Flawed biometrics offers false sense of security

From the United Kingdom comes disturbing news that the country’s politicians seek to introduce wide-scale “biometric” identity registration for its citizens.

That nation’s House of Commons on Feb. 11 passed the Identity Cards Bill in a 224 to 64 vote, calling for the use of biometric identification cards and passports. The bill still has to clear the House of Lords, where critics say it will likely face stiff opposition, but if passed it’s expected that biometric IDs will go into effect by 2010 and become compulsory documents for all U.K. citizens by 2012. That could set a disturbing precedent for the rest of the world.

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Biometrics, for those who don’t know, is the use of an individual’s physical characteristics – fingerprints, iris or facial scans, for example – as identifiers. These characteristics are scanned, converted to computer code and, in the case of biometric ID cards, embedded in built-in microchips as an ID number. A card can then be matched to its rightful owner through a quick scan of the relevant body part.

The U.K.’s Identity Cards Bill, if passed by all government levels, would mandate ID cards that include a citizen’s name, address and biometric information such as fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans, according to a recent report by IDG’s News Service in London. The collected data from millions of citizens would be deposited in a massive database called the National Identification Register under a plan expected to cost up to

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