LSE Information Systems and Innovation Group



The Identity Project

UK Identity cards are scrapped

On 21 December 2010, the Identity Documents Bill received Royal Assent.  The main purpose of this Identity Cards Act is to abolish identity cards and the National Identity Register; it repeals the Identity Cards Act 2006.

This is therefore the final posting of the LSE Identity Project.  However, our work on global identity policies continues and can be found at our new webpage

 OUT NOW New book: Global Challenges for Identity Policies by Edgar A. Whitley and Gus Hosein, published by Palgrave, 2010.  Reviews of the book are here.  Press release is here

  LSE Identity Project comments on Identity Cards on LSE British Politics and Policy Blog  
    How academic research has impact – but not always what the Minister wanted. The story of the LSE Identity Project  
    The politics of the Identity Documents Bill  
    New government to scrap ID cards  

Identity cards and National Identity Register to be scrapped

    See the LSE Identity Project Press Release on the Coalition Agreement  
    Listen to the Prime Minister David Cameron, then Shadow Leader of the Commons and a backbench member of the Home Affairs Committee that had reviewed the Identity Cards Bill, speaking at an event held at LSE on Identity Cards in 2004 where he noted that "he had always been a sceptic about ID cards" (transcript)  
    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also been a vocal opponent of Identity Cards, see his video statement on the topic from 2007.  

Election 2010

  LSE Identity Project comments on Identity Cards on LSE Election Experts Blog  
    Labour's policy on identity cards  
    Opposition policies on identity cards  
    Identity cards, identity databases, biometric passports and compulsion: Some clarifications  

Recent updates

General Resources

  • Reports
  • Recent presentations by members of the LSE Identity Project
  • Articles in academic and popular press
  • Parliamentary Briefings
  • Detailed responses to Home Office criticisms

    Recent Updates

    Delivery Plan Consultation Submission to Delivery Plan Consultation
    Fourth s37 cost report The government issued its fourth bi-annual report to Parliament (as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act) about the likely costs of the ID Cards Scheme on 6 May 2008 Read our press release on the report Read our detailed analysis
    Child Benefit Data Breach In light of the announcement in Parliament that personal data about 25 million individuals has gone missing the LSE Identity Project has produced a briefing on the ongoing concerns with the security of the National Identity Register.
    Third s37 cost report The government published its third bi-annual report to Parliament (as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act) about the likely costs of the ID Cards Scheme on 8 November 2007 Read our press release on the report
    House of Lords Constitution Committee Evidence by the LSE Identity Project Team to the House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry into The Impact of Surveillance and Data Collection
    Second s37 cost report The government (finally) published its second bi-annual report to Parliament (as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act) about the likely costs of the ID Cards Scheme on 10 May 2007 Read our press release on the report Read our formal response
    Home Affairs Committee Evidence by Dr Chris Pounder to Home Affairs Committee Inquiry detailing the lack of Parliamentary Scrutiny of the Citizens Information Project, that is now part of the Identity Cards Scheme Evidence by the LSE Identity Project Team to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee inquiry into "A surveillance society?"
    Strategic Action Plan The government published its Strategic Action Plan for implementing the Identity Cards Scheme.  Read our press release on the plan
    Internet Governance Forum outcome on Privacy Protection Report from the Internet Governance Forum outcome on Privacy Protection, Athens, 30 October - 2 November 2006; participants kick off process for privacy in digital identity management, development, and freedom of expression.
    First s37 cost report The government published its first bi-annual report to Parliament (as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act) about the likely costs of the ID Cards Scheme on 9 October 2006.
    Read our press release on the report Read our formal response to the report
    Science and Technology Select Committee The Government has also recently responded to the Science and Technology Select Committee's report on Identity Card Technologies: Scientific Advice, Risk and Evidence. As with the s37 costs report this document remains vague about the likely roll out of the next stages of the Identity Cards Scheme. It also fails to acknowledge that despite all the planning that had gone into the scheme, the Home Secretary felt in necessary to commission an internal review "of the plans for the delivery of identity cards" as well as "a strategic action plan, including plans for partnerships with other government departments" over summer.

    Read the Government's response

    On 4 August 2006 the Select Committee on Science and Technology has published its report Identity Card Technologies: Scientific Advice, Risk and Evidence. The report says "[they were] disappointed by the nature of the Government's reaction to the criticisms outlined in the LSE reports" and "The Home Office would have been better advised to put together a dispassionate critique of the LSE Identity Project Report rather than seek to undermine its credibility and motivation."

    Edgar A Whitley, of the LSE Department of Management Information Systems Group and the research co-ordinator for the LSE Identity Project, said: 'We welcome this Report from the Science and Technology Committee which highlights many of the same concerns about the risk, purpose and implementation of the Identity Cards Scheme as our own research. Read Edgar Whitley's comments in full.

