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Biometric IDs OK With U.K.

The new Wired has an article about a survey by MORI that found out that about 80 per cent of 1,000 British adults want a biometric identification card, citing concerns about illegal immigration and identity theft.

Though the survey shows that most Britons back national identity cards, there’s a wrinkle: Half said they won’t pay for it, and few were very familiar with the cards. Contrast that with the government’s plan to charge 35 pounds for an identity card good for 10 years, or 77 pounds for a card including passport, for every family member 16 to 80 years old.

Concerns about Big Brother? Try “bumbling brother,” with 58 percent of surveyed Britons predicting the government won’t be able to roll out new ID cards smoothly, and one-third saying their stored information won’t be safe. Still, most support such cards, principally to tackle illegal immigration and identity theft. The latter costs the United Kingdom 1.3 billion pounds per year.

In the United States, popular opinion and embarrassing biometric-test failures have blunted overt national ID card efforts, though U.S. passports and some states’ driver’s licenses will store biometric information soon, leading privacy activists to warn the IDs could become de facto national IDs.

5 comments to Biometric IDs OK With U.K.

  • The “Wired” article is misleading.

    If you actually read the Detica commissioned opinion poll:


    “Although 94% of people are aware of the scheme’s existence, two thirds (67%) have little or no knowledge of the Government’s national ID card proposals.”

    i.e. most people have no idea that the proposals involve Biometric Identifiers at all, let alone the implications of *not* being able to use such ID Cards online, over the telephone or even by letter post for authentication for Government or other services. People are also unware of just how long they are going to have to physically queue and queue, in order to have the not as yet finalised Biometric Identifiers officially registered or checked.

    “Almost 60% people have little or confidence in the Government’s ability to introduce ID cards without hitches. Results suggest scepticism in the competence of the Government to manage large-scale technology projects.”


    “41% lack confidence in the Government’s ability to store personal information securely”


  • I did read the Detica presentation and I can’t see how the Wired article is misleading. It has the same conclusions.

    The public say ‘yes’ to ID cards – civil liberties argument fails
    – A massive 80% of people are in favour of ID cards
    – 73% of the population say they are unconcerned that ID cards will affect their civil liberties

    The fact that people are not aware of the details of the ID card scheme does not mean the conclusions don’t hold. Actually, on slide 14 you will find that more than 50% of the public are happy for their fingerprint to be stored on the card. That’s biometric, isn’t it?The words ‘clutching’ and ‘straws’ spring to mind. Just because I am on the same side as you, does not mean I am ready to delude myself. I am prepared to doubt the survey itself but not spin its findings…

  • Hugh Harper

    In the Unitied States your driver’s license is a defacto national ID. Six of the fifty states require fingerprints. Police everywhere have access. You can not get any gov’t service without one. Keep fighting it over there in the UK. Freedom everywhere is under assault from big brother. Now they are using terrorism to scare the sheepeople.

  • I am still of the opinion that the Wired article is misleading. It uses the word “biometric” half a dozen tiimes as well as in the title of the article. The MORI poll questions did not mention Biometrics at all, people were being asked about the general principles of ID cards, and they showed their understandable ignorance of both the technology, its implications, and the Government’s specific proposals.

    The Detica MORI poll was published the week before more details emerged about the Government’s plans were revealed by the Draft ID Cards Bill, and the misleading 83% “support” figure featured heavily in Daviid Blunkett’s spin, as if it was somehow confirming support for his detailed proposals, about which, two thirds of people told MORI that they knew little or nothing about.

    The one prompted question “How, if at all, would you prefer a national identity card to identify you?” elicited these approximate results (reading from the graphics) :

    A simple photo of you printed on the card >50%
    A fingerprint stored on the card >50% (but slightly less than above)
    An iris (eye) scan stored on the card >40%
    DNA details stored on the card >35%
    None of the above <5%
    Don't know <5%

    N.B. these figures add up to about 180%, which is rather questionable.

    The top choice of "A *simple* photo of you *printed* on the card" is NOT a Biometric Identifier ! This is *not* the same as, for example, a digitized photo or you, or a facial recognition minutuae hash value of that photo, stored securely in a smart card.

    The fourth most popular choice of "DNA details stored on the card " is both beyond current technology (too slow for an ID check in a few seconds, and impossible to gather an uncontaminated DNA sample outside of laboratory conditions) and does not actually feature as one of the choices of Biometric Identifier being evaluated by this or any other Government thinking about ID cards, Biometric Passports etc.

    The other mysterious statistic being bandied about by the Government, without giving a source, and repeated in the Wired article is the alleged £1.3 billion per annum losses to the UK due to Identity Fraud. The Government Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee that benefits fraud attributable to Identity Theft is only about £50 million out of £2 billion in fraud annually, and that ID cards might only perhaps reduce this to about £45 million or so.

    The new to the UK "Chip and PIN" credit card security measures being introduced, are aimed at around £250 million of fraud per annum (and not all of that can be counted as "identity fraud".

    So where is the other alleged £1 billion a year going ?

  • Guy Herbert

    On the figures adding up to 180%, it wasn’t an either/or question.

    What would be interesting to know is how many of the respondents just had no preference about the biometric to be used, how many wouldn’t mind more than one because they are complacent about the government having extra information for its own reasons, and how many thought more than one would be more secure or more reliable.