Might not use fingerprints after all
The future of the UK’s identity card scheme was thrown into further confusion last night after it emerged that the Home Office is looking to scrap one of its key components – a national register of fingerprints.
Successive Home Office ministers have said fingerprinting will be a vital weapon in combating identity fraud and terrorism. But a confidential document produced by the Home Office Identity and Passport Service which has been obtained by The Observer states: ‘We should test for each group we enrol whether the cost of fingerprints is justified by the use to which they will be put.’
The implication that the scheme may prove too costly was immediately seized upon as proof of the government’s waning enthusiasm. The use of iris scans has already been quietly dropped.
Two points to make.
First, and possibly most important, is that the whole point of the scheme is to distinguish between us – it is after all an Identity scheme – and biometrics are pushed as the only way to do that. See for example someone like Home Office Minister Liam Byrne:
Biometric ID cards carry a single important advantage, which is that they lock the individual down to a single identity, so that such fraud becomes harder, if not impossible, in the future.
There were to be other ‘benefits’ from the fingerprint records too, such as having a database of fingerprints the police could trawl through. So it would be very interesting to see what uses they think might not be justified by the cost.
Second, why haven’t they made their minds up yet?