    Evidence by the LSE Identity Project Team to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology Inquiry into “Scientific advice, risk and evidence: how government handles them” with particular reference to the technologies supporting the Government’s proposals for identity cards. John Duagman, another witness, alleged in his submission that 'the public discussion has been “hijacked” by “scientifically misinformed assessments” and makes specific claims that the LSE Identity Project contains and repeats “persistent errors of fact"'. The LSE team has sent a detailed rebuttal to the committee.

    LSE Identity Project Reports

    The Identity Project has been organized and sponsored by the LSE Department of Information Systems. Three department members, Simon Davies, Gus Hosein, and Edgar Whitley co-ordinated the production of the reports, overseen by an advisory committee of 16 LSE professors who guided the report. Numerous LSE staff members and an international team of over 60 researchers contributed to, and reviewed, the reports.

    Advisory Committee

    Professor Ian Angell, Information Systems Group, Department of Management, LSE
    Professor Chrisanthi Avgerou, Information Systems Group, Department of Management, LSE
    Professor Christine Chinkin, Law Department, LSE
    Professor Frank Cowell, Economics Department, LSE
    Professor Keith Dowding, Government Department, LSE
    Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Government Department, LSE
    Professor George Gaskell, Director, Methodology Institute, LSE
    Professor Christopher Greenwood QC, Convenor of the Law Department, LSE
    Professor Christopher Hood, Centre for Analysis of Risk & Regulation, LSE
    Professor Mary Kaldor, Centre for the Study of Global Governance, LSE
    Professor Frank Land, Department of Information Systems, LSE
    Professor Robin Mansell, Department of Media & Communications, LSE
    Professor Tim Newburn, Social Policy Department, LSE
    Professor David Piachaud, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE
    Professor Robert Reiner, Law Department, LSE
    Professor Leslie Willcocks, Information Systems Group, Department of Management, LSE
    Home Office Accounting Despite the scale and significance of the proposed Identity Card Scheme, the government has revealed little detail about the likely costs and benefits. This report makes use of Home Office reports and statements in Parliament by Ministers to reconstruct the accounting of the scheme over the years of deployment ... we found that the Home Office accounts will have an estimated 1.81 billion cumulative deficit by 2018 for the combined passport-ID scheme. The Home Secretary has referred to such deficits as 'a small contribution from public funds, which is the only amount that could be spent on other things'.
    Report on Research Status  (pdf 60 pages, 1.5MB)
    Press release on the research status report
    This report updates our findings from June 2005. It also outlines the challenges in conducting research in this policy domain. On top of its earlier recommendations, we now recommend that the project be moved to a department with greater experience in complex IT systems because of failures by the Home Office to incorporate feedback into its designs. We recommend the Treasury as the primary candidate.
    Main report (27 June 2005)(pdf 2.5 MB, approx 300 pages)
    Executive summary
    Press release on the report
    ID Cards - UK's high tech scheme is high risk The likely cost of rolling out the UK government's current high-tech identity cards scheme will be 10.6 billion on the 'low cost' estimate of researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), without any cost over-runs or implementation problems. Key uncertainties over how citizens will behave and how the scheme will work out in practice mean that the 'high cost' estimate could go up to 19.2 billion. A median figure for this range is 14.5 billion. If all the costs associated with ID cards were borne by citizens (as Treasury rules currently require), the cost per card (plus passport) would be around 170 on the lowest cost basis and 230 on the median estimate. The Annex (below) shows where LSE expects costs to be incurred and the 'Top Ten Uncertainties' about the project as currently planned. The LSE report The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications is published today (27 June) after a six month study guided by a steering group of 14 professors and involving extensive consultations with nearly 100 industry representatives, experts and researchers from the UK and around the world. The project was co-ordinated by the Department of Information Systems at LSE. The LSE report concludes that an ID card system could offer some basic public interest and commercial sector benefits. But it also identifies six other key areas of concern with the government's existing plans:
    • Multiple purposes  Evidence from other national identity systems shows that they perform best when established for clear and focused purposes. The UK scheme has multiple rather general rationales, suggesting that it has been 'gold-plated' to justify the high tech scheme. For example, the government estimates that identity fraud crimes may cost up to 1.3 billion a year, but only 35 million of this amount can be addressed by an ID card.
    • Will the technology work?  No scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious schemes have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in a large-scale national system. The use of biometrics creates particular concerns, because this technology has never been used at such a scale.
    • Is it legal?  In its current form, the Identity Cards Bill appears to be unsafe in law. A number of elements potentially compromise Article 8 (privacy) and Article 14 (discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government may also be in breach of law by requiring fingerprints as a pre-requisite for receipt of a passport. The report finds no clear case why the ID card requirements should be bound to internationally recognized requirements on passport documents.
    • Security  The National Data Register will create a very large data pool in one place that could be an enhanced risk in case of unauthorized accesses, hacking or malfunctions.
    • Citizens' acceptance  An identity system that is well-accepted by citizens is likely to be far more successful in use than one that is controversial or raises privacy concerns. For example, it will be critical for realizing public value that citizens want to carry their ID cards with them and to use them in a wide range of settings.
    • Will ID cards benefit businesses? Compliance with the terms of the ID cards Bill will mean even small firms are likely to have to pay 250 for smartcard readers and other requirements will add to the administrative burdens firms face.
    The LSE report concurs with 79 out of the 85 recommendations made by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in its report on the draft Identity Cards Bill. Following up suggestions there and coming from industry and academic experts, the LSE team also set out an alternative ID card scheme that would still incorporate biometrics, but would be simpler to implement and radically cheaper. The LSE alternative ID card would also give citizens far more control over who can access data about them, and hence would be more likely to win positive public and industry support. Dr Gus Hosein, a fellow in the Department of Information Systems at LSE, said : 'We have proposed an alternative model that we believe to be cheaper, more secure and more effective than the current government proposal. It is important that Parliament gets the chance to consider a range of possible models before the ID Cards Bill is passed. Even if government figures were correct, the costs of the government scheme are disproportionately higher than the scheme's ability to protect the UK from crime, fraud or terrorism.' Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at LSE, said: 'This report is not an argument for or against ID cards, but an impartial effort to improve the evidence base available to Parliament and the public. The Home Office currently officially suggests that ID cards will cost around 6 billion to implement over ten years, but it has not yet justified this estimate in detail. By contrast, we recognize considerable uncertainties ahead with such a novel, high tech scheme and we show how these uncertainties might affect costings.'
    Read the interim report (21 March 2005)(pdf 850K approx 110 pages) Press release on the interim report The interim report was launched at 11am on Monday 21 March at a special briefing in the House of Lords.
    Letter from Howard Davies, Director of LSE to the Prime Minister regarding attacks on LSE staff Letter to the Times by Howard Davies, LSE Director, rebutting Home Office criticism - 2 July 2005

