Private sector investigates use of ID cards

Government encouraging future use of national ID cards in everyday business

Government encouraging future use of national ID cards in everyday business

The government is working with private sector organisations to encourage them to use ID cards for verifying the identities of their staff and customers.

A working group of 50 organisations and individuals, including major banks, pharmaceutical companies and the Royal Mail, have over the past 12 months been investigating how the cards can be used in business.

David Lacey, director of security at the Post Office and chairman of the working group, said ID cards could be used to verify the identity of people opening accounts, reducing the potential for fraud.

"We have to deal with a lot of customers to make sure people are who they say they are," he said. "There are different levels of check. In the simplest terms it might be a visual check, others might be a Pin, others you might want to use a biometric."

Employers are likely to use ID cards to check the identity of new employees against the central population register to ensure they are entitled to work, the Home Office said.

One of the first applications will be to use ID cards to automate checks against the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), reducing the turnaround time from four months to 72 hours.

"Over 500 people last year appealed their disclosure and 500 people were given the wrong record," said Katherine Courtney, ID cards programme director at the Home Office. "The CRB has worked with us on a complete redesign."

The Home Office is working with the Association of Payment Clearing Services to make later generations of ID cards compatible with chip and Pin, which will allow people to use their Pin to verify their identity.

People will not be expected to use their ID cards to make simple purchases but they might be asked to produce them when hiring a car or for other high-value transactions, Courtney said.

Government departments would be earlier adopters of ID card applications - for example, for secure entry, or authentication to computer systems.

The Home Office plans to set up an accreditation system to vet which organisations have access to the central database. The scheme will regulate the level of verification that organisations are allowed use.

Slow introduction for ID cards >>


Biometrics need further testing in one-to-many matches

Further trials will be needed to ensure biometric technology is robust enough to match people's identities with records stored on the central population register, the Home Office has acknowledged.

Although biometrics work well in performing one-to-one matches, further testing will be needed to demonstrate how well they perform in matching biometrics against a large database of records, said ID card programme director Katherine Courtney. Biometrics are not a silver bullet but they would make it very difficult for people to use false identities, she said.

"What we have seen from other countries is that they perform well to confirm one-to-one matches. Where we do need further testing is in one-to-many matches. We need further testing on how likely it is that we will get a false match."

The experience of the FBI and UK police forces showed that finger print matching has a very high standard of performance but there is less real-world experience with iris biometrics, Courtney said.


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