back to article So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

UK Identity Card 1.0 is in deep trouble. It's running late, and if the Conservative Party wins next year's election it'll be scrapped. Its original architect has changed his mind, and even some Cabinet members are starting to see it as a needless expense. But if we pull the plug, what then? The cards may go away, but the issue …


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  1. Tom 15

    A bit of sense

    This is probably the first sensible article on the whole ID cards issue that I've actually seen.

  2. David Bell 6

    I dont know about Gays, but they do cure sense of humour loss.....

    Simple solution, a plastic card with name, date of birth, a photo, and your unique identifier encoded in an RFID chip as well as on a barcode and in numeric form.

    At a basic level you can prove ID by matching the picture to the face, you then know who it is and what age they are.

    If the burden of identity is greater, authorised people can then scan the barcode/read the RFID tag or even key in the id and up pops a picture from the database that can be confirmed to match, or not match the picture on the card - this avoids the use of fake cards where identity/proof of age is a legal requirement. In the case of licensed premises, their access-level would also return the age (meaning even the most ape-like doorstaff could controll access - they wouldnt have to do the "subtract date of birth from current year maths".

    Everyones driving entitlements could be tied to their ID number, meaning we dont need to carry a second photo card, with access to that database being limited to those who need to access it only, the same for police records, even medical records.

    We could even allow people access to their OWN records on theses systems, meaning that if I change my address, I can go online and do that (and as it doesnt physically appear on any documentation) it can be changed at zero cost to the end user as nothing needs to be physically changed.

    No real privacy concerns, except the cross-referencing of Databases being easier, as long as there is a strong way of limiting the searches that can be done from the ID number, but that can be done in hardware, as mentioned above, a simple card reader with a display at the door to a nightclub or on the bar in a pub, put the card near the reader, check the face matches the card/person presenting and get a colour coded (red for underage, green for over) indicator.

    Shouldn't even cost the earth, just a simple database with a few tables and columns in it and a networked system to be able to check back to base from.

  3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    In most countries personal id is ...

    ... just a piece of plastic, or paper, with:

    - picture allowing anyone to match the holder against the document

    - minimum information necessary to uniquely identify the holder, normally some personal ID number or document number (or both)

    - issuing authority

    - expiration date

    - extra information the holder might need to perform business which requires identification, like address and DOB. Not much more, because any change to this data requires a new document

    Normally issuing authorities hold a database of all issued documents, but they do not need access to any more information than presented on the document.

    There is nothing preventing the above to be provided in 2 ways on a single document:

    1. picture and writing (possibly recognizable to machines), accessible to humans, as well as

    2. data (be it printed in a way recognizable to machines, or stored on a chip) signed with a private key of issuing authority. After all, picture encoded as data is what "biometric" (in case of passports) stands for, or so it seems to me.

    What is important, if 2. is provided, there must be a tool to cheaply and easily verify match between 1. and 2. This is where the challenge worth 21st century technology is. Amount of information about the holder is not an issue (because it's minimal - just the above list), but forgery prevention (verification of match between 1. and 2., and between document and a holder) and information security (prevention of unauthorized access and copies) is.

    The primary purpose of the personal ID document is to provide citizes with a tool they can use to identify themselfes when needed (i.e. make use of "extra information" mentioned above), e.g. when entering credit agreements, as proof of age etc. Normally only authorities (e.g. police) may request to see personal id (and even then not see it, because there is no duty to keep it), although many institutions (banks etc.) would deny to enter into agreement (e.g. grant credit, open account) without proof of identity. In such situations personal id is one of few options, passport often being another one. Utility bills in some countries are not suitable proof of identity, or of address.

    It is actually odd that in UK utility bills are often required proof of address, because they can be easily forged.

  4. censored

    Ah, but this makes a big assumption...

    The assumption behind this is that the ID database is being set up with the purpose of allowing us to prove who we are.

    It isn't. We all already CAN prove who we are from a variety of documents. Not only can I prove who I am, but I don't actually need to do so on anything like a daily or even monthly basis.

    The ID scheme isn't for identity at all, but for tracking, logging and control.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great article

    I thought that was a great article and very sensible.

    ...then I got to the end and read "Stefan Brands' U-Prove technology was bought by Microsoft last year. Kim Cameron is Microsoft's Chief Architect of Identity."

    Cheif Architect of identity? Just as long as he's not the one that leaves the huge security holes in IE ... Presumably any ID cards would be a little more secure than anything MS has made!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why anything at all

    All that was originally needed was a cleanup of the national insurance number list. That was the problem that needed to be fixed, the NI number quoted for benefits like unemployment and health wasn't reliable. Somehow the fix morphed into a massive identity scheme.

    Subsequent lobbying of the EU added the Biometric requirement to passports and ID cards which Britain then claimed was a requirement that came from the EU..... not true, they policy washed it through a naive (and also complicit - they wanted more power) EU leadership.

    You try to set the agenda here, adding vague requirements that a card is supposed to fix. But is there a real problem there? And is the problem bigger than the costs of fixing it?

    Do 50 little problems add up to one big one? Or only if you keep the discussion vague. Like online credit card fraud became 'identity theft' to imply that somehow having an ID card in your pocket would be a fix for someone using your credit card number on the internet.

  7. EdwardP

    Why again?

    "The cards may go away, but the issue won't. Problems associated with identity, privacy and security will remain burning issues facing both the technology industry and wider society."

    What issue is this then?

    I wasn't aware there was an issue, or any severe problem associated with "identity, privacy and security" that could be solved by adding another layer to the cake.

    Fix the systems we already have, rather than increasing the attack surface and giving the evil-doers a whole new avenue to go down.

  8. Jez Burns
    Thumb Down

    Gets one point, misses a more important one

    This is a really interesting and informative article, and one that for a change addresses the technical rather than simply the moral issues of the ID card. So maybe it's inappropriate to start banging on about this side of the debate in a comment here, but are the two actually separable? Is it not possible that the architects of the ID card scheme are perfectly aware of the possibility of retaining a degree of privacy for the holder with clever use of software, but that this is actually undesirable for the state looking to implement it? Every UK Govt proposal relating to the ID scheme appears to confirm that the ID card (and more importantly, associated database system) has one simple function- to eradicate privacy altogether. The concept of privacy itself is an anathema to a state looking for micro-management of a population, scared to death by the shadows of terrorism and uncontrollable individualistic behaviour. If you doubt this, just listen to what the architects of the scheme say:

    ""The realm of intelligence operations is of course a zone to which the ethical rules that we might hope to govern private conduct as individuals in society cannot fully apply"

    Quotation taken from Register article:

    Granted, this refers to Government communications monitoring, but what is an ID card, linked to a system of databases, if not communications monitoring?

    My worry is that more sensible proposals for the implementation of ID technology such as this, while coming with the best of intentions, will merely give the state an excuse to sweep any moral objections to the scheme under the carpet. Once established it will be very easy to do away with any built-in privacy protection and steam ahead with the scheme as it was originally intended- to use an automated process to red-flag and monitor any citizen who has the potential to step 'out of line'. What line, the state is free to decide at any given time.

  9. myxiplx

    Bloody good idea

    Taken to the extreme, you don't want even a plain card for this - after all, you don't know what information is being requested any more.

    What you want is a touch screen device (like a mobile phone) that you can register as being your own, with a security 'PIN' that's required for any kind of proof of identity.

    Any request would follow these basic steps:

    - You identify yourself to the service provider (cash machine, shop, doorman, etc), by showing your phone (integrated RFID would do this wirelessly)

    - They request the information needed

    - On your screen you get a summary of the information they're asking for (age, home address, etc), and get to choose which parts they are allowed

    - Your phone asks you to enter your pin to confirm the transaction

    Simple, secure, and you remain in control of your data at all times.

    In addition, the database should be distributed. No one location should hold all the data (enforcing separation by birth city may be sensible), and you should be able to move your records between providers at will.

