The Home Office’s £5.8bn ID cards programme contains potentially serious security flaws, security experts and software suppliers have told an all-party group of MPs.
Martyn Thomas, safety critical software specialist and member of the UK Computing Research Committee, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee that the government’s proposals could lead to “horrifying” cases of identity theft.
Thomas said the electronic records of individuals’ fingerprints and iris scans, which will be held on a central database, were vulnerable to being stolen or compromised. “If the biometrics are being checked remotely, the remote biometrics, as a digital stream, can be captured and compromised,” he said.
Because biometric data cannot be changed, if that data is in some way compromised, an individual could be barred from accessing government services indefinitely, said Thomas.
Dave Birch, director of IT advisory firm Consult Hyperion, said the main risk came from theft of personal details by government employees and others with access to the central population register.
“The risk is that you wake up in the morning and open the paper and some clerk in the DSS has got David Beckham’s record out of the register and flogged it to The Sun, for example,” he said.
Data Watchdog calls for release of feasibility study
Government data watchdog the information commissioner has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions to release its internal feasibility study on the impact of the ID cards programme.
The ruling, made following a request in November 2004 by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten, could set precedents for further disclosures about the impact of the ID cards scheme.
“There is a strong public interest in the public knowing whether the introduction of identity cards would bring benefits to the DWP and to other government departments,” the information commissioner said.
Nick Clegg, Lib Dem, Home affairs spokesman “We will first have to see whether they (the DWP) appeal and whether the appeal is successful. On assumption that it not, it will open the flood gates. I will be doing my bit and asking other government departments to disclose information.”