Banks question the viability of Blunkett's biometric ID card plan

UK banks and building societies have questioned the reliability of biometric technology underpinning government plans for a...

UK banks and building societies have questioned the reliability of biometric technology underpinning government plans for a national identity card scheme.

The concerns were raised last week by the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs), which represents the UK's main banks and building societies, after the government announced that it would begin developing a compulsory national identity card scheme.

This scheme, which could take 10 years to roll-out and cost up to £3.1bn, would initially involve the use of biometric technology such as facial recognition, iris scans or fingerprints in passports and on driving licences.

The government also plans to build a national database to store citizens' biometric and personal details.

In its response to the government's consultation on the proposed national identity card, Apacs questioned whether biometric technology was reliable enough to support the scheme, citing the rate of "false positives" and the lack of a global standard for the technology.

"We do not think that biometric technology is mature enough at the moment," said a spokeswoman for Apacs.

Apacs considered using biometric technology for its £1.1bn card fraud-reduction scheme but, after concerns were expressed about its reliability, it chose chip and Pin technology instead.

Apacs called for the government to use a smartcard as the basis for a national ID card scheme, using technologies such as personal identification numbers and tokens to verify a citizen's identity, in addition to biometric technology.

Fraud experts were also sceptical about how effective biometric ID cards would be in combating rising levels of identity fraud.

Peter Dorrington, head of fraud solutions at business software supplier SAS UK, said biometric technology would only buy "breathing space" in the fight against fraud, and determined criminals and terrorists would find a way around it.

Critics of the government's ID card scheme have also warned that it would be one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in the UKpublic sector, presenting challenges in IT project management and systems integration.

Home secretary David Blunkett said that by 2013 he expected 80% of the population to have ID cards, based on passports or driving licences.

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