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Electronic Identity Card
The Home Office is considering plans to spend an estimated £1.5 billion on ID cards – referred to as ‘entitlement cards’ in official circles - that incorporate biometric technology to verify the identity of the cardholder.
The newly appointed Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has warned that the database underpinning any entitlement card should contain only the most basic personal details - names, addresses, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers may be acceptable but "if it starts to move on to hold more personal data that would be a matter for grave concern." He added that the amount of data collected on people had grown markedly with the advance of technology and Britain was in danger of becoming a "surveillance society". Apart from CCTV devices and speed cameras, there was widespread data sharing between various organisations and government departments of which many people were unaware.
IT industry specialists believe that government has seriously underestimated the cost of its plans for universal identity cards. A sophisticated smartcard system is likely to cost £2.6bn over 13 years from planning to full operation (the present system is £1.5 bn). The Director of the Institute for Applied Health and Social Policy, King's College, notes that "this is a vast project, with 67.5 million records and 314 million cards distributed over 10 years. It will interface with many thousands of local authority systems, healthcare systems, police and housing. The design of these interfaces and integration will be an enormous task".
(Sources: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/dob/ecu.htm; http://society.guardian.co.uk/internet/story/0,8150,862357,00.html; http://www.observer.co.uk/libertywatch/story/0,1373,746744,00.html; Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2003; IT Week, 20 January 2003)