Friday, May 20, 2005

Lets start with ID cards

Why I'm dead set against a national ID card scheme in the UK. (Also visit

There are huge privacy issues with a compulsory ID card. The ID card number itself will make the collation of personal data on the individual from multiple sources a trivial programming exercise. This is of course supposed to be prevented by the Data Protection Act, however the exemptions to principle eight of the act unfortunately allow personal data to be moved outwith the UK, or EU to countries which have little or no data protection. Indeed the increasing use of offshore outsourcing of I.T. facilities by British companies ensures this very phenomena. Then there is the government itself which seems to be largely exempt from major portions of the data protection act.

Then of course there is the cost. The New Labour government say £3 billion, but they haven't been right yet on the cost of an IT project, the National Probation Service IT systems, the Child Support Agency or the MOD's pay, pension and HR systems. All of which ran over budget and not just a little over budget, they ran lots over budget! The NHS IT system currently under construction is now expected to be somewhere around 500% over budget at around £30 billion from an initial estimate of £6 billion. A biometric national ID system will truly dwarf the NHS IT system. From Mr. Blunkett's description of the scale, every police car, police station, GP surgery, hospital, bank branch, post office, local council office, benefit office, employment office will have to be retrofitted with biometric systems, upgraded computers and network and staff retrained. It will be by far the largest single IT project ever attempted anywhere in the world. Not only that, they really have no idea if the systems they are planning will scale to 60 million people at all. £3 billion doesn't even come close to covering the costs.

Another argument against ID cards is that they do not work as advertised by the government. They will not reduce benefit fraud significantly, the vast majority of benefit fraud has nothing to do with identity, it is people claiming benefits they are not entitled to, unemployment benefit while working, additional dependants, housing benefit. The card will have no effect at all on this type of fraud. In fact the government's own statistics estimate that identity based benefit fraud makes up just £50 million of the £2 billion per year. The card's estimated annual running costs of £150 million won't even be covered by this saving.

Will it stop illegal immigration, illegal working or terrorism then? Let us look to a country with an existing compulsory ID card system to see what will happen. Spain have had compulsory ID cards for years yet, no, they have a huge illegal immigration problem, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants particularly from Morocco. In fact they have very recently had to simply give them amnesty and legal status! With illegal immigrants we get illegal working, a large thriving black market and a huge increase in criminality. Then there is the Madrid train bombing, not very effectively prevented or if you prefer, ETA who have been operating within Spain, under their ID card scheme for decades. So, no... ID cards have already been shown to be completely ineffective against illegal immigration, illegal working and terrorism.

With the large expansion in the black market there will be a corresponding expansion of related criminal activity, particularly identity theft and forgery. If you can make a card, it can be forged, if it can be forged then someone who has your ID number can become you. It makes identity theft truly simple after all an ID card is supposed to be gospel, if someone has an ID card they must be who they say they are.
  1. What is required to guarantee the validity of the identity? Well, every time the card is used the user's biometric information must be compared against the biometric information in the card. Then the card must be compared against the National Identity Register in order to guarantee the validity of the card. If either of these steps is missed out in normal day to day use, the criminal fraternity can go ahead and forge cards quite happily.

    1. If the first step is missed out then an impostor can alter the appearance of a stolen card to appear to be the owner of the ID number.

    2. If the second step is missed out then forgers can populate forged cards with the impostor's biometric information.

  2. Performing both steps required to guarantee validity has huge cost implications, there must be biometric readers everywhere and access to the National Identity Register must be granted to the public, with the corresponding infrastructure costs and problems that entails. I predict that the two step process will not be used generally and that criminals and terrorists will therefore be able to forge cards and function normally within society.

Finally. Yes, nearly done... A compulsory ID card scheme is the largest reversal of the position of the individual and the state we have seen since the war, notwithstanding the recent anti-terror legislation. ID cards are tags, much like dog tags or property tags, our identity becomes owned by the state, the individual becomes defined by the card and the database.


At Wednesday, October 26, 2005, Blogger startonline said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home