    Articles in academic and popular press

    LSE Whitley Edgar A. (2009) A new way forward for an effective identity policy in the UK The Vault, published by Security News.TV
    LSE Martin Aaron K., van Brakel Rosamunde E.  and Bernhard Daniel J. (2009) Understanding resistance to digital surveillance Towards a multi-disciplinary, multi-actor framework, Surveillance and Society 6(3), 213-232
    LSE Whitley Edgar A. and Hosein Ian R. (2008) Doing the politics of technological decision making: Due process and the debate about identity cards in the UK. European Journal of Information Systems 17(6), 668-677. Doi Request a copy
    LSE Whitley Edgar A. (2009) Perceptions of government technology, surveillance and privacy: The UK Identity Cards Scheme.  To appear in “New Directions in Privacy and Surveillance” (Neyland D and B Goold eds.) Willan Publishers, Cullompton 2009 Request a copy
    LSE Whitley Edgar A. and Hosein Ian R. (2008) Departmental influences on policy design: How the UK is confusing identity fraud with other policy agendas. Communications of the ACM 51(5), 98-100. Clickable link to request a copy of the paper by email. EPrint Request a copy
    LSE Angell, I The Times, March 7, 2008 ID cards are the ultimate identity theft
    LSE Martin, Aaron K and Whitley, Edgar A. (2007) 'Managing expectations of technological systems: A case study of a problematic government project', Spontaneous Generations 1(1): 67-77.
    LSE Whitley, E. A. (2007) Rhetorical confidence and technological certainty in technology led policy initiatives. Public sector executive.
    LSE Edwardes, C A, Hosein, I R and Whitley, E A (2007) Balance, scrutiny and identity cards in the UK, in Criminal Justice Matters, No 68, Special issue on Security and Surveillance, Available from Kings College Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
    LSE Whitley E A and Hosein I R (2007) Policy Engagement as Rigorous and Relevant Information Systems Research: The Case of the LSE Identity Project  Appeared in Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) 2007 Paper
    LSE Whitley E A, Hosein I R, Angell I O and Davies S (2007) Reflections on the academic policy analysis process and the UK Identity Cards Scheme. The information society 23(1), 51-58. DOI EPrint Request a copy
    LSE The Parliamentary Monitor June/July 2006
    Edgar A Whitley explains how his academic study of the technology behind identity cards swiftly turned into a political football.
    LSE Hang together - or we will hang separately
    Article in the Times Higher by Simon Davies and Gus Hosein, published: 17 February 2006
    Simon Davies and Gus Hosein lament the feeble support they got from academe when the Government attacked their work on IDcards
    Non-LSE Book by David Lyon, "Identifying citizens: ID cards as surveillance", notes that LSE report "made a number of constructive proposals as to how an ID card system might be set up in more secure and less contentious ways than the one legislated" (p. 150).  See video of David Lyon's presentation at LSE about his book.
    Non-LSE Research by Elisa Pieri finds the media coverage of the Identity Cards Scheme is presented in a negative light leading to the conclusion that it is perceived to be illiberal and being introduced by stealth, echoing the concerns of the LSE identity project.
    Non-LSE Academic paper draws on LSE Identity Project work on the problems of defining identity-related activities to develop a typology of identity-related crime. Koops Bert-Jaap, Ronald Leenes, Martin Meints, Nicole van der Meulen and David-Olivier Jaquet-Chiffelle (2009) A typology of identity-related crime: Conceptual, technical and legal issues. Information, communication & Society 12(1), 1-24. Request a copy or DOI
    Non-LSE Academic paper on critiques of identity cards that refers to the LSE work. Froomkin A Michael (2009) Identity cards and Identity romanticism. In Lessons from the identity trail: Anonymity, privacy and identity in a networked society (Kerr Ian ed.) Oxford University Press, Oxford. Copy available on SSRN Here
