20 October 2005

Response to Talkpolitics on ID cards.

Excellent post rebuffing my argument for ID cards over at Talkpolitics. This is my response.


I understand your concerns. You have made me think again about some aspects of the National Identity Register (NIR), but here's a response to some of your points.

Firstly the price tag of £30. You are right, it may well be inaccurate. But by the government coming out and stating this figure so loudly, aren't they making it more difficult for themselves?

If they do believe they are vastly out on the figure, why say it? Sweden and Norway have just released biometric ID cards for around £30 (43Euros), so £180-300 seems to be a bit of a scare story, maybe we should trust the government on this one (strange concept I know).

As far as I know, ID cards are due to come out in what, 2007? It would be a bit silly of the government to say they'll cost £30, and then charge much more than this in the run up to an election.

You make good points about the govt's poor record on IT projects, but thats not really a specific argument against ID cards. The 'not on time and over budget' argument has been used to argue against almost anything, from having the Olympics to the congestion charge.

On the next point, I agree, lets have restrictions on the use and recording of the National Identity Registration Number from the National Identity Register. Problem solved. But even if the govt got hold of all our credit card/ ISP/ supermarket information, what would be the problem?

On the problem of fraud, the PIN number would only allow access to VIEW details, so there would be no threat from this of details being changed. You couldn't access the biometric information from this either.

True, once biometric information is forged, it can't be changed. Of course there is no need to put the actual biometric information on the card because a distorted version using new technology will do. Also if you are right about biometrics it has to be updated regularly anyway, and I'm sure a 'lost' or 'stolen' biometric could be flagged up on the system, and some extra verification method used in conjunction. Fraud generally is a very small percentage of the system, you say criminals will get around biometrics, but one thing is sure, without ID cards it is much easier for them.

You mention that biometrics have to be updated more regularly than 10 years, how often then? If you are talking about 8 years or even 5 years, £30 still isn't a lot for something that doubles as a travel document for the EU. Remember technology in this area is improving at a rapid rate. The govt aren't stupid. Why would they continue with a scheme they knew unworkable? They obviously think it will work.

Ok, Ireland are confident the US will drop the need for biometrics, we shall see. As it stands the US has categorically stated they will be compulsory in the future for travel to the US. If the situation changes, then review it, not before.

'None of the 11 EU countries that have ID cards have biometrics'. Not quite true. Belgium, Sweden and Norway have already started issuing biometric passports, Germany will start next month and Denmark shortly afterwards. Most other EU countries are looking to move to biometric ID cards/passports in the near future. Germany are solidly behind pushing for biometric passports throughout the EU. The Netherlands are already holding trials (admittedly still with technical problems as this article explains) and the Irish have only put biometric passports on hold. The US is pushing the Irish to provide an action plan on introducing them. Italy has plans for biometric passports. Even Switzerland is starting a pilot next year.

Nothing personal taken Unity, don't worry, thanks for saying you generally like my posts, its nice to be appreciated. As it happens your posts are always much better written than mine, damn you! Lol! Lesson to self, I must improve my grammar. But seriously, criticism is always welcome, slag me off as much as you feel fit, I don't take it personally. (By the way I've added another link to your site, cos I couldn't get the one you left to work.)


  1. Unity, I tried posting this in your comments but it kept coming up with 'supplied comment is invalid'. Don't know why.

  2. Forgot to add about Fiona Mactaggert. I have met her a few times and she seems very principled. She argues passionately for constitutional reform and protection of minorities. She even voted against ID cards in 2002 but has since changed her mind.

    I just can't believe she is being careerist over ID cards. She is sticking her neck out arguing for them in the national press, why would she do that?