10 reasons why the govt’s ID cards plan will not work

“Clandestine entry and working in this country, the misuse of free public services, the issues around organised crime and terrorism – all these issues will be the ones for years to come.”

Blunkett’s statement above (see this report from the Guardian) sums up the reasons the govt claims the ID cards are necessary. Below are 10 reasons why I believe the plan will not deal with any of these problems.

1. The govt has to issue the cards to us. They will therefore need to ask for existing ID documents to prove who we are. The cards will therefore be no more reliable a means of identification than the weakest existing documents that are sufficient for the govt to issue the new cards.

2. Terrorists, and organised criminals, can simply, forge, fraudulently obtain, or recruit people with ID cards. Suicide bombers are not known for repeat offending.

3. Illegal immigrants will simply avoid contact with the authorities (e.g. work for “cash in hand”) until they’ve managed to forge or fraudulently obtain ID cards.

4. Benefit fraud due to false identity has been estimated at £20-£50 million per year. ID cards are estimated to cost at £1.6 billion a year to implement. On these figures the cards will cost at least 30 times as much as the benefit fraud they could prevent. These are govt figures. See the commons debate on ID cards.

5. The govt will be creating a single card that can be used for accessing public services, travelling abroad, proving eligibility to drive, applying for jobs, proving legal residence, etc. It could easily end up being required for opening bank accounts, taking out loans and mortgages and anything else where identity is considered important. Thus, if the card becomes accepted and trusted in the way the govt intends, to pretend to be you in ALL these areas of life, criminals will only need to successfully forge one document.

6. By creating a central database of personal information, used to back the ID cards, the govt will create a single target that can be attacked by criminals to obtain the necessary information to track you down, pretend to be you, forge records for forged cards,etc.

7. The govt has a hopeless record on creating computerised databases, e.g. consider this Guardian story about the Courts’ computer system.

The odds are the ID system will be ridden full of bugs and errors, cost considerably more than currently claimed and will fail to work.

8. The govt claims biometric identifiers will make forgery impossible. This is simply false. Biometric identifiers do not work 100% correctly. Forgers can obtain or forge blank cards and download their own biometrics onto such cards. Biometric identifiers can also be stolen and forged themselves. They might make things difficult in which case a weaker part of the system will be attacked (e.g. the documentation to acquire the cards).

9. Identity theft currently occurs where people gain enough sensitive information to pretend to be someone else. They gain this information from a variety of sources, e.g. from thrown out bank/credit card statements, from restaurant receipts, from customer databases etc. ID cards will not close off all these options and will create new options.

10. Illegal workers need only avoid contact with the authorities to avoid the need to produce an ID card. Even if ID cards were compulsory to carry, the opportunities for forging or fraudulently obtaining the cards would be still be available.

Further reading:

Richard Hallam MP has written an excellent article in his blog.

The Register has an excellent article here.

ID cards — the next steps is the govt’s latest document outlining the plans.

STAND is worth looking at too. And don’t forget to try some of the links on my sidebar…

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Big Blunkett announces incremental plan for national ID cards.

The BBC and the Guardian report that Blunkett has outlined his plan for national ID cards. In the face of cabinet splits over the issue, he is going for an incremental approach to introducing the cards.

According to the govt’s new document on the subject the national ID cards will be introduced in 2 phases. In phase 1, a new national identity register will be established, passports and driving licences will be replaced by cards carrying biometric identitifiers (e.g. fingerprints or iris scans) starting in 2007/8, a voluntary ID card for those without passports or driving licences will be made available and mandatory ID documents containing biometric identifiers will be introduced for foreign nationals staying in Britain for more than 3 months.

In phase 2, after a full debate and a vote in parliament, the cards will be made compulsory to own and access to public services will require presentation of such a card. The cards will also be required to apply for jobs legally.

Blunkett is trying desperately to justify this claiming the cards will make identity theft impossible (which is simply false — biometrics will not prevent forgery or false application for the cards) and asserting they’re necessary without explaining why. Moreover the new govt document on this topic repeats a lie about the govt’s earlier consultation on entitlement cards. The document states:

Of the 5000 people who responded formally to the consultation, 4200 expressed a view. Over 60% of these were in favour. We also received over 5000 emails from an organised opposition campaign. Over 96% of these were opposed.

But the 5000 emails referred to were sent by individuals responding to the govt constultation via the STAND website, and thus were a formal part of the consultation. It is simply disengenous to separate these from the other responses since they were sent via the gov’ts formal channels for the consultation and involved individuals making their own mind up to oppose (or support in some cases) the cards.

For some detailed criticism of the cards, this article in the Register is worth a look. The Stand website also has good material including more detail on the spinning and lies over the results of the consultation exercise. Finally, Samizdata and White Rose also comment on this.

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