The Telegraph reports that UK National Identity Cards containing biometric details, including fingerprints, “were championed by the previous Labour government as a way of preventing terrorism and identity theft.” But the new administration immediately scrapped the initiative, introducing the Identity Documents Bill to Parliament in May, which provided for the cancellation of the UK National Identity Card and the Identification Card for EEA nationals, as well as the destruction of the National Identity Register. As a result, the National Identity Register and all personal information supplied with identity card applications will be destroyed by February 2011.
My opinion is this is short sighted of the UK. Bahrain, Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and the UAE are some of the countries that have planned or already started to deploy electronic national ID (e-ID) cards. These cards are more secure because they can contain smart card chips. Some countries are implementing e-IDs that also include biometrics, and the ability to digitally sign documents.
Citizens can use their e-IDs for standard uses, like getting a driver’s license or a passport, or benefits from the government. But the cards also allow citizens to access more secure e-Government applications. Some examples including secure electronic filing of taxes, e-Banking, and even e-Voting.
According to Information Week, “Surveys of British nationals revealed they wouldn’t mind carrying such an ID, provided they didn’t have to pay for it. Suggested in the wake of Sept. 11, a draft bill to introduce the cards appeared in 2004, before they became law in 2006. At various points, the government promised the ID cards, containing biometric data, would help prevent everything from terrorism and identify fraud to illegal immigration and crime.”
In the US, the government has attempted to standardize the identification process once and for all with the REAL ID Act, which will likely be squashed under Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has proposed a repeal of the act. This is due to the amount of resistance RealID is facing from state governments and privacy advocates who don’t understand that the value of effective identity documentation of the degree of security that goes into an ID technology.
We have as many as 200 forms of ID circulating from state to state, plus another 14,000 birth certificates, and 49 versions of the Social Security card. We use for-profit third party information brokers and the vital statistics agency that works to manage each state’s data. A good scanner and inkjet printer can compromise any of these documents. This is not established identity. This is an antiquated treatment of ID delivery systems. Identity has yet to be established. We need a better plan.