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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: You have to start somewhere
By afkrotch on 2/5/2009 1:12:18 PM , Rating: 2
Umm...a good chunk of your biography is already out there on the web. When you were born, where you were born, what high school you graduated from, what college, where you live, what state you live in, your blood type, whether you're a donor or not, etc. Hell, millions of ppl have already willingly put that information out there too. Check Facebook or Myspace.

Giving relevant info for proper authorities to use in a single location can be a good thing. It's not like they're gonna put your daily lifestyle information into the card, nor even care.

I'd personally love to see everyone's fingerprint put into a national database. Sure would make catching criminals easier.

RE: You have to start somewhere
By Xerstead on 2/5/2009 3:44:04 PM , Rating: 2
Aside from the cost, one of the issues is how many people can access your data. Law enforcement would be hard to argue against but they have the means anyway. Add in council staff, social care, private security firms etc... Considering staff turn over, plus friends/associates of those people opens a huge data security hole. Our local governments already sell our name & address to marketing firms without our permission. Whats to stop them from using the rest.
As for Data integrity, *cough*
All it would take is for one typo or box ticked incorrectly by a Data entry temp worker or hacker to cause the system to fail you.
There are frequent reports of 'Secure' data being found on hardware on eBay, government departments loosing hard disks somewhere, laptops left in a taxi etc... I doubt ALL storage of our personal data will be more secure than these.

The information about us is possibly already out there, but not in one place. To allow almost anyone access to Name, date of birth, Parents, Address history, Bank details, School/ empoyment history, Childrens details etc, is just opening the doors to basic ID theft.

Those for the ID card scheme just brand you a criminal if you even try discussing it. 'What have you got to hide?' is the only response I've had dispite raising several valid points.
For the police to have a fingerprint database is a stronger argument, but this goes much further and puts information in the hands of un-vetted civilians.

RE: You have to start somewhere
By MrPoletski on 2/10/2009 10:17:51 AM , Rating: 2
It's not like they're gonna put your daily lifestyle information into the card, nor even care.

Not YET. Remember 1984, it's a warning, not a blueprint.

I'd personally love to see everyone's fingerprint put into a national database. Sure would make catching criminals easier.

Absolutely, you don't need ID cards for that though and you can't do much with stolen fingerprint data either.

Giving the government everything is an utter mistake though. For example, over in the USA you've recently had some issue with voter caging. Where voters were sent letters they were required to respond to, with ID, to remain eligable to vote. Well of course they were sent to neighbourhoods where they knew people would be either unlikely to produce ID or would just ignore the letter.. either way where there would be a high catchment of voter roll rejections. This was combined with the knowledge of an areas prevailing vote and hence you're influencing an election outcome unfairly.

well imagine if the government had one excel spreadsheet where they would filter via many previously unavailable or incomplete demographics to separate out all people they believe to be voting one particular way, then instigate policy that targets them for voting difficulty/ineligability.

It's not hard, poorer people tend to vote for socialist types and richer people for conservative types.

Governments trying this sort of thing is far from new either. Thatcher did it with the poll tax, the GOP with voter caging, our future government with .....

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki