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ID Cards Face Scottish Revolt

Big Blunkett’s scheme to force compulsory national Identity Cards on innocent British citizens is facing problems from Scotland.

Blunkett has stated that one of the keys to his plan is that the cards will be necessary to access local services such as health and education. However since devolution the Scottish Executive has responsibility for these in Scotland.

Today’s papers report that the Scottish Executive will not require ID Cards for access to services they control.

Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell is reported as saying that he was

…opposed to the use of compulsory identity cards for services that come under devolved responsibilities in Scotland

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

3 comments to ID Cards Face Scottish Revolt

  • The more I read and think about national ID cards, the more I regard the idea of a secure national ID card as being a chimera. I’m convinced it won’t work for the stated purposes — e.g. see my 10 reasons for believing it won’t work at my latest blog.

    Since posting that blog I realised that the maths involved ensure that preventing people from obtaining multiple identities on the system will be damned near impossible, yet allowing multiple identities for one person on the system will defeat the national ID card’s main purpose of being a secure identity for people.

    In order to ensure no duplicate identities for one person exist on the system, you’ll need to compare a new applicant’s biometric with all the existing applicants’ biometrics. By the time you’ve processed the 60millionth applicant, you have performed a total of (60million*(60million-1))/2 comparisons. In order therefore to be 99% certain that if at any stage you get a positive match it’s due to someone trying to a get a second identity on the system, the biometric comparison will need a false positive rate of 1 in ((60million*(60million-1))/2)*100. That works out to 1 in 179,999,997,000,000,000!

    And that probability has to cover false positives due to chance matches between 2 different peoples’ biometrics, false positives due to software or hardware glitches in the database, false positives due to the biometric reading being taken using dirty/faulty equipment and false positives due to human error at any stage in the process….

    Worse, the probability required gets small the larger the number of entries, and we’re talking about a dynamic population with births, deaths and migrations continually creating new entries or modifying old entries.

    Worse still, with biometrics you have to trade off the false positives against false negatives — achieving such a low false positive rate may guarantee that someone could submit their biometric multiple times and still have a reasonable probability of it not registering as a true positive!

    Note that with bank accounts, credit cards,etc it does not matter to have multiple accounts/cards for the same person.

    Despite all this, if the govt creates a system that most people honestly use, they’ll get the ability to control the law abiding society via these cards and the associated database. It’s just that those willing to fool the system will have only minor difficulties doing so.

  • Della

    Using the simple method of sorting the biometric information you can reduce the amount of operations to find one persons data to 26 comparisons (log2 60,000,000) You could even return a range of values with similar biometric resuls at the cost of 25 more comparisons.

    I don’t think there are overwhelming technical obsticles to this idea. That said the goverment seems to employ fools to work on its IT projects, and one such as this is guaranteed to cost hundreds of millions of pounds, and given their track record will probably fail the first time, but they’ll try again.

    The whole thing is a fascist idea born of the minds of modern day retread facisists (the communitarians running Labour) Blunkett is blind both metaphorically as well as literally if he can’t see this is a bad idea.

  • I’m not entirely sure what you’re suggesting, Delta.

    How would the biometrics be sorted?

    And how could you be certain that the biometrics that aren’t checked are not true positive matches for the biometric concerned?