Trevor Mendham

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)


Identity Theft

The Home Office likes to argue that the ID Card scheme will provide a "gold standard" for identity to protect us against identity theft. If so then it will be Fool's Gold.

  • Biometrics are an emerging technology not previously implemented on this scale
  • Governments have a dreadful record of large scale computer disasters
  • Cards will be faked, the system will be compromised
  • Penalties for abusing the system will not deter organised crime and terrorists
  • ID Cards will be a skeleton key to your identity
There have been no large-scale, independent studies on the extent of identity theft. Many of the "surveys" you read about are commissioned by companies with a financial interest in selling products and services connected with identity. It's another aspect of the climate of fear.

For an excellent analysis and demolition of the "1.3 billion a year" claim see this article in The Register.

There is actually no crime of "identity theft". There are crimes of fraud and theft that can be performed by stealing personal information, but "identity theft" as such is not legally defined (*). That means that people are free to define it as they wish. When - as with the government - there is a vested interest in hyping up the concept then the definition becomes so broad as to be meaningless.

Much - probably most - so-called "identity theft" is just old-fashioned credit card fraud. When surveys say "x% of the population know someone affected by identity theft", very often what they mean is "x% of the population know someone who's had their credit card stolen". Very different. True identity theft - finding out about someone's life then pretending to be them - does happen but is still very rare.

The credit companies are already introducing chip & pin, a system they tell us will drastically reduce credit card fraud. The only way an Identity Card could further reduce credit card fraud would be if you were fingerprinted or iris scanned at every till for every card purchase. Even if that were practical, would you really want it? Do you want to live in a country where we have our fingerprints taken in Tescos?

Much of today's credit card fraud takes place online. How will biometric ID cards prevent online fraud? Even if we all had an iris scanner attached to our PC, transmitting our biometrics over the net would be a huge security risk.

In fact the whole ID Card scheme and the National Identity Register are huge security risks. By storing so much of our personal information in one place, we give a target to those who would genuinely steal our identity. Yes, the system is supposed to be secure - but if someone does get in, they will have instant access to everything they need to know to steal your identity.

ID Cards and the National Identity Register will not protect your identity, they will threaten it.

(*) At least, so I'm informed. Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

UK ID Cards - Introduction

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