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Identity Policy Research

This project played a significant role in the UK identity card scheme debate. 

This research studies the theory and practice of identity policy systems across the world.


LSE research on Identity Policy follows on from the LSE Identity Project which specifically addressed the (now abandoned) proposals to introduce biometric identity cards in the UK. 

The research stream has studied the theory and practice of identity policies including civil registration systems across the world. The research has explored themes including:

  • Development of identity infrastructures
  • Biometrics
  • Socio-economic implications of legal identity
  • Privacy and security issues for identity systems


The LSE research highlights the importance of citizen trust for identity policies, alongside the challenges of designing and implementing effective identity infrastructures. These research results have fed into policy deliberations across the world, including a series of UK parliamentary inquiries (see the end of this page for details).


The LSE Identity Project played a significant role in the policy debate about the previous UK identity card scheme and the challenge of identifying oneself in online transactions did not disappear with the scrapping of the Identity Cards Scheme in 2010.  

LSE Identity Policy researchers are working closely with the Cabinet Office to facilitate ways that people, businesses and devices will be able to verify their identity online in order to better access and transact with public services. 

In particular, Dr Edgar Whitley is co-chair of the Cabinet Office’s Identity Assurance Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group. This group has developed an influential set of privacy principles which were described by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office as being “all about putting the citizen in charge, not the state”.

Dr Whitley has worked with the Inter-American Development Bank in facilitating a series of high level policy workshops on identity and civil registration for governments in Latin America and the Caribbean including Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica and Mexico. 

His research is also influencing the Aadhaar scheme in India.

Illustrative publications

LSE Identity Project (2005) Main Report (27 June).

Whitley EA and Hosein G (2010) Global challenges for identity policies. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Martin AK and Whitley EA (2013) Fixing identity? Biometrics and the tensions of material practices. Media, culture and society 35(1), 52-60.

Whitley EA (2009) Perceptions of government technology, surveillance and privacy: the UK identity cards scheme. In New Directions in Privacy and Surveillance (Neyland D and Goold B, Eds), pp 133-156, Willan, Cullompton.

Whitley EA (2013) On technology neutral policies for e–identity: A critical reflection based on UK identity policy. Journal of international commercial law and technology8(2), 134-147.

Whitley EA, Gal U and Kjærgaard A (2014) Who do you think you are? A review of the complex interplay between information systems, identification and identity. European Journal of Information Systems 23(1), 17-35.

Whitley EA and Hosein G (2010) Global Identity Policies and Technology: Do we Understand the Question? Global Policy 1(2), 209-215.

Whitley EA and Hosein IR (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.

Whitley EA and Hosein IR (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.

Whitley EA, Hosein IR, Angell IO and Davies S (2007) Reflections on the academic policy analysis process and the UK Identity Cards Scheme. The information society23(1), 51-58.

Whitley EA, Martin AK and Hosein G (2014) From surveillance-by-design to privacy-by-design: Evolving identity policy in the UK. In Histories of State Surveillance in Europe and Beyond (Boersma K, van Brakel R, Fonio C and Wagenaar P, Eds), pp 205-219, Routledge, London.

Submissions to UK Parliamentary Inquiries

  • 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
  • House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry into the "Impact of Surveillance & Data Collection"
  • House of Commons Home Affairs Committee inquiry into "A surveillance society?"
  • Public Administration Select Committee inquiry into “Government’s use of IT”
  • House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into “Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies”