UK Liberty

Fingerprints are stumbling block to ID scheme

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on September 25, 2008

London’s Evening Standard (incidentally it claims the stumbling block is new – no, opponents have mentioned it several times before):

Jacqui Smith today admitted that it will be impossible to include fingerprints of some people on the Government’s ID cards.

The revelation will raise new doubts about the effectiveness of the scheme. But the Home Secretary claimed such difficulties were “wholly exceptional” and said efforts to obtain alternative biometric data which could be used instead were under way.

Her admission, however, is likely to be seized on by opponents as further evidence that the £4.7billion ID card scheme will be unworkable as well as unnecessarily expensive.

The Home Secretary’s comments came at a Westminster news conference as she unveiled a first identity card for foreign nationals.

– er no, non-EEA (European Economic Area) foreign nationals, as the article says later (but why not here) –

The card is due to be released in November for all foreign students from outside the European Economic area – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – and to migrants seeking marriage visas.

The card is due to be rolled out to all foreign nationals who visit from outside the European Economic area for more than six months by 2011 and Ms Smith said it would improve national security and help combat fraud and illegal immigration.

She denied that problems with obtaining fingerprints from a minority of people

– I think it is about 1 in 10 –

– such as the elderly or those with missing fingers

– or some ethnic minorities, or manual labourers, or players of stringed instruments –

– would undermine the scheme but admitted that the Government was still working to find a solution to such difficulties.

“It is so exceptional that it will not undermine the fundamental nature of the scheme,” she said. “In the very, very few cases of people who cannot give a fingerprint we are looking at mechanisms to deal with those categories. It will be wholly exceptional.”

Er – surely they should already have a mechanism to deal with those categories.

If it is 1 in 10 (notice that she doesn’t give any figures), and if the scheme is ever rolled out to the 60m population of the UK, 6m people will encounter problems – and those 6m people may find it easier to commit identity fraud – or they may have a problem accessing essential services.

Where is the discussion of such issues?  Surely it should form part of a public cost-benefit analysis, so that we can make an informed decision as possible as to whether or not we should continue with the scheme.

Despite her assurances, the Home Secretary’s admission is likely to be seized upon by opponents who claim that problems with obtaining biometric data will undermine the effectiveness of the scheme.  …

Well, it is a claim but it is also a logical observation: the system relies on the uniqueness of fingerprints, therefore if obtaining fingerprints is a problem, there will be problems with the system.

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