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Biometric ID cards do little to cut fraud, warns Imis

Bill Goodwin
Biometric ID cards will do little to combat identity theft, fraud or terrorism, the Institute for the Management of Information Systems will tell the government next week.

Imis, which represents 14,000 IT professionals in the UK, will argue that the government's real priority should be tightening identity checks before issuing passports and driving licences.

In a formal response to the Home Office's draft Identity Card Bill, Imis will claim that biometric ID cards are unlikely to be any better at protecting against fraud, terrorism or reducing crime than the non-biometric cards used in other countries.

Imis said the real problem is that current system of issuing passports and driving licences - which will form the basis of the ID card scheme - is open to abuse. The institute believes this raises questions about their value for establishing identity.

"ID cards are no great shakes," said Philip Virgo, strategic advisor at Imis. "What the government needs to do is have proper validation for issuing passports. The government needs to validate its own ID checks."

Imis will call for the government to introduce tough penalties for anyone who changes or forges information used to establish identity, even when no apparent fraud has been committed.

This should include stiff penalties for civil servants with authorised access who change records on government databases, computer hackers, or people who use falsified documents to assume another identity, the institute said.

Although the draft ID Card Bill introduces some penalties, Imis believes they do not go far enough to protect government databases from criminals who might plant people in departments to falsify electronic records.

Imis will also urge the government to recognise that in practice people use different levels of identity verification for different purposes, and that a single high-level system for establishing an individual's identity may not be appropriate.

It has criticised the anti-money laundering regulations, which have led to banks to request customers to bring in utility bills and passports to open bank accounts. Neither pose a barrier to fraudsters.

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