The cost of the government's controversial £4.4bn national identity card scheme, could rise significantly because of the difficulties reading fingerprints of older people, a government watchdog says.
Chief Scientist John Beddington, chairman of the Biometrics Assurance Group, an independent government advisor, said in his 2007 annual report that elderly people often had hard-to-read fingerprints. This might produce a large number of exceptions that would strain the ability of the Identity and Passport Service to handle them.
"Exception handling has a large impact not only on the technical elements of the scheme, but on business processes, schedules and costs," Beddington said.
There were more than four million people in the UK aged over 75, the report said.
The Identity and Passport Service said it had paid for research into how to enrol people with hard-to-record biometric characteristics. It had asked the usability and performance working group to align its research programme with the scheme's procurement schedule and to use more people in their tests.
The House of Lords Science & Technology select committee warned two years ago that more than one in 1,000 fingers are missing or have no fingerprint due to scar tissue. People who work a lot with their hands or who have very fine-grained skin may also produce poor quality fingerprints.