The latest government cost report for setting up a National Identity Scheme (ID cards) reveals it will no longer include iris biometrics, in order to keep the price below £30.
Instead the scheme will rely solely on fingerprint and face biometrics - collected on the 'open market'. This method is cheaper but less secure as Dr Edgar A Whitley of the LSE Identity Project explains:
'It is worrying that the only way that the government can still keep to its initial promise that an identity card will only cost £30 is by effectively excluding the biometric enrolment element from the Scheme.
'At a time when we are told we should feel confident that our identity data will be kept securely, because it will be linked to our biometrics, the government is proposing that the collection of this biometric data should be left to the open market. Presumably this means that grocery stores and post offices will be encouraged to set up biometric enrolment kiosks, with little financial gain to them unless the citizen is charged. Ensuring adequate security in such environments will be challenging.
'Thus, while the headline costs of the Scheme to the government go down, the costs and risks to the citizen rise. This is not what Parliament was led to expect and causes us to question how this version of the Scheme will offer greater benefits than existing identity assurance measures'.
Click here for the initial response to the report by the LSE Identity Project. A more detailed report will follow shortly and be published at http://identityproject.lse.ac.uk
For LSE research and reports on identity policy please see http://identityproject.lse.ac.uk
Background press releases:
Response to government cost report issued 10 May 2007
ID Cards - LSE declines to issue further costings because of 'secrecy and contradictions' published 16 January 2006
The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications published 27 June 2005
The Identity Card Bill: what model might work? published 18 May 2005
Public Finance Magazine (9 May)
New ID card cost estimates prompt fears over security
The Identity Project at the London School of Economics said the report explicitly acknowledged the decision to drop the use of iris biometrics. The LSE's Dr Edgar Whitley said: 'It is worrying that the only way that the government can still keep its initial promise that an identity card will cost only £30, despite two major cost reduction revisions to the scheme, is by effectively excluding the biometric enrolment element.'
Contractor UK (8 May)
ID card project cost increases
'It is worrying that the only way that the government can still keep to its initial promise that an identity card will only cost £30 is by effectively excluding the biometric enrolment element from the scheme,' said Dr Edgar Whitley of the LSE.
The Inquirer (7 May)
Apparatchiks seek to cut costs of UK ID scheme
Dr Edgar Whitley at the London School of Economics Identity Project says, said in a statement that the revised plans might be cheaper, but it would put citizen's privacy at greater risk. 'While the headline costs of the Scheme to the government go down, the costs and risks to the citizen rise,' he said.
Financial Times (6 May)
ID scheme hit for shifting cost to citizens
The Home Office on Tuesday faced claims of 'creative accounting' as it pledged to cut nearly £1bn ($2bn) from the cost of the identity card scheme. But Edgar Whitley of the London School of Economics' Identity Project said the decision to leave collection of biometric data to the open market risked compromising security and increasing the cost to the consumer.
7 May 2008