Print 27 comment(s) - last by MrPoletski.. on Feb 10 at 10:17 AM

British ID card is packed with useful biometric information for security purposes, like facial and fingerprint scans. However, the British government forgot to buy readers for them and has no concrete plan to add readers to the expensive card program.  (Source:
The UK's ambitious program revealed to be a major waste of money as they have no available readers

The U.S. is beginning to find out the hard way that adopting a digital ID card system isn't as simple as it seems.  U.S. passport cards were recently easily hacked in a proof-of-concept attack covered here on DailyTech.  However, security concerns aside, ID cards have other problems as well.

Britain's ID card program has become the poster child for problems of the weird variety.  The program seemed very promising, with the intention of putting a wealth of information at law enforcement's fingertips and making it harder for criminals to enter or exit the country.  The carding program, run by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), cost $6.6B USD (£4.7B). The IPS offered cards with a wealth of data including biographical data as well as facial and fingerprint scans.

While such information would certainly be helpful to law enforcement efforts, there was one critical problem.  British officials forgot to buy readers for the cards. 

A news site,, submitted a FoI (Freedom of Information) request to the IPS, which responded by revealing that currently no police stations, border entry points, or job centers have readers for the card's biometric chip.  Without readers, the card essentially becomes just a photo ID; no more or less secure than a standard drivers license, albeit at a much higher cost.

Identity minister Meg Hillier, ironically, had just told the site the previous week that the fingerprinting information was a "vital part" of the program as "fingerprint coded into the chip … links you to the card."  Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was quick to attack the floundering program.  He states, "Once again ministers have shown that the ID card project is absolutely farcical. What is the point of spending billions of pounds on cards that can't be read in the UK?"

Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton agreed, stating, "If this capability is not there then the biometrics are, in short, a waste of time.  I would have thought that the government would have tried to get the readers rolled out as soon as possible as it is only when you get serious deployments that you start to learn what can go wrong."

No definite timetable has been set for the rollout of the readers.  The IPS has stated previously that it plans to roll them out, but they may cost British citizens even more taxpayer money. 

Furthermore, many of its officials seem indifferent to the idea and seem quite content not to push for the installation of any readers at all.  States IPS's Hiller, "We have always said that we would roll out the scheme incrementally. The card will not be as useful as it could be until we have got the volumes out there.  There's no prospect in the immediate future for the government directing anybody that you have to buy those things [readers] because we would be placing a burden on these organisations."

She continues, "The manufacturers of the machines have also got to decide whether it is worth their while to produce them.  I think that organisations will decide in time that it is better, quicker and cheaper to have them."

The government plans to start issuing the cards to all airport workers and international volunteers later this year and to gradually roll them out to the rest of the population.  The IPS claims that when this happens, the number of readers will naturally grow, but provides no plans of how this will be done or indication that it will encourage it.

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RE: UK vs US
By luseferous on 2/5/2009 10:57:26 AM , Rating: 3
I doubt it will actually happen. For one it is far too unpopular and our current shambolic governing party is also unpopular and needs to try and win the next general Election.
I suspect that it will be queitly dropped sometime in the next couple of years.

Even if the scheme does come into effect the govenment agencies are so inept at IT (especially security) that organised crime will have better access to the info than government. Going on past form some civil servant will just copy the main database to a local laptop then leave it on a bus.

RE: UK vs US
By PrinceGaz on 2/5/2009 7:22:24 PM , Rating: 2
Are you implying that here in Britain, there is a long history of mismanagement of government IT projects, and dreadful security?

Remarks like laptops and things being left on buses are misleading in the extreme and portray Britain in a bad way, because they along with unencrypted memory sticks and top-secret documents are usually left not on buses but on trains. And let's not forget the internal mail system where CDs and DVDs are routinely sent willy-nilly packed with complete database dumps and go missing in transit, so another one then needs to be sent (what happened to the first is of some concern, but not a major problem so long as the discs are delivered in time).

But I am confident that our national ID card scheme will be of some benefit in some way. Obviouslly it is costing billions of pounds and history suggests it may have certain problems, but I'm sure that eventually it will be in a semi-functional state that may be of some use provided additional resources are made available to develop it. Either that or it will be scrapped when it is billions over budget and years behind schedule, which will be beneficial as by scrapping it we will be saving money that would otherwise have to be spent on a project doomed to failure.

Yay for British government IT projects! A lesson the rest of the world can learn from :p

RE: UK vs US
By Dorz on 2/5/2009 8:49:46 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot to mention the London Ambulance Service fiasco of 1992.... .

Studied this at uni as part of my Systems Analysis and Design course. Its shocking how the government cannot make a functional computer system and I am totally unsurprised at the above story. You only have to go onto the Job Centre website to see how badly implemented it is; You search for jobs in say London and half of the jobs shown to you are from a completely unrelated part of the country 100 odd miles away.......Thee government relies FAR too much on SSADM

If the above gets out to the general press which I'm sure it will then it will be just another nail in the coffin of an incompetent government. Trouble is none of the parties seem that competent.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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