UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)
Biometrics - fingerprints, iris scans, face recognition etc - will be a central element
of the proposed compulsory National Identity Cards. Biometrics provide
the final element of "three factor authentication": something you have (card),
something you know (PIN) and something you are (biometrics).
The government has published the results of the passport office (UKPS) biometric trial. The trial
shows conclusively that biometric technology is not yet ready for use on this wide a
scale. Of the three biometrics used, even the best - iris scanning - had a 4% verification
failure rate (9% in disabled people). Fingerprint recognition had a failure rate of 19%
and facial recognition a failure rate of 31%.
Imagine if you had a one in twenty-five chance of
being stopped from boarding a plane or refused medical treatment because your iris
Imagine the queues at the airport - or even at Tescos.
You can download the
full report at:
=== SORRY, LINK NO LONGER WORKS ===
Supporters of Identity Cards
seem to have been enchanted by the technology. It's true that biometrics can be
very useful on a small scale, for example in companies or high security areas to
limit access to a resource to a small group
of people. When it comes to a nationwide scheme there are serious issues.
It seems likely that the preferred biometric will be an iris scan, however
the questions below apply equally to all forms of biometric identity:
Until the proponents of Identity Cards can answer all those questions, there is a huge
question mark hanging over the use of biometrics on such a large scale.
Only the technically naive can believe that it will be "impossible" to fake ID Cards.
Difficult, yes, but organised criminals and terrorists have huge resources
and great incentive.
In fact biometrics could be worse than useless. If people don't understand the technology and simply believe "It's
biometric so it's secure" then the Cards could in fact introduce a
false sense of security and allow a fake ID Card to pass unchallenged.
A Computer Weekly article concludes that biometrics are 'not yet ready to secure corporate IT'.
If they're not ready to secure corporate IT, what chance have they got of securing a whole country?
This detailed article from The Economist discusses biometrics and concludes that
they will be ineffective:
The emerging use of biometrics
They conclude that biometrics today will not work but if/when the
technology improves: "privacy, as it has existed in the public sphere, will in effect be wiped out".
UK ID Cards - Introduction
Contact Trevor Mendham