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The Identity Project

Press release on the launch of interim report of The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications

Current identity card legislation must be abandoned, urges LSE study

Published 21 March 2005

Serious questions raised on Lord's Second Reading day

Current identity card bill proposals are 'too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence', according to a new report published by academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science on Monday 21 March.

The report, The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications, is a major is a root and branch analysis of the Identity Cards Bill - to be debated in Second Reading on 21 March in the Lords. It involved more than 100 academics and outside experts in the fields of law, technology, information systems, government policy, business, economics and security and is the most comprehensive analysis yet produced during the two-year gestation of the proposals.

While the report supports the concept of a national identity system for the UK, it recommends that the current legislation should be replaced with a different model. The consequences of the current proposals might include 'failure of systems, unforeseen financial costs, increased security threats and unacceptable imposition on citizens.'

Professor Ian Angell, head of LSE's Department of Information Systems and a member of the report's advisory group, commented: 'This is rigorous and balanced research that has highlighted substantial flaws in the Home Office identity card proposals. The report has proposed a more sensible model for a national identity scheme. The government should seriously consider this alternative.'

Another member of the report's advisory group, Professor Patrick Dunleavy of LSE's Government Department, said: 'The report very clearly shows that an identity card must be a real benefit to the citizen rather than being a costly imposition. We have an opportunity right now to develop an identity system that people genuinely want to use in their day-to day-lives. It has to be secure and it has to be user-friendly.'

The report was initiated and hosted by the Department of Information Systems of LSE and has involved senior academics from ten centres and departments across the School.

The authors say: 'The success of a national identity system depends on a sensitive, cautious and cooperative approach involving all key stakeholder groups including an independent and rolling risk assessment and a regular review of management practices. We are not confident that these conditions have been satisfied in the development of the Identity Cards Bill. The risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals.'

The report goes on to warn that, rather than increasing UK security, the Bill may create greater security dangers than before. 'The proposed system unnecessarily introduces, at a national level, a new tier of technological and organisational infrastructure that will carry associated risks of failure. A fully integrated national system of this complexity and importance will be technologically precarious and could itself become a target for attacks by terrorists or others.'

It is arguable, say the report's authors, that the legislation may contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, the right of free movement for EU citizens, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Data Protection Act. And they warn that the overall cost of a national identity scheme may be well in excess of government projections.

The report was launched at 11am on Monday 21 March at a special briefing in the House of Lords.

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Page last updated 8 July, 2005
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