Scrap ID cards and Big Brother database, says ex-Microsoft CTO

The government should scrap two key IT projects and recast them in a way that fits a truly digital Britain, says Microsoft's former national technology...

The government should scrap two key IT projects and recast them in a way that fits a truly digital Britain, says Microsoft's former national technology officer for the UK.

Jerry Fishenden, who last week left Microsoft after 12 years, said the national ID cards scheme and the Interception Modernisation Programme, otherwise known as the government's Big Brother database, reflected an out-of-date understanding of what the digital world was truly about.

Fishenden said the privacy and security of personal data on the web was the crucial issue facing society as more and more information is stored in digital format.

It was vital that people can authenticate themselves to service providers, but also that people could confirm that the service provider was who they said they were, he said.

But he said Whitehall operates in discrete departments or "silos", so "nothing joins up".

Fishenden, a member of the London School of Economics thinktank, Policy Engagement Network, said even David Blunkett, the original sponsor of the present ID card scheme, has lost faith in it, and that the Conservatives had promised to scrap it as their first act on entering government.

Recent work showed how individuals and enterprises could adopt "minimal disclosure" techniques to provide secure positive authentication of their respective online identities, he said.

He said that Microsoft bought U-Prove technology last year, which carried out research in this area, and showed it to the ID card project team, apparently without result.

Fishenden said government plans to modernise its wire-tapping capacity for the internet showed a lack of understanding of the technology. It was easy to disguise a coded message as a normal e-mail simply by pre-agreeing what the message meant, he said.

In addition, spy or criminal IT experts could use tools like OpenVPN to ensure that IP addresses could be disguised and used only once, leaving no pattern for law enforcement officials to find, he said.

"Microsoft's paper on laws of identity >>".

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