Electronic ID cards are rubbish? Don't tell the Germans

Identity cards – remember them? They already seem like a quaint Labour-era political relic.

Remember how we all scoffed and said they were unnecessary and the government didn’t know how to sell them to the public? How the critics were ultimately proved right?

Don’t tell the Germans.

I just received a press release from NXP, a semiconductor company selected to support the impending rollout of Germany’s new contactless National Identity Card.

According to the release, “The contactless ID card will enable secure e-government and e-commerce services while protecting against identity theft and identity tracking,” and “can also be used as a travel document within the EU – and to some other countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt – instead of a passport.” More than 60 million cards are due to be rolled out over 10 years.

Now that all sounds rather like what the UK ID card was meant to do, but the policy and politics surrounding it were so poorly conceived and communicated that the concept was never likely to be a success.

Of course Germans are already used to carrying a paper-based identification document – as are many other European countries – so the cultural resistance is less than experienced in the UK.

But the need for some form of electronic identity verification system in the UK has not gone away, and even if ID cards now represent a political death sentence, we can be sure that the broader issue of identity will need to be revisited.