Are Home Secretary David Blunkett's Compulsory Biometric ID Card plans actually a political sleight of hand intended to distract us from the very real privacy and other potential dangers inherent in a Central Biometric ID Register ?
The White Rose weblog is discussing U.K. to consider national biometric ID cards database
The comments in the article about Belgian ID Cards, whose designers do not see Biometrics as a mature enough technology for large scale use are valid. N.B. the population of the UK is six times larger than that of the 10 million or so people who live in Belgium. They also re-emphasise our view that the UK Compulsory Biometric ID Card scheme has made no provision for a Public Key Infrastructure to support Digital Certificates and Digital Signatures, which would
be of far more use to help to reduce the waste and bureaucracy involved with public access to Government services.
At the moment, the proposed ID Card would be of no use whatsover in authenticating a person via a telephone call centre or via the internet, which are both increasingly important methods of delivery of e-government services. You will still have to pay extra for a Digital Certificate as a small businessman or farmer to file your taxes with the Inland Revenue or to collect EU subsidies etc. online.
But is the "Entitlement Card" e-government services aspect of the Home Office plans actually just an excuse for the scary Compulsory National Biometric population Register database ? Home Secretary David Blunkett has hinted that once people have been forced to register their Biometric Identifiers (whichever these turn out to be), then the police and others would soon have access to mobile technology that could query this evil Central Database without actually requiring the ID card itself
Obviously, from a technological viewpoint, this will be much more challenging than verifying the details stored on an ID Card, and will be prone to even higher False Positive and False Negative matches, but this science fiction does seem to be what the politicians want to believe in. Unfortunately neither Members of Parliament, nor journalists seem to have picked up on this aspect of the Home Office ID Card plans.
"Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish): Does my right hon. Friend accept that he is naive if he expects the Home Office to be able to introduce this card without major problems arising, given its track record? Is not he naive also in thinking that criminals will not find a way to subvert the system? Is not the fundamental problem that carrying a card must be made compulsory, and that people will have to have it with them at all times? Otherwise, it will not deliver all the benefits that he hopes for.
Mr. Blunkett: I do not accept my hon. Friend's final point?not least because it will be possible to reference the identifiers against the ID base, without using the card. That will be a technological change for the future."
The Computerworld article referenced on the White Rose weblog also glibly assumes that it would be natural for such a Central Database to contain people's home address data. This is not necessarily the case, and is not actually required to prove one's identity.
Address information was one of the features most objected to by the public when interviewed for the Home Office focus group research: Qualitative research on identity cards: research report commissioned by the Home Office (.pdf)
If it is to be of any use in catching terrorists or serious criminals, the change of address procedure would be indistinguishable from having everyone put on to the Violent and Sexual Offenders Register.