Jail terms promised for anyone tampering with ID card database

In an effort to counter some concerns about the proposed introduction of a national identity card the Prime Minister has spelled...

In an effort to counter some concerns about the proposed introduction of a national identity card the Prime Minister has spelled out the penalties that will face anyone caught tampering with the national database that will administer ID cards.

Anyone convicted of interfering with the database will face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Administrative staff working on ID cards who improperly disclose information could face a two-year sentence, Tony Blair said.

The Identity Cards Bill seeks to create a system of ID cards with embedded chips that carry personal information and biometric identifiers by 2010.

Information stored on the cards will include name, address and biometric information such as fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans, all of which will be included in the database.

Blair said that the ID cards would be a powerful weapon in the government's fight against terrorism, identity fraud, illegal workers, illegal immigration and illegal use of government entitlement programs such as the NHS, although he acknowledged that the system would not be a "silver bullet" for any of the problesm these systems face.

"We know false identities are important to terrorists and criminals because of the frequency with which they use them," Blair said, adding that, of the 6.4 million people recorded on the UK's criminal records database, "over a quarter have an alias".

But as security experts have pointed out, the police criminal records database is known to be riddled with inaccuracies.

Ovum analyst, Graham Titterington, warned the government does not appear to have learned its lessons from various IT projects, like the police criminal records database.

The Identity Cards Bill lacks measures that would ensure the accuracy of the data being entered or allow individuals to check their information in the database, according to Titterington.

Beginning next year, passports will include biometric facial identifiers. The ID card programme will then receive the information and technology.

The government hopes to make carrying the ID card compulsory for everyone living in the UK by 2011 or 2012.

Although a number of countries, such as Belgium, Sweden and Latvia, have ID cards with databases of information, they are used on a much smaller scale than the UK's proposal and are primarily related to accessing government e-services.

"I believe this is responsible government not, as some have called it, 'Big Brother government'," Blair said.

"It is responsible to do what we can to enhance security and ensure that public services are only used by those who are actually entitled to use them."

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service

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