UK jumps back on the biometric ID card bandwagon

The U.K. government on Wednesday reintroduced its high-tech plans for a national identity card program using biometric technology, this time promising to answer concerns raised by the opposition parties earlier in the year over civil liberties and the Home Office’s ability to oversee large scale IT projects.

The Labour government once again committed itself to establishing by 2010 a system of ID cards with embedded chips that carry personal information and biometric identifiers. The information would include each citizen’s name, address and biometric information such as fingerprints, face scans and iris scans, all of which would be included in a National Identification Register database.

U.K. Prime Minster Tony Blair told the House of Commons on Wednesday that identity theft costs the U.K. “billions of pounds each year,” and urged Members of Parliament (MPs) to back the government’s plans for addressing the problem.

Blair and the bill’s principal sponsor, Secretary of State for the Home Department Charles Clarke, have been unwavering in their assertion that the biometric ID cards are a powerful and much-needed weapon in the fight against terrorism, identity fraud, illegal workers, illegal immigration and illegal use of government entitlement programs such as the National Health System.

However, earlier in the week, Clarke said the new version of the bill gives greater authority to the National Identity Scheme Commissioner, who oversees the program, as well as adding limits on the database access granted to government agencies.

The Identity Cards Bill has been highly controversial since it was first introduced in Parliament last November. Critics in all three of the U.K.’s primary political parties have denounced the legislation’s estimated

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