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Current identity card legislation must be abandoned, urges LSE study

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Serious questions raised on Lord's Second Reading day
Report launch Monday 21 March, 11am, the Moses Room, House of Lords

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 today (Monday 21 March).

The report, The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications, is a major root and branch analysis of the Identity Cards Bill - to be debated in Second Reading today (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 will be launched at 11am on Monday 21 March at a special briefing in the House of Lords.


For further information and interview requests please contact Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, tel: 020 7955 7060, email: j.Winterstein@lse.ac.uk| 

Notes for editors:

The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications can be downloaded in full here| 

A Word copy of the document is available from j.Winterstein@lse.ac.uk| 

Press cuttings

Truth watch (18 April 05)
Sir Ian Blair gives his views on ID cards and their impact on terrorism. Reference is made to the conclusions of an LSE study suggesting that a national ID scheme could itself become the target of a terrorist attack. A successful computer attack on the database could cause significant disruption to public life. 

Washington Technology
New study highlights iris scan shortcomings (30 March 05)
Biometric iris scans may be ineffective for up to one million people in the United Kingdom who are blind or have visual impairments such as cataracts, according to a report from LSE. 

Online database is bad idea, says LSE (29 March 05)
The LSE Identity Project Interim Report challenged the wisdom of the government's plans to create a central database that would record an audit trail giving details of how, where and when each person used their identity card. 

Press & Journal
Plea over ID cards (23 March 05)
A group of prominent academics from LSE have urged ministers to stop their intended national identity card scheme and warned that the scheme is 'too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lacks a foundation of public trust and confidence'. 

Ministers forced to drop Bill on religious hatred (22 March 05)
Peers started debate on the ID cards Bill yesterday, but a study by LSE says that the plan is "too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lacks a foundation of public trust and confidence".

Peers reject 'rushed' bill on identity cards (22 March 05) 

ID Cards: Serious questions raised by LSE on Lord's Second Reading day (22 March 05)

Computer Weekly
ID cards criticised for being technically unsafe (22 March 05) 

Daily Mirror
New blow to ID cards (22 March 05)
A report by LSE published yesterday claims that compulsory ID could become a threat to national security.

The Register
ID scheme will be a costly, dangerous failure, says LSE report (21 March 05)

ID cards 'technically unsafe' say academics (21 March 05) 

Financial Times
ID card scheme could increase risk to security, says study (21 March 05)
Plans for a national identity card must be abandoned, says a study by the London School of Economics.

Parents wooed by jittery Blair: Tory tactics prompt populist response (21 March 05) Labour will be dealt a further blow when its identity card scheme - one of its strongest electoral ideas (80 per cent of the population are in favour in principle) - comes under crushing criticism today from an authoritative study by 100 academics assembled by the London School of Economics 

Blunkett to head ID card campaign (21 March 05)

Press Association
Ministers urged to scrap ID card scheme (21 March 05)
No direct link

Daily Mail
Ditch ID cards plan, ministers told (21 March 05)
A group of prominent academics have urged ministers to abandon their planned national identity card scheme 

Academics urge ministers to tear up ID card plans (21 March 05)

Government urged to axe ID card plan (21 March 05)

BBC News Online
ID card plans too risky - report (21 March 05)

Minister stands firm on ID cards (21 March 05)

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21 March 2005