Government departments stalling on ID cards

Government departments have not bought into the Home Office's £5.8bn ID card scheme.

Government departments have not bought into the Home Office's £5.8bn ID card scheme.

Despite three and a half years of marketing by the Home Office and Downing Street, no other government department has made a decision to integrate its IT systems with the scheme.

Nor has any other government department conducted any publishable research into the benefits and costs of doing so, according to a report from the London School of Economics.

The failure of government departments to research the cost of integrating into the ID card programme, or to publish their estimates of the cost of integration, raises questions about the overall cost of the scheme, the LSE claimed.

The report estimates the full costs of the scheme at between £10bn and £19bn - up to four times the figure quoted by the government.

"In the absence of a commitment to buy into the ID card scheme, the magnitude of the scheme and its potential to derive benefits and savings are almost entirely speculative," it said.

Tony Blair dismissed the LSE's figures at Prime Minister's Question Time last week.

The LSE report was published as the House of Lords voted to block the ID Card Bill until ministers disclosed the full costs of the scheme.

It raises concerns over the security of the ID card system, particularly the centralised identity database, which will hold basic biographical details of 60 million UK citizens, including their digitised fingerprints, photographs and iris patterns, and keep a data trail whenever the ID card is used.

"Any system that involved significant networking with the outside world, including the 44,000 possible private sector users and the 260-plus government departments, will have security weaknesses," said the report.

"There will be countless users of the system who will have to be authorised to enter and change data on the register."

The report also casts doubt on the reliability of biometrics for identifying people, quoting a study by the US General Accounting Office, which concluded that the performance of facial, fingerprint and iris recognition technology is unknown in large-scale systems.

The House of Lords voted for more security provisions for personal data and stricter controls over who gets access to data, in the ID cards debate last week.

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