Untrustworthy ID cards

The fact that the Home Office minister, Tony McNulty, has admitted there are difficulties with biometric technology (your report, 18 October) will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the results of the biometric trials conducted for the Home Office - trials which encountered failure rates of one in 20, one in five and one in three for iris, fingerprint and facial verification.

His claim that the arguments have shifted from civil liberties to issues of cost and practicalities is pure wishful thinking on the part of the Home Office. Campaigners against the proposals have always been clear that despite the myriad flaws with the scheme from a pragmatic perspective, the greater danger comes from the National Identity Register; the creation of a database state and a surveillance society.

The creation of a central database would be a great infringement of our civil liberties. The use of a government database to restrict access to essential public services, such as health and education, would alter our society fundamentally; there can be no benefit in creating an underclass of people who must hide from the state and shy away from interacting with public bodies.

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Also, while the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, may have capped the price of standalone ID cards at 30, that only includes the price for the piece of plastic and the paperwork. There are enormous costs associated with the infrastructure required.

That 30 will not cover the cost of installing biometric scanners in hospitals and GP surgeries; it will not pay for the large number of civil servants required to administer the scheme; and it will not cover the costs of the NIR, the most complex, ambitious IT project the government has ever attempted.

Independent experts at the London School of Economics have estimated that the scheme could cost up to 19.2 billion to implement. That represents hundreds of pounds for everyone in the country. If we do not pay the full cost when applying for the card, we will pay through our taxes.


NO2ID (Scotland)

Grovepark Gardens


Charles Clarke's enthusiasm to introduce a national ID card betrays a profoundly misplaced faith in the biometric technology to be used (your report, 13 October). According to the Home Secretary: "A national ID card will be a robust, secure way to establish that identities are real, not fabricated."

It is surely time the government took proper note of the detailed study by the LSE into these issues. The use of biometrics was an area of particular concern, given its complexity and the fact that the technology is still precarious and that it has never been used successfully on such a scale anywhere in the world. Indeed, it was judged that such are the risks inherent in a complex, fully integrated ID system of this kind that it could itself become a significant target for terrorist attacks.

The LSE report concludes that current ID card proposals are "too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence". So when will Mr Clarke take counsel from this objective, authoritative academic study and not be misled by the biometrics consultants, whose primary motivation is to make money?


Boat Green


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