Press release on the launch of report of The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications
ID Cards - UK's high tech scheme is high risk
Published 27 June 2005
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:
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.'
The LSE report includes a preface by Information Commissioner Richard Thomas. He writes: 'I welcome the report commissioned and undertaken by the LSE as a valuable contribution to an issue which engages significant data protection and privacy concerns. I have expressed my unease that the current proposal to establish a national identification system is founded on an extensive central register of personal information controlled by government and is disproportionate to the stated objectives behind the introduction of ID cards.
'The report makes clear that a system which minimises the amount of personal information generated and held by the government on card holders can be established without sacrificing the essential attributes of security, reliability and trust in the system. I hope that during the scrutiny of the ID Cards Bill, as it passes through the parliamentary process, this report helps focus debate on the actual system for administering ID cards and the need to ensure that this is one which is proportionate to the reasons for wishing to introduce ID cards.'
Annex: showing Costs breakdown and 'Ten Key Uncertainties'
Note: We assume that over ten years 67.5 million people (UK citizens plus EU nationals living in the UK) will be covered by the scheme. Some costs (for example, for issuing cards) could be higher (or lower) if more (or less) people needed to be covered.
The LSE estimates include the costs of 'pulling' information from other government computers needed for verifying people's identities, and of 'pushing' ID card data to Home Office databases, police databases and the Department of Work and Pensions. But they exclude the costs of adapting the full range of other government computer systems to use ID card data (likely to be substantial), nor the costs that will accrue to the private sector.
Ten Key Uncertainties over the ID card project
The ID cards themselves
1. How much will the scheme cost the UK?
2. How often will the cards or the biometrics on them need to be renewed?
3. How often will ID cards be lost or damaged and need to be replaced?
The ID card service
4. How difficult will it be to initially enroll people on the ID card scheme?
5. How straightforward is it to verify people's identities and to enforce compliance with ID cards? How costly will it be to make corrections and re-enroll people in the ID card scheme?
Public affairs aspects
6. To what extent will the public accept the government's proposals?
7. To what extent will there be civil liberties and privacy implications in the scheme?
8. Will disabled people suffer hardship and discrimination through the system's operation?
9. Are there any security concerns about the system?
10. Is there a risk that new kinds of ID fraud could arise from cards coming into pervasive use?
27 June 2005
8 July, 2005