There is talk of the UK state requiring users to upload government-issued ID such as a passport to create or update an account on social media or pornographic web sites. This is not a particularly new idea, and was tried by parler with the predictable result that hackers got access to the data resulting in potentially negative results for those who provided accurate data.

It would seem that a sensible precaution one could take would be to submit a fake identification document, either editing to remove PII or taken from the web (perhaps even the parler hack). While the government could change the law when requiring such identification, what is the current situation regarding such a request? If a social media or pornographic web site started requesting government-issued identification documents today is there any law giving such a request legal standing? Would it be legal to present them with an image that was not of your actual document, however generated? Would it be different if an image of a real document that does not relate to the submitter, an edited document that did relate to the submitter or a completely artificial image of something that never existed?

1 Answer 1


The Identity Documents Act 2010 forbids having a fake passport or driver's licence in order to mislead somebody else about your identity (including your date of birth, name, etc.), or using somebody else's document as your own. There are further offences about making such a document in the Criminal Justice Act 1925 s.36 (passports), and the Road Traffic Act 1988 s. 173 (licences). It is similarly not allowed to lie to the government to induce them to issue you with an inaccurate-but-official document.

Forgery of some other documents used in proof of age, like birth certificates and credit cards, is covered instead by the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981.

Any of the above might also constitute a criminal fraud, which is currently covered under the Fraud Act 2006 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; and under a variety of common-law names in Scotland, in particular "uttering" in the case of false documents. The Act also prohibits possession of articles for use in frauds.

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 might also be relevant in terms of gaining unauthorized access to data, but this is not often prosecuted.

In identity theft cases in general, the Fraud Act is the most commonly used, becuase it is so general and applicable to a wide range of circumstances, but there are still hundreds of prosecutions annually under the more specific statutes.

It is not a crime to give somebody a redacted copy of your passport - for example, blurring out some of the information - as long as you're clear that that is what you are doing. Replacing it with false information is not allowed. You also cannot claim that the altered document is the original one as issued. Of course, the redacted version might not be acceptable to your counterparty, but at least you are no longer trying to deceive them.

As to the service provider's power to request proof of age or identity, they are broadly free to do what they want, subject to laws on data protection, discrimination, consumer protection, and so on. That is, if they are gathering information about their customers, they'd better do so in compliance with the GDPR, make sure customers understand the requirements to access the service, and all other normal matters to do with the conduct of business.

  • Have these laws actually been used in the case where the "document" was an image, rather than the actual physical document? An example case would be great.
    – User65535
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 13:44
  • 1
    R v Ondhia [1998] 2 Cr App R 150 is a case where the defendant was convicted of forgery under s.1 of the 1981 Act, for sending a fax of a faked document. There was intent to deceive the recipient that it was a faxed copy of a genuine document (i.e. not that it was the original, which was clearly not the case, but that it was a faithful copy). A document generally can mean a computer file, not necessarily just a physical document.
    – Og8219
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 14:42
  • From here it seems he was convicted for making an actual physical document "he made an instrument namely a copy bill of landing which was false".
    – User65535
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 14:52
  • Ah, I was citing that mainly for the idea that something purporting to be a copy can still be a "false instrument". For electronic documents, the 1981 Act doesn't define "document" but does include a "device on or in which information is recorded or stored by mechanical, electronic or other means.", 8(1)(d).
    – Og8219
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:52
  • There are many cases establishing the generality in other contexts, e.g. Derby v Weldon (No. 9) [1991] 1 WLR 652, [1991] 2 All ER 901, "the mere interposition of necessity of an instrument for deciphering the information cannot make any difference in principle", i.e. just because you need a computer and monitor to turn the 0s and 1s into visual form, does not matter. Allegations of forged emails, etc., are common.
    – Og8219
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .