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Untitled Document

Big Brother Technology

  • ID Card dossier - updated July 2009
  • State Database & data mining dossier - Profiling risks mount
  • DNA database dossier - updated July 2009

    State Database & data mining dossier

    A "discussion paper" prepared by Sir David Omand, the former Whitehall security and intelligence co-ordinator, and now Visiting Professor at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, provides some clues on the extent to which our rights to privacy and the ability to lead a life without for ever looking over one's shoulder are being undermined through technological developments.

    Sir Omand's work been placed in the public domain in February 2009 by The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), and it forms part of the deliberations of its Commission on National Security, co-chaired by Lord Paddy Ashdown and Lord George Robertson. Apart from David Omand, other members are Dr Ian Kearns, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Lord Charles Guthrie, Lord Martin Rees, Sir Chris Fox, Professor Michael Clarke, Professor Tariq Modood, Constanze Stelzenmuller, Professor Jim Norton and Ian Taylor MP.

    Sir David's report seeks to be an objective comment on the White Paper 'National Strategy Study', presented by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Parliament in 2008. It describes the increasing capability of the State to link up all the data on an individual that are currently in discrete systems, for example central government, local government, libraries, returns from airline and library systems etc but also external sources. It is not essential for the data to be duplicated in the State database, so long as there is a central hub file of unique identifiers and hyperlinks to access databases and web pages elsewhere. Thus a mixture of authenticated and spurious information is being brought together.

    The emergence an over-arching State database on individuals will make it that much easier to device all manner of profiling schemes, with the consequence of placing people in 'suspect' categories on the basis of spurious correlations. The technique of 'data mining' - clustering individuals on the basis of like characteristics drawing on analysis of lots of data - is being used to throw up 'early clues' - but this is another name for seeking out 'thought crime' and equipping a 'thought police'.

    The report notes that the security services will be adopting "anticipatory approaches" i.e. "to engage in more horizon scanning and early warning activity". It points to a debate going on in policy circles: "how best to organise horizon scanning in the future is an open question. Would it be better, as some nations are doing, to build upon the established processes of intelligence gathering (for example through the JIC [UK's Joint Intelligence Committee], or to run a parallel civil horizon scanning process linked more closely to the JIC process?"

    In making a distinction between the "secret part of intelligence" and the "many sources where on or at least, non-secret sources will be sufficient" the Omand report refers to the availability of open sources of information or 'Osint': "self-regulating internet tools such as Intellipedia (an adaptation of Wikepedia) have found application at least within the US intelligence community". Additionally, "to the huge changes happening in the world of Osint must also be added the growth of a third category of information that might be labeled 'protected information', or Protint. This is personal information about individual that resides in databases such as advance passenger information, airline bookings and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records, and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communication records. Such information may be held in national records, covered by Data Protection legislation, but it might also be held offshore by other nations or by global companies and may or many not be subject to international agreements. Access to such information, and in some cases the ability to apply data mining and pattern recognition software to databases, might well be the key to effective pe-emption in future terrorist cases".

    Sir David Omand's assessment indicates how far the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' has been undermined: "...application of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation."

    He indicates these Orwellian times are already here, but hopes that "members of the intelligence community do, as part of their everyday professional life, follow a set of ethical norms set firmly within the framework of human rights". A pious hope indeed, given recent revelations of British collusion in torture and extraordinary rendition. The Guardian newspaper's reportage on the Omand Paper had an apt headline, "Fight against terror 'spells end of privacy'." Apart from the exceptional politician like David Davis MP, who resigned as the Shadow Home Secretary to draw attention to our 'surveillance society' there are not many in the power elite who seem unduly concerned.

    Downloadable from: click here

    US Data Mining

    An intrusive personal data collection and analysis project commissioned by the US government may find enthusiastic backers elsewhere. The Orwellian ‘Total Information Awareness System’ is under development as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) system. It seeks to create a very large database (VLDB) with data mining functionality to analyse telephone records, bank records, medical records, and educational, travel and other common transaction data of every citizen in the US. TIA also proposes to connect with a massive system of biometric identification. The project is championed by former US National Security Advisor John M Poindexter.


    EURODAC - Digitised Fingerprints Database

    Eurodac is a central database in Brussels comprising the fingerprints of asylum seekers that can be updated and accessed by the immigration authorities of other EU countries with the exception of Denmark. All asylum seekers over the age of 14 entering the EU will be registered in the country where they first asked for protection and have their fingerprints scanned and stored on the system, operational from January 2003. It is expected to hold details of two million immigration applicants by 2004. The project is based on technology from Cogent, implemented by IT services firm Steria. The system is managed by the European Commission. It is not clear which body will have responsibility of oversight of Eurodac.


    ID cards Dossier

    In April 2006 Parliament finally approved a Labour manifesto pledge for the implementation of a national biometric identity card. Government has since established a new department, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), as an 'Executive Agency' of the Home Office, with responsibility for the project. Once implementation is complete, the State will have access to a huge database of personal identity information, the National Identity Register (NIR). The project remains beset with confusion on design objectives and implementation timescales, and its over-riding goal of improving the nation's security is openly ridiculed by the Tory opposition.

    The Government seems intent on this project in the same way that Thatcher staked her reputation on the Poll Tax. Like the anti-terrorism laws which allow the Police to stop and search without need for grounds for suspicion (S.44, Terrorism Act 2000), the ID card system will alter Britain's social climate. The project is in a no-win situation: if Government presses ahead with a large and complex database then this is nothing else but Big Brother; if it seeks to reduce its role and bring in the private sector as a data management service provider, this merely transfers complexity from the technical to the administrative.

    Concerns are being raised on both technical and civil liberty grounds. Also worrying is the emphasis on market economics to handle personnel information - and will the proposed safeguard of a National Identity Scheme Commissioner be adequate?

    This Salaam Dossier keeps track of developments on this national white elephant project.

    "He [Shadow Home Secretary] also admitted that the proposal to have every British citizen issued with an ID card, first mooted by David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary, is now dead, because 'that decision has been made and I think we need to move on'."

    Statement by Shadow Home Secretary Ed Balls, 22nd Nov 2010

    "The introduction of identity cards is a simple means of helping you, and I, protect our unique identity from fraudsters..I know that some of you have real concerns about the government's motives for introducing the card. When I announced this week that I would make identity cards wholly voluntary it was because I believe that there are real benefits that will make the card an attractive proposition for many people. I think the case for identity cards has been made, but understand that getting a card will be a big decision for some people. Easy or hard, I think it should be a voluntary decision, one that people choose to take, because they agree and welcome the benefits an identity card will provide."

    Salaam comment - until recently we were given to believe that ID Cards were essential as a security and anti-terrorism measure - why isn't Government coming clean on ID cards and recognise it for what it is - a grandiose Blairite project that will not be cost-effective and should be scrapped?"

    Statement by Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 3rd July 2009

    "The government's case for ID cards has long been slippery, as the justification has constantly changed. At first the main aim was fighting terror, later it was benefit fraud. Securing the borders, too, was once the name of the game - before it finally transpired that the £5bn mega-project was, at its heart, all about making life more convenient for well-behaved citizens wishing to prove who they were.

    Pinning down the arguments is now doubly difficult because there is new confusion about what it means to be for or against ID cards. Not long ago the scheme's own granddaddy, the former home secretary David Blunkett, signalled he would happily trade it in for a universal passport; that caused a great stir even though he remains consistent on the main principles involved. Yesterday the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, raised liberal spirits by saying that consigning the cards to the scrap yard would be one of the first acts of a Conservative government. But in the very same announcement he pledged to honour two super-size contracts to procure a biometric identity database for the vast majority of UK citizens who possess a passport. True, politicians are still haggling over some important details, but much of the quibbling is now terminological. Meanwhile the blowing of billions on biometrics is underway and gathering pace - a bizarre priority at a time when public funds are about to run dry."

    18th June 2009

    Lord Steyn: "...The Government have sought to justify the ID card system on the grounds of security considerations. This is an unwarranted premise. ID cards will have no value as far as security is concerned. ID cards and the national identity register are, of course, identity-related, but there is absolutely no evidence that they will improve security. If that view is right, the case for an ID card scheme is gravely emasculated, and the Home Office attempt to sell the concept of ID cards to the public as a weapon for controlling immigration is quite misconceived. A drastic invasion of our civil liberties cannot be justified on grounds of mere administrative convenience.

    If there had been a real security justification, one would have expected the Government to bring the Identity Cards Act 2006 into effect with some alacrity, but the Government are aware that there is strong and ever increasing public opposition from all sectors of the political divide to the introduction of ID cards. The Government hope that they can soften up public opposition by a phased introduction. They underestimate the robust common sense of the British people. The tide of public opinion is running against the Government on this matter. Since May 2007, there have been losses of data on a massive scale, of which some details are given in an article that I wrote which is due to be published in Public Law 2009. It is part of the evidence that the Government have not mastered the way to competently run an identity card scheme.

    A central concern about the creation of a national identity register is the privacy implications that flow from having millions of individuals’ personal data contained in the scheme. Moreover, if there is an inopportune time for the introduction of an unnecessary ID card scheme, it must be now as we head into what may be a prolonged economic downturn."

    23rd April 2009, Hansard Parliamentary Record

    "...the programme will not be given to a single prime contractor but split into discrete deals. In the biggest, CSC and Fujitsu are shortlisted for a 10-year, £500m contract to supply basic passport systems. A separate £300m contract to supply the National Biometric Information Service, which will store fingerprints and facial images, is being contested by IBM and Thales. The winners are expected to be announced in the first two weeks of April. The card itself will be produced by another supplier under a separate, shorter-term contract to be awarded later this year. Splitting the contracts in this way at a stroke removes the most immediate threat - of an incoming Conservative government cancelling the whole thing. Although the Tories could indeed cancel the card, the underlying systems and biometrics will be needed anyway to meet international passport standards and the whole infrastructure can be kept on tick-over if a future government decides it wants cards after all..."

    20th March 2009, Michael Cross

    "The problem - acknowledged by the minister present, Meg Hillier - is that the card originated in the Home Office. As such, most scenarios for use involve physically handing it to a uniformed official where an individual is under some kind of suspicion. Yet the overwhelming majority of times we need to authenticate our identity aren't like that, because they're almost all commercial transactions and often online.

    Because the Home Office isn't that interested in online commerce (unless it involves child porn) the expensive, supposedly 21st-century ID card will be no help. By contrast, in Germany, according to Birch, the new ID card system is being built to work with online pseudonyms and in Finland, citizens can use their ID cards to get an ID for use online.

    Again, Hillier acknowledged that there's a problem. Online use is 'something we're grappling with', she told the seminar. 'The more people who have them, the more they will want to use them online.' A way had yet to be found for doing this without compromising the card's integrity, she said.

    The experts weren't impressed. Colin Whittaker, head of security at the banks' payment service, Apacs, said he could see little use for the current scheme. 'Some of the features we expect to see in an ID card are not going to be there for the foreseeable future.' He was also worried about hiring commercial firms to handle the enrollment process: 'That is not gold standard'...So, assuming a new government doesn't cancel the whole thing, we're going to get a national ID scheme, which, at vast expense, fills some of the gaps left by the current passport database. Some officials, mainly in uniforms, will find it useful; a few citizens will, as well. But alongside this behemoth, we'll need another national ID-authentication scheme for use in online commerce and public services."

    5th February 2009, Michael Cross

    Asked about the introduction of ID cards, another key element of the government's security strategy, she [Stella Rimington] said that "they [ID cards] won't make us safer." "

    27th September 2008, Dame Stella Rimington, ex-DG, MI5

    "This document sets out how the Government will deliver the National Identity Scheme...we need to protect ourselves and our families against identity fraud, and protect the community against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.

    ...In the second half of 2009, we shall start to issue cards to British and foreign nationals (including EEA citizens) working in sensitive roles or locations, starting with airport workers....From 2010 will will issue identity cards on a voluntary basis to young people ....In 2011/12, we will upgrade our passports to contain digital fingerprints in addition to facial image and change the ways you can apply for a passport or an identity card or both.

    ...the role of the private sector will be key in ensuring the pervasiveness and take-up of the Scheme. In Government terms, delivery will be principally driven by a number of partner organisations: the Identity and Pasport Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the new UK Border Agency...UKvisas and HM Revenue and Customs border staff and the Department for Work and Pensions....We are looking to a future where the Government would not provide biometric enrolment services. Instead, these would be provided by the market, giving citizens a choice of competing services which should maximise convenience and drive down price..."

    26th August 2008, National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan 2008

    "The national identity card scheme faces fresh problems following a warning from the government's top scientific advisers that the quality of fingerprints from 4 million people aged over 75 may be too poor to be used to prove their identity. ...American experts estimate between 2% and 5% of adults have poor quality fingerprints, which means ridges on the fingers are not sharply defined enough to be reliably copied by an automatic scanner.

    The warning is contained in a report slipped out before Parliament rose for the summer recess from the biometrics assurance group, which is made up of independent experts from Whitehall, the industry and universities and chaired by the government's chief scientific adviser, Professor John Beddington. The group was set up to review the science behind the ID card scheme."

    15th August 2008, The Guardian

    "We will have shortly, the most intrusive identity card system in the world.... The creation of a database state opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers".

    12th June 2008, BBC Q&A with Conservative David Davis

    "There are two aspects of what the government calls the National Identity Scheme: the roll-out of ID cards, and the creation of the database on which the state will store - among 49 items of information - people's photographs, passport numbers, driver numbers (given on driving licenses), fingerprints, national insurance numbers, dates of birth and addresses. By way of softening the introductoin to all this, there will initially be no specific date on which every British citizen has to be signed up; instead to start things off, the government has proposed that either people applying for their first passport or renewing an existing one will have their details entered into the register and be issued with an ID card".

    24th January 2008, The Guardian

    "The introduction of compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals in Britain will take at least three years to complete...The implementation programme for foreigners' ID cards is designed to cover all foreing nationals resident in the UK for more than three months wo apply to renew their permission to stay...the first required to apply will be students and those married to British citizens...the decision to phase in the £182 million scheme gradually contrasts with the claims made yesterday by [Home Office Minister Liam Byrne] ot have met the 'milestone targets' on immigration reform ahead of schedule".

    15th January 2008, The Guardian

    "It is our strongest recommendation that further development of a national identity scheme be suspended until research and development has established beyond reasonable doubt that it is capable of operating securely, effectively and economically on the scale envisaged"...signatories of the letter include Ross Anderson, professor in security engineering at the University of Cambridge...the academics claim that the chancellor's statement [Alistair Darling's statement that the scheme will increase protection against identity fraud] about improved security is true only on three conditions. First, that the entire population can be successfully biometrically enrolled on the National Identity Register [NIR], and matched thereafter. Second, that biometrics are unforgeable. Third, that every ID check will be authenticated by a live biomteric check against the NIR. All three criteria are unlikely to be met, according to the letter. The Home Office claims that the separation of the biometric database and the NIR will mitigate against security breaches, such as that at HM Revenue & Customs".

    6th December 2007, Computing

    "The government expects to take and record all 10 fingerprints from people receiving identity cards, the head of the ID card scheme revealed yesterday".

    10th August 2007, The Guardian

    The system was initially conceived to be stand-alone, but after IT industry criticisms it is now a hybrid of some original data as well as a pointer system to other Government databases such as the Citizen[sic] Information System. It is not easy to grasp what is proposed, because, as The Guardian noted in February 2007, “if you want to know the potential for the amount of information that could be collated and cross-referenced with the use of the national identity register and your unique ID, it is necessary to fit the pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle found in documents published by the Treasury, the Home Office, the Office for National Statistics, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions)”[1].

    Current plans indicate that the ID card will be issued to foreign nationals in 2008 and to British citizens the following year. In the early stages of the scheme, application for a new adult passport will require an ID card to be issued. In subsequent stages, a stand-alone ID card will be provided to people who do not want a passport. This ‘National Identity Scheme’ will eventually become compulsory and though Government states that it will not be essential for the ID card to be carried at all times, it will most likely become an essential requirement for a variety of day-to-day transactions for anyone residing in the UK and over the age of 16. In June 2007, Minister Liam Byrne noted that the ID card scheme was “ likely to become a national institution without which modern life would be unimaginable”. One of the targets is to have "at least" 80% of the population holding cards by 2019 [2].

    Each ID card will be unique and combine the cardholder’s biometric data with their checked and confirmed identity details, called a ‘biographical footprint’ (name, date of birth, address). These identity details and the biometrics will be stored on the NIR. Basic identity information will also be held in a chip on the ID card itself. Each card will also have its own Identity Registration Number (IRN), which will be printed on the card. The cardholder will also be able to set a PIN number. The biometric data will comprise facial and iris features and also fingerprints. A variety of non-Governmental bodies – ‘accredited organisations’ will be given access to the NIR to check against a proferred ID card. The scope of the data on the NIR is believed to include: name, signature, other names by which a person is known, date of birth, gender, and current and previous addresses in the UK and abroad, biometric details, residential status, NI number, driver licence number and passport details. While there is a specification of the data on the ID card, the Identity Cards Act has been worded in a way that would allow more items to be included on the NIR.

    There is disquiet from within the IT industry over resolved technical issues and deadlines that seem to change day-by-day. Over £50 million has just been spent on preparing the specifications and documents to be issued to companies that will be bidding for the implementation work! In July 2007, the trade journal Computing reported that the figure was more than double the value of the original £19 million pre-procurement consultancy contract signed in 2004 [3] . The overall cost of the project has been put at a straggering £5.4 billion, “but critics argue that given the government’s appalling record on IT projects that figure could rise as much as £20bn” (27th Feb 2007, The Guardian).

    "So who are the private sector wizards racing up the Whitehall pay league? One firm features more heavily than any other....The Cabinet Office's new 'change director' is one Susie Gear, formerly of Accenture. Accenture's old NHS salesman, James Hall,is now chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, while his old colleague Bill Crothers has left Accenture to become the Identity & Passport commercial service director. The new commercial director of the Home Office is Accenture's John Collington. But then Accenture, previously known as Anderson Consulting, has been a firm Labour favourite since the mid-1990s, when it seconded a young whizkid called Liam Byrne to run Tony Blair's 'business relations unit'. By happy coincidence, Byrne is now a minister at the the Home Office!".

    Private Eye, 3rd August 2007

    The IT industry is now awaiting the Crosby Report, expected to announce further project scope changes. Computing has observed in an editorial that "Sir John Crosby's expected call for the swift roll-out of ID cards has much to recommend to it. But it is also dangerous. Haste and technology can be a catastrophic combination, and the timetable is already under considerable stress"[4].

    The 2011 Census was proposing to utilise the NIR as a population register, though now this dependency has been removed. Once the project is implemented, there will be some cost savings due to a single population register and revenue coming in from fees from commercial enterprises seeking to access the NIR for identity verification purposes. The UK Government’s Chief Information Officer, John Suffolk, has tried to instill some confidence in the project by noting, “there is nothing new or cutting edge. I'm not sitting here worrying about the base technology” [5]. The point is that the serious challenge to database projects are not technical, but rather organisational, particularly relating to issues of cross-departmental data sharing.

    The private sector's role could well be more extensive than just a fee-paying user of the data. According to a report in Computing (9th August 2007), "officials on Crosby's treasury team requested a meeting with industry body the Enterprise Privacy Group (EPG) at the end of last month to discuss the potential for private sector ID brokers. Such a scheme would reduce the government's role to mandating and managing the the biometric enrolment of citizens only. All subsequent use of the identity established would be run by one or more trusted third parties - such as a bank - as chosen by the individual". This brokerage model boggles the mind!

    There is also a disconcerting complacency on the privacy issues. Suffolk has argued that "look at the situation in the private sector. You can't get credit unless you agree to your data being shared". While the public has recourse to the Data Protection Act (DPA) in the private sector, it will always be more difficult to uncover data abuses within Government. Oversight is proposed through the appointment of a ‘National Identity Scheme Commissioner’. The existing Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, responsible for implementation of Data Protection legislation has however described the NIR "unwarranted and intrusive" and "not easily reconciled with fundamental data protection safeguards"[6]. The NIR will enhance capabilities for profiling and targeting of specific populations.

    Gareth Crossman of Liberty has noted that “the impact of ID cards will be racially divisive and will result in more 'stop-and-search’” [7]. He has also warned, “It makes no sense whatsoever to design a system like this and then not use it to its full potential. Political expediency makes this the logical approach. When ID cards were first introduced in the second world war, they had three purposes: national security, to aid conscription and for rationing. In 1950, a parliamentary commission set up by Winston Churchill to look at the cards and found that by then they were being used for 39 purposes. We believe that such an expansion of uses will happen with the new ID card and register” (in the Guardian, 27th February 2007). What is particularly disconcerting is the maintenance of an ‘audit trail’ - a record on the NIR of each time an individual’s details has been accessed and by whom. Thus each identity verification request would be logged, for example time and attendance at medical clinics. A rich seam for the State’s data miners!

    In August 2007 the new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith confirmed the project was going ahead notwithstanding the arrival of a new Prime Minister [8]. It would have been more appropriate if she had used the opportunity to launch an initiative to consult more widely, for example through focus groups with citizens and experts. Unfortunately the Home Office has a tendency to believe that it knows best.


    1. The Guardian supplement, 27th February 2007
    2. The Guardian, 10th August 2007, '10-finger exercise for ID cards'
    3. Computing, 26th July 2007
    4. Computing, 9th August 2007
    CIO Forum: 'ID cards are no worry,' says gov CIO; 26th September 2006
    6. ‘Info Commissioner criticises ID Cards bill’, 28th October 2005,
    7. ‘Liberty: ID cards will be ‘racially divisive’, 22nd May 2007
    8. 'Jacqui Smith interview', New Statesman, 2nd August 2007

    Other sources:

    Home Office website

    ID Cards - June 2005

    In June 2005, the Government succeeded in passing through the Commons the second reading of the ID Card bill. It is now more or less inevitable that all UK nationals will be issued with a single, standardized national identity or entitlement card.

    The Government has not made a convincing case for the need to introduce this far-reaching social change.

    It is a burden being imposed on an unwitting public because of the enthusiastic backing of a former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, a politician who pandered to the anti-asylum and immigration sections of society. Senior ministers have expressed disquiet and the issue may well become an albatross for the next Labour government. It is believed that cabinet members Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt are sceptical, while old Labour stalwarts opposed to the scheme include Gwyneth Dunwoody, Clare Short, David Winnick and Jeremy Corbyn.


    The Government has admitted that it has been guilty of "overselling" the case for a compulsory national identity card scheme in Britain and conceded that it will not prove a panacea for fraud, terrorism or the abuse of public services. Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister now responsible for identity cards, has also admitted that "in its enthusiasm" the government also mistakenly emphasised the benefits to the state rather than arguing its benefits to the individual citizen.

    The Guardian, 4th August 2005

    The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, yesterday issued his most detailed and hard-hitting attack so far on the government's plans for identity cards. Mr Thomas, appointed by the government to report to parliament on privacy issues, described the scheme as part of Britain's growing "surveillance society". He focused on the unprecedented recording of information about individuals on an unnecessarily intrusive government-controlled central register. He accused the government of planning to retain information on the register that went beyond the needs set out in the ID card legislation itself.

    The Guardian, 28th June 2005

    The likely cost of rolling out the UK government's current high-tech identity cards scheme will be £10.6 billion on the 'low cost' estimate of researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), without any cost over-runs or implementation problems. Key uncertainties over how citizens will behave and how the scheme will work out in practice mean that the 'high cost' estimate could go up to £19.2 billion. A median figure for this range is £14.5 billion.

    If all the costs associated with ID cards were borne by citizens (as Treasury rules currently require), the cost per card (plus passport) would be around £170 on the lowest cost basis and £230 on the median estimate. The Annex (below) shows where LSE expects costs to be incurred and the 'Top Ten Uncertainties' about the project as currently planned.

    LSE Study, 27th June 2005

    The Government spent public money on opinion poll research to help sell its hated ID cards to reluctant voters long before the scheme was passed by Parliament. ….the three surveys for the Home Office by Cragg Ross Dawson were in 2003 and 2004 and made one big change to Labour's campaign. The then Home Secretary David Blunkett initially tried selling ID cards euphemistically as 'entitlement cards'. However, pollster found that 'entitlement cards' was thought superficially softer and warmer, but less familiar and 'weasely'. Not wanting to appear weasel-like, the government dropped the euphemism. The Home Office-funded research hints that Labour will soon be claiming that opponents of ID card are anti-social misfits.

    Private Eye, 18th February 2005

    The ID card scheme represents an important shift in the traditional relationship between State and citizen in Britain. The development has important technological and social implications. The Home Office has appointed UK consultants PA to prepare the tender documents and short list IT companies for the scheme's implementation, expected in 2008. This overview examines the technological and social dimensions of the ID Card scheme, some practical considerations, and also its implications for faith communities in Britain.

    The Technological dimension

    The ID Card

    The ID card will be a plastic 'smart' card containing a unique identifier for the individual, known as the National Identity Register Number. It will display some information in clear text - such as forename and surname, date of birth, date of issue and a photo. It will also contain a chip with encrypted information including biometrics - a term for the digitization of unique human properties. The precise data items have not yet been announced.

    Though the ID card will be voluntary, in practice it will be essential for every person over 16 to access facilities and services: to obtain a driving license or passport; to register with a GP; for opening a bank account; for benefit registration; it is also likely to be widely used by employers and retail organizations. The Bill before Parliament proposes a fine of £2,500 for non-registration for the card.

    In a typical scenario a person would be asked to provide his or her ID card for various types of check: -

    Level 1 - the simplest level, entailing a visual check comparing the photo on the card to the person producing the card.
    Level 2 - the card would be inserted into a card reader linked to a telephone authentication service. Reference would then be made to a central database (NIR, see below) to corroborate address information.
    Level 3 - the authentication service may ask the card-holder for a digit in a secret PIN, or a word in a pass phrase to verify identity
    Level 4 - the offline biometric check. The individual would be asked to peer into an Iris scanner or place one or more finger tips on a fingerprint scanner. The scanned 'biometrics' are then compared with the biometrics held on the card's chip. If there is a match then the person is bona fide; if there is a mismatch, then the card-holder has someone else's card.

    The NIR

    The Government will also establish a core central database, the National Identity Register (NIR). This will have further information on the individual. ID card reader devices will communicate with, and validate information on the card, with that on the NIR.

    The NIR record on an individual in the central database will hold both conventional data items as well as biometrics. The NIR will store digitized fingerprints (all ten), a face scan and an iris scan.

    The NIR will of course be searchable independently of the ID card, and also in tandem, using the NIR number embedded on the card as the look-up key for the database search. For example, a home address provided verbally by the card holder could be checked against the address held on the NIR. It is inevitable that the NIR will be linked to other Government databases to extend the power of the validation.

    Further developments are on the table. Firstly, the ability to transmit the scanned image captured remotely via a scanner to a central point for use to search through the NIR in order to establish identity. Such a 'matching online' feature will ratchet up system complexity and the need is being questioned by the technology providers themselves.

    The government was making the scheme more risky and had almost doubled its cost form £3.1 bn to £5.5 bn by insisting on a system capable of matching fingerprints, iris or facial images against a remote central database, when this was not necessary to verify identities. 'The Home Office wants matching online because it wants to keep an eye on the bad guys and keep an audit trail. But that means talking over the internet to the central database. We are saying that is a step too far'.

    Neil Fisher, Director of security solutions at Qinetiq, quoted in Computer Weekly, 15th February 2005

    It is also planned to link the National Identity Register with national and EU databases under the protocols of the Schengen Agreement. Britain has so far withheld from full compliance with EU border control agreements and the ID card has implications for the development of an EU wide visa information system.

    Other predictions include facilities to allow CCTV pictures to be checkable against the NIR, and also the incorporation of a radio frequency identification device (RFID) in later versions of the ID card so that it can be read from a distance: anyone carrying a card that passes a sensor will indicate their position. US intelligence databases equivalent to the proposed NIR also hold DNA information.

    The Social dimension

    Britain previous experience with an ID card was during World War II, then justified for food rations and grounds of national security. The 1939 National Registration Act was repealed in 1951. Prior to the War, and since 1951, there has never been an onus on a UK resident to carry a form of identification. So long as one remained within the law, an official or police officer would not be expected to ask for proof of identity or address.

    What has changed? At one level, it is the inexorable deployment of computer systems. Management elites install IT systems at the work place to inculcate standardization and uniformity; commercial enterprises make extensive use of credit rating and credit control systems to identify the slightest changes in a person's normal pattern of purchasing activities; governments deploy very large databases (VLDBs) for surveillance and monitoring, supplemented through other means such as telephone tapping and CCTV. The evolution of IT and systems analysis has been shaped by authoritarian needs to streamline and supervise. Mike Cooley writing in the 1980s was concerned with the impact on workers; his analysis is equally applicable to the public sector:

    Scientific and technical advance, in spite of its liberatory potential, brings also in its wake powerful tendencies of control and authoritarian organizational forms. Indeed, it has been suggested that 'control' has been as much a stimulus to technological change as has 'productivity'. Some researchers pointed out as early as the fifties and sixties that computers increase the authoritarian control which an employee has over his employees, and strengthens the hand of those who support a tougher attitude to employees.

    Mike Cooley, writing in 'Architect or Bee? The Human Price of Technology', Hogarth Press, 1987,

    This inter-connection between technology and 'political' demands has intensified after 9/11 - what Professor Conor Geart has described as the "voracious appetite on the part of what one might call the secret state - to aggrandizing more and more power and laws - but the more they have, the more they seem to need and the paranoia and our anxiety continues".

    Some practical considerations

    How will people get ID cards? The Home Office suggests that this would be done at time of passport renewal. However in this case it would mean a change in procedures such as a visit to a Passport Office for the capture of biometrics. A further issue concerns responsibilities for keeping the NIR up to date. Who is responsible for notifications of change of address or name and other personal details that might be held?

    A much trickier question [however] is who will run the distribution of the cards across the country. Few companies will have the experience or reach to set up an extensive enough network for this. The cards may have to be distributed through an existing network, such as post offices or police stations.
    Financial Times, 25th November 2004

    A further practical issue is providing adequate safeguards to ensure confidentiality of the NIR core database and the protection of privacy. The watch dog, the office of the Information Commissioner is hopelessly under-resourced to provide an effective policing function, which may also mean policing the policemen.

    One problem with the proposal for a national ID card is the security of the information in its "clean" database. Although police all sign the Official Secrets Act, and most are largely trustworthy, at least one policeman has been sent to prison for selling the information on the Police National Computer to the highest bidder, in this case credit reference agencies….if we can't trust the Police to keep a sensitive database watertight, can we trust other state institutions or outsourcing companies like Capita? To be usable, an ID card database has to be accessible by hundreds of thousands of people.

    Chris Williams, European Centre for the Study of Policing, Open University

    Implications for faith communities

    The LSE report 'The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications' published in June 2005 after a six month study noted that "if all the costs associated with ID cards were borne by citizens (as Treasury rules currently require), the cost per card (plus passport) would be around £170 on the lowest cost basis and £230 on the median estimate". This would be an excessive burden on many Muslim families, who are amongst the most disadvantaged sections of society.

    The Muslim Council of Britain's Legal Affairs Committee has issued the following comment on the ID card scheme: "The reality is that the laws which empower intrusion into private life is being used disproportionately against members of the Muslim community - all those administratively detained under section 4 of the ATCSA 2001 have been and are Muslim; evidence suggests a disproportionate targeting of Stop and Search powers used against Muslims; Stop and Search at ports also show the same pattern. This is hemorrhaging the confidence of the Muslim community's confidence and yielding the perception of discrimination and injustice. We believe that conferring additional powers on the state over citizens would compound the sense and reality of discrimination in the current climate."

    A consultation conducted by Fujitsu in January 2005 has reported that "the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu groups were concerned about the effect of faith based requirements on dress codes and appearance on the effectiveness of facial photographs used a biometric. Respondents wanted to retain appearances and dress codes required by their faith communities - for example, turbans for Sikh men and women, beards for Sikh men, chunnis for Sikh and Hindu women, markings on the forehead (bindi or tilak) for Hindu men and women, hijabs and other head covering for Muslim women and beards for Muslim men". Facilities should also be provided to ensure that the staff supervising the digitization of the iris and face should be women when cards are being prepared for women. In a supplementary note the MCB has added, "Many Muslim women believe that showing their faces to men (niqab) to be prohibited. As long as these points are borne in mind and respected, and we do not believe they represent insurmountable obstacles to the identity checking methods, we do not foresee a problem".

    DNA database

    Afua Hirsch, Legal Correspondent of The Guardian writes: "...the European court of human rights in December [that] condemned the government's existing database for failing to strike the correct balance between preventing crime and protecting privacy, stating that the court had been 'struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature' of the government's powers to take and keep DNA samples and profiles....

    Minority groups have also slammed the government's plans. There are concerns minorities are overrepresented on the database – with an estimated 57% of black men reported to have their profiles stored despite their lower overall lifetime offending rates than white men. 'This disturbing fact perpetuates the racist and wholly inaccurate stereotype that this group have a higher propensity to break the law,' said Matilda MacAttram, the founder of Black Mental Health UK. 'The DNA database is potentially the greatest threat to black civil liberties seen in the last 50 years in the UK'."

    DNA database plans based on 'flawed science' warn experts",20th July 2009, The Guardian

    Baroness Hanham [Conservative Peer]: "...The [other] downside is the encroachment on people’s lives and the impossibility of having one’s name or details removed from any of these databases, even if one wants that. The worst of these, of course, is the DNA database, which now has details of some 5 million people, all having been screened as part of a criminal investigation. It is nigh impossible for someone who is cleared of any involvement in a crime to have their details removed, whether proved guilty or not.

    I and my party are not against a database for serious offences, particularly for those who have been found guilty. However, we object to the amalgamation of an enormous number of details about a lot of people who should have no contact with enforcement agencies of any sort. A number of voices have now been raised in concern about what is going on. The Home Affairs Select Committee, the European Court of Human Rights—I hear what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, says—the Government’s own ethics committee on DNA and, most recently, the Rowntree report Database State have all said that the unlimited retention of DNA samples is at worst illegal and at best unethical. Does the Minister not think that the most recent statistics, which indicate a fall in the number of crimes for which DNA matches were available, should give the Government pause for thought?"

    ...The European Court of Human Rights made it clear that there was a need for greater openness and accountability around the governance of DNA data and the destruction of fingerprint samples. What are the Government going to do to ensure that those strictures are met? I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said about the usefulness of DNA collection, but usefulness and the case and causes for which it may be collected do not necessarily run together.

    ...the debate... is becoming one of enormous complexity, yet it really rests on the words of the Information Commissioner, who said:
    'Before new databases are launched careful consideration must be given to the impact on individuals’ liberties and on society as a whole. Sadly there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate.

    The Government need to heed what is being said and take note of the creeping concerns that, to quote the Information Commissioner again, this time on the subject of a communications database:
    'The plans are a step too far for the British way of life. We need to be aware of the British way of life and ensure that we do not transgress it or trespass on it."

    23rd April 2009, Hansard Parliamentary Record

    "Four months have passed since the European court of human rights landed a unanimous and unusually pointed judgment damning the "blanket and indiscriminate" DNA database in England and Wales, which keeps genetic tabs not just on criminals but on anyone falling under police suspicion. Save for a vague promise to consult on possible changes in several months' time, ministers have said almost nothing about what they will do, still less taken serious action. It is even rumoured the spirit of the ruling will be circumvented - by taking innocent people off the system but holding on to saliva samples, so they can be put back on as convenience requires.

    To worry about this is not to deny that genetic fingerprinting has been a huge advance. Contamination and other complexities make the degree of certainty less absolute than is sometimes supposed, but it has indisputably helped to catch the likes of the Ipswich murderer Steve Wright. The same science can help the innocent walk free - as when Sean Hodgson was released last month after serving 27 years for a murder he did not commit. Legal aid and other restrictions in such cases must be swept away. But the man who understands all this better than anyone - the technology's inventor, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys - told yesterday's Guardian that hoarding the DNA of the innocent was causing public support to wilt.

    This is not some technophobic reaction that can be educated away. A system that draws no distinction between those convicted and acquitted in court creates entirely rational anxieties. Foremost among them is discrimination, since some ethnic groups are more likely to be apprehended by police..."

    Source The Guardian, 18th April 2009

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