Government denies scheme to use social networking to access services will be equivalent to identity cards

The government will announce plans later this month to allow people to use social networking sites to access public services.

Under the Cabinet Office scheme people wanting to apply for services ranging from benefits and tax credits to passports will be able to access them using their logins for websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Once they have logged on via computer or mobile phone, the social networking site will send an email confirming their identity to the relevant government agency, the Cabinet Office said.

The government has denied that the scheme is equivalent to an identity card, stressing that it is not compulsory and will be an alternative to existing methods of accessing public services.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the plans were part of the drive to digitise public services. The government was "emphatically not reintroducing any centralised identity card scheme or a national identity database", he added.

"We want to enable people to be able to prove their identity online – if they choose to – without the need for any national, central scheme."

© Guardian News and Media 2012