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ID card plans are back and ‘more popular’

Silicon.com reports that government wants them and the public too seems to be warming to the idea… The UK government is preparing to reintroduce legislation paving the way for its controversial biometric identity cards. The proposed legislation was dropped in the run up to the election but the controversial bill is set to be reintroduced by Home Secretary Charles Clarke on 25th May.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, junior Home Office minister Andy Burnham said ID cards will give the public a “highly secure” way of protecting against identity theft which costs the UK economy £1.3bn a year and that support for identity cards was running at around 80 per cent. This was due to growing awareness of identity fraud.

Early analysis of the scheme that is being developed has indicated that the benefits – including to the public sector in terms of cutting fraud and the improper use of services, and to the private sector in terms of cutting identity fraud – will, when the scheme is fully operational, outweigh its cost.

Research released earlier this week reveals 57 per cent of adults aged between 16 and 64 said the controversial ID card is either their first or second preference for protecting their identity. David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, says the problem of electoral fraud is one issue which “throws the spotlight back onto ID cards” – most notably the problem of people voting in person with no required proof of identity.

So in order to stop identity theft that has very little to do with the ability to identify people correctly and more to do with the stupidity of people guarding their details, we are going to change the balance of power between the state and the individual. No prizes for guessing which way… And the central identity database is going to make it identity theft simpler, if you ask me as you’ll only have to fool one system.

6 comments to ID card plans are back and ‘more popular’

  • That £1.3 billion figure for identity theft has been quoted repeatedly by the government since about 2002. What they don’t tell you is that it is based on a mixture of guesswork and includes things the ID card could not possibly have any impact on, such as “card not present” credit card fraud. E.g. see:


    Also, the Register has neatly debunked this claim: http://go.theregister.com/feed/http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/05/25/id_bill_mk2_fraud_con/

    “The document takes a pretty broad view of what might be classed as identity fraud, and puts forward various reports and estimates that together add up to £1.3 billion in Appendix B. We can look at the most significant of these, and in each case gauge the effectiveness of ID cards in dealing with the problem:

    Customs & Excise: “Missing trader” fraud, which involves avoiding paying VAT by shuffling goods between EU countries, sometimes using false identities and front people. The study guessed 10 per cent of this might involve ID fraud, giving a figure of £215 million per annum, but as one of the salient features of the fraudulent IDs here would appear to be they’re non-UK, the ID card scheme does not apply. Customs & Excise also estimated (remember that these are old, old numbers Clarke and Co are basing their £1.3 billion on) that money laundering accounted for around £395 million per annum. But again, as most of those who’ll actually qualify for a UK ID card will already be familiar with their banks constantly pestering them to identity themselves, the bulk of this will be carried out via non-UK ID. So that’s £610 million of the £1.3 billion that ID cards would barely scratch.

    Department of Work & Pensions Regular readers will know the DWP has a new wild guess for this one, an impressive £50 million. In the 2002 study the ID fraud component of welfare fraud of “£2-5 billion” (a pretty tight estimate, that) was around one per cent, i.e. £35 million. Shall we let them have that one? So the score is £610 million to £35 million.

    Immigration: The Home Office claimed that in Heathrow Terminal 3 alone around 50 fraudulent documents were found each month, and that the detection rate was at most 10 per cent (it wouldn’t be hard to project this up to a nationwide, annualised border control catastrophe if that was what you wanted to do), and that it could save £6 million per 1,000 reduction in clandestine entrants. This produces the somewhat dubious ‘ID fraud’ cost estimate of £36 million for Heathrow T3 alone, but as they’re foreigners just arriving in the UK they don’t qualify for ID cards. Biometric visas might qualify, but that’s a different Bill, not the ID Cards one. Nul points – score, £646 million to £35 million.

    Credit Card fraud: The estimate (for 2001) was of £370 million losses made up of counterfeit cards, lost and stolen cards, and card not present fraud. As George Platt noted, an identity card can only protect against identity theft at point of sale, and he might have added that it can only do so if proof of identity is demanded at point of sale. Which, in the UK currently, it generally isn’t. So if your card is stolen, cloned, or used for card not present fraud (including via the Internet) the ID card as it is currently envisaged has no effect whatsoever. This is however the key area where the public thinks it would have an effect. Score now £1.16 billion versus £35 million.”

    And there’s more if you read the whole thing.

    Now why are the government using such an absurdly based figure in its attempts to justify a flagship piece of legislation?

  • Where does the bizarre “more popular” claim come from? I’ve yet to see any evidence.

    It is just about possible that they are not less popular among a large know-nothing section of the population, though after this week’s publicity and wholesale derision from every commentator not on the government IT budget payroll, it seems unlikely.

  • I’ve noticed in recent years how Labour spin permeates every key announcement. Who says 80% of the UK public now agree with introducing ID cards ? Not I, nor many people I speak to.
    Probably 80% of a small sub-set of Labour lackeys.
    The truth is the *need* for ID cards is being conflated with many other issues. Already, we have to produce passport, drivers licence, utility bills to open new bank accounts or any access any financial services. Even solicitors are now required to request these docs as proof of ID.
    So, when ID cards are brought in they will be compulsorily required, despite Labour denials.
    The first key “benefit” offered by ID cards is anti terrorism. Except that ID card technology will not be available till 2007-2009.
    The second “benefit” is better control of our Borders. Ditto, but not till 2007-09.
    Cost ? said to be now about £10 billion, so how long before the alleged £93. issue fee goes up to £193.
    I could go on, but what’s the point !
    Don’t even get me started on biometric data and joined up databases. Why should my personal, financial and health data be readily available to any junior official from any Govt Dept. for any internal unspecified reason.
    An ID card should first be a proof of physical ID like a passport.
    It should first be rolled out by issue to any foreign visitor seeking to visit or stay in this country. All UK services, such as B order Control, health, social security, Employers etc can use this to check identity. Databases should remain confidential to each Govt Dept, except Police. Authorised access by other officials should be under Court Control like at present.
    Once the system is fully deployed and functional; then it should be rolled out to UK citizens, when all the bugs and security issues are ironed out. That way, bona fide UK citizens have all the claimed “advantages” of the ID system and minimal disruption and hassle.
    After all, this is exactly how the green card system works in USA and that a much bigger country to Police and protect.
    …..rant over…….. back to normal stoic lurking.

  • Was speaking to a white-hat hacker about ID cards. The proposed chips fro the cards, he said, are very easy to hack. Asked him if the Government could manage such an IT project efficiently. He’s still laughing.

  • guy herbert

    OK. We now know that “more popular” is not true. An ICM poll conducted in the last week shows a bare majority of the population thinks (if that’s the right word in the context) that an ID card combined with a passport is “a good idea”. That’s quite a drop in popularity from over 80%, though it’s very hard to tell whether the general public’s knowledge of the scheme has increased, or this is just a response to the nominal cost.

  • S D

    Cards and other “advances” like this have a habit of being introduced by a less direct route. In Australia there was signifigant controversy some years ago over the proposed “Australia Card” (I was very young at the time, so apologies if my facts are not quite straight). The idea was dropped by the government (Hawke or Keating, I can’t remember). But then within a year or so we had swithched to new drivers licenses and proof of age cards which did somewhat resemble the ID cards that we told the government we did not want. Even if this is defeated in the open, it will only be a matter of time till something you have to carry, like your drivers license or something similar, is co-opted for this purpose.
    Good luck. You are going to need it.