    This paper makes particular reference to the 'romantic ideal' of free movement and contrasts this with identity practice in common and civil law worlds.
    Non-LSE Privacy Concerns, Trust in Government and Attitudes to Identity Cards in the United Kingdom, article by Adam Joinson to appear in the HICSS 2009 Conference.  This independent academic study has compared the LSE alternative proposals with those put forward by the UK Government and a House of Lords Amendment. The study reveals the important role of perceived compulsion, user-centric control and trust in government in affecting support for the identity cards scheme Request a copy
    Non-LSE Social informatics and sociotechnical research - a view from the UK, article by Elisabeth Davenport published in Journal of Information Science 34(4): 519-530, describes the LSE Identity Project as providing "evidence based input into UK policy-making on Identity Cards", noting that "The group’s attempts to ‘improve the terms of debate and public discourse’ have required integrity and tenacity at every level of the institution" and highlighting "a process of social learning, by conserving evidence of the interactions that have placed this particular group of academic actors in an authentically critical relationship with government and industry" Request a copy
    Non-LSE Reconstituting Relevance: Exploring Possibilities for Management Educators’ Critical Engagement with the Public, article by Todd Bridgmann published in Management Learning 38(4): 425-439, describes the LSE Identity Project as an example of critical and engaged activity. Request a copy
    Non-LSE Who do you think you are? Professor Ian Angell took part in a round table organised by the New Statesman.  Read the transcript of the event.
    Non-LSE Share and share-alike  Discussion of the political, social, legal and technical issues associated with the UK government’s plans to share data more freely (Christine Evans-Pughe) Engineering and Technology, November 2006
    Non-LSE Real ID, Real Trouble? Discussion of the Identity Project in the Communications of the ACM one of the leading US IS and computing journals. (Marc Rotenberg) March 2006
    Non-LSE Loser: Britain's Identity Crisis - Proposed biometric ID cards won't prevent fraud or terrorism; article in IEEE spectrum, January 2006, "the flagship publication of the IEEE, the world's largest professional technology association" (Erico Guizzo)
    Non-LSE Profile of report co-ordinator Simon Davies - Guardian - 5 July 2005

    Recent presentations by members of the LSE Identity Project

    Dr Edgar A Whitley Presentation at Intellect Identity and Information Event, October 2009
    Professor Leslie Willcocks Presentation to University of Melbourne, April 2007
    Dr Edgar A. Whitley Presentation to Intellect Members May 2007
      Presentation to Intellect Members December 2006

    LSE Identity Project All-Party Parliamentary Briefings

    The Identity Project has published a number of All-Party Parliamentary Briefings. These are geared specifically to Parliamentarians. The purpose of these briefings is to inform debate on specific topic areas through extracting relevant sections of our reports, analysing prior debates, or generating new findings.

    Detailed responses to Home Office Criticisms

      Rebuttal of Ministerial claim that LSE costings include 1billion for marketing. The Home Office accuses us of over-estimating the costs for 'marketing'. We have no such line-item in our costings. We only mention the term 'marketing' twice in the 300 page report: once in reference to the Home Office hiring of a marketing manager; and second when quoting from a Home Office commissioned report that provides an estimate.
    Home Office critique (August 2005) LSE response to Home Office critique (5 August 2005)Press release
      On Double Counting Costs for an ID System - 28 June 2005

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    Page last updated 24 December 2010
    Copyright LSE Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management 2005-2009