The UK government is expected to announce plans on Wednesday to open up the public notary system to the internet, in a move that has the potential to open new avenues of transparency and accountability for politicians.
The UK government said on Monday that it will open up notary services to the public, with the aim of allowing individuals to register online and gain access to their records for free.
The announcement follows months of public consultation on the proposals, which would be seen as an important step towards more transparent government, especially in a country with a reputation for corruption.
The move follows months when the UK government had been criticised for stifling innovation by keeping its “secret” notary office shut down, preventing people from signing up for new accounts and forcing people to rely on their personal bank accounts.
The government has said it will now open up access to notaries for the public to “make sure people have a record of the actions they take, the details they have, and the documents they have signed”.
Notaries will not have to answer to any public authority, but they will be able to access records of public bodies and organisations for the first time, allowing them to create a public record of a process.
The notary service will not be subject to any government controls, but people will still need to register with the service in order to be able access it.
The change to the notary public comes after several years of public opposition, with people in some quarters saying the service was not as effective as it could be.
The Independent newspaper reported in February that a notary in the UK had to turn in more than a third of all documents sent to him for his signature in response to an inquiry by the BBC.
Some members of the public have been particularly concerned about notary commissions that were formed by government to allow people to sign up for notarial services.
Many of the commissions were set up to address a public perception that the UK was becoming less transparent, while some also pointed to the lack of transparency in the private sector.
The public service has also struggled to keep up with changes in technology and the internet.
The Government’s plans have been met with criticism from civil liberties groups.
The Guardian newspaper quoted David Anderson, director of the Open Rights Group, as saying that “it is hard to see how the public service can function effectively without having the notaries online”.
“They will still be relying on personal information, including passwords, for their access, and they will still have to prove to the service that they are a member of the notarial profession.
They will still not be able do what they want,” he said.