25 September, 2008
For immediate release

Press Release

“Today’s announcement about the design of the ‘identity card’ for foreign nationals should not focus attention away from the intrusive, high–risk technological infrastructure that is planned for the UK’s National Identity Card Scheme”, warns Dr Edgar A. Whitley of the LSE Identity Project. “Many of the benefits that the government claims for the Scheme, in terms of addressing identity fraud and illegal working, are not to do with a plastic card but will only really come about if and when the personal details of large numbers of the UK population are stored on the National Identity Register and once online verification of cards and biometrics becomes a regular activity. All the indications are that this is still a long way off”.

“With the new cards being issued to a relatively small number of individuals in the first instance, it is unlikely that many employers and universities will rush to invest in the necessary systems to perform formal checks and will simply perform visual inspections of the cards in much the same way as they do for the existing paper documents these individuals are currently required to present and using the same information as was previously provided”.

“If the Scheme is to succeed, the public also needs to be convinced of the benefits they will obtain from enrolling in the Scheme and be reassured about the security and oversight of the personal data that the National Identity Register will hold. Additionally, business must be given clear details about the identity assurance functionality the Scheme is intended to provide”.

For LSE research and reports on the Identity Cards Scheme see http://identityproject.lse.ac.uk

For more information about identity assurance, see Sir James Crosby’s report into the Challenges and Opportunities in Identity Assurance. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/6/7/identity_assurance060308.pdf

The academic article “Managing Public Expectations of Technological Systems” by Aaron Martin and Edgar A. Whitley (available online at http://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/SpontaneousGenerations/article/view/2973/1246) suggests how the public debate about the ‘card’ rather than the National Identity Register “seeks to downplay the complexity and uncertainty surrounding this high–technological initiative, necessitating the selective use of expertise for the purpose of furthering government objectives”