The resourceful and good-humoured David Moss has spent seven years campaigning against the Home Office’s ID card scheme.
So diligent are his efforts that Lin Homer, Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency, sought to persuade him last month to meet “key staff involved in the assurance of the identity of travellers”.
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All credit to the plain-speaking Homer for arranging the meeting. She didn’t pretend that identity technology is perfect.
Homer said in a letter to Moss: “I welcome your interest and concern inthe development of systems to secure our border, and note yourextensive history of correspondence with Home Office ministers andofficials.
“This is an area of great importance not only to the staff who are responsible for ensuring that the UK Border Agencyprotects the public with the most effective means at its disposal, butto those who have a broader interest in the technology and how it isdeployed.
“Although this area of our business presents a rangeof new challenges, not least in terms of the development of technology,we believe that we are putting the right systems in place to help usachieve our objective of securing the border.
“At the sametime, we understand that these systems have their limitations, andcannot be expected to deliver a complete solution in isolation. We arevery much reliant upon the skills and experience of our staff to makethe most of these tools and protect the public.”
Thus Homer arranged a meeting on 23 February 2010 between Moss and key officials, who were:
Karen Kyle, UK Border Agency
Marek Rejman-Greene, Home Office Scientific Development Branch
Alex Lahood, UK Border Agency
Henry Bloomfield, Identity & Passport Service
Mike Franklin, UK Border Agency
Moss’s (unofficial) minutes of the meeting record what happened when he asked whether the UK Border Agency and the Identity & Passport Service, which runs the ID Cards scheme, use the same facial geometry system.
Yes,said one person. No, said another. The Sagem algorithm is being used,said one person. The Cogent algorithm is being used, said another. Thetwo algorithms comply with one standard, said a third person.Everything comes through the National Identity Register (NIR), saidsomeone. The NIR doesn’t exist yet, said someone else. We ended on theword “co-ordinated” – the approach is co-ordinated, said someone.
This, perhaps, explains why joined-up Government may be unattainable.
Thefinal remark, that “the approach is co-ordinated”, is what, indiplomatic parlance, is called “coming up with a form of words”.
A voluntary alternative to materialised ID Cards – David Moss
Our ID Cards Service is first-rate – Lin Homer in The Guardian
Think the ID Card has gone away? – think again – Big Brother Watch
Germany unveils new RFID personal security card – Puppetgov