conveyancers?
It’s important to note that this is not a compulsory standard. However, as the standard was proposed to encourage and drive the use of technology in conveyancing transactions, it’s no surprise that meeting the ‘Safe Harbour standard’ will be beneficial for conveyancers.
HM Land Registry will not pursue any conveyancer in any recourse claim resulting from the registration of a fraudulent transaction on the grounds that identity checks were inadequate if the ‘Safe Harbour Standard’ is met.
Will Thirdfort meet this standard?
At Thirdfort, we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of Legal-tech, and on meeting lawyers’ needs with technology. Therefore, we’re already working hard to build this function into our product and are in close conversation with HM Land Registry to ensure we meet the ‘Safe Harbour Standard’.
To keep up to date with how Thirdfort are meeting the ‘Safe Harbour Standard’, make sure to sign up to our newsletter below, or get in touch at email@example.com.
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