    The parties storing the data should not be able to read it, but I don't know enough about encryption to know whether it's possible to use a combination of keys from yourself and the person requesting your details to allow the transmission in this form.

    By designing it as a distributed system like this, it can also be tested in small numbers before billions are wasted on a flawed implementation.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Penguin X

    *Ctrl Alt Del*

    No, nothing.

  11. Tom 106
    Thumb Up


    I fully agree with the sentiments of this article.

    Labours idea of an ID card is poor and guilty of wasting money.

    I understand the need and purpose for an identity card but I have always disagreed with the amount of information about what is disclosed about myself and my family members to just about anybody.

    We ought to be looking to the future and not thinking about what was possible yesterday and making that fit in for tomorrow. Therefore, I am in favour of a technology that allows limited information to those that are permitted for a legitimate reason.

    I also don't understand why we should be made to pay for the card. The first issue of the card should be free. As every child turns the age of 16, their card can be then issued in the same way as the current National Insurance card is. Where a card is lost or damaged, then the issuance of replacement card will need to be paid for. At present, if asked to prove who I am there are a number of ways in which I can do this, therefore, why do I have to compulsory pay for another method?

    I would also want an ID card to replace the Drivers Licence, NI card and my Birth Certificate, as this would stop others from attempting to obtain the different forms of my ID.

  12. Richard Read

    Nice idea but how is that in the intests of the state?

    >> An alternative that is designed to strengthen our privacy and security, not undermine it. One that places us, as citizens, at the centre and in control – not at the centre under permanent and routine surveillance.

    The problem is that all of that benefits citizens but limits government surveilance and control. Since it is the government calling the shots they are going to put their interests over ours which is why we have ended up with ID cards 1.0 and why any ID cards 2.0 will have the same problems.

    While we live in a pantomime democracy rather than a real one that won't change.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Nice try...

    ... but it's the concept of my identitiy being defined and controlled by government or anyone else that I object to.

    Although I'll grant that the article's author is right in two respects: a card with too much data on it is daft, and a monolithic central database was always a stupid idea.

  14. DrStrangeLug
    Paris Hilton

    Requires a change of attitude not just perspect.

    Solving the problems of identity and privacy, yes, this checks all the boxes. There's no way the Sir Humphries of this world will let that through - they want the Police, Intelligence and "commercial partners" accessing this data.

    The purpose of the ID card is not just to provide someones identity but to record it as well. And recorded information is useless unless it will be read again. Its the reader list that forms the core of the problem with the scheme.

  15. John G Imrie Silver badge

    @David Bell

    You seam to be falling into the same trap as the government.. The access requirement for entering a club should be a green light or a red light, triggered by the card reader asking the chip is this person over 18 today and getting a yes / no response. The persons age should never leave the card.

  16. Natalie Gritpants

    art of the possible?

    I have no idea what that means.

  17. Dan Price

    On my mobile? Really?

    I never can quite understand why El Reg keeps going on about having one's "identity card" incorporated into one's phone - Most of us here are techies, we tend to change mobile a lot . Can you imagine the hassle in porting all of your personal data from one handset to the other? Hell, can you imagine SonyEricsson, LG, Samsung, HTC et al even sitting down to discuss a standard for interoperability, let alone with and the people desigining the "other end" of the system?

    And from another point of view, I'd rather not have it so that the local chav population doesn't get all my personal details, bank account, drivers licence and so on just because one of them chinned me and ran off with my mobile...

  18. P. J. Isserlis

    And another thing

    I live in a country where everyone has got an identity card. Despite my reservations about having to have a card, with the consequent requirement to notify any change of address etc., it has got one great benefit: within Europe (and this country is not actually in the EU) my wife can travel entirely on her ID card. It worked even to enter Turkey. She does not have to carry a passport for most of our foreign travel. If it did include a driving licence (it does not) and stay very simple (no electronics at the moment), I should find it too convenient not to be grateful when I get one.

    However, interesting: it has b- all effect on the level of crime, illegal immigration or anything else alleged to be improved/prevented by identity cards, wonderful and highly efficient country as this one is.

  19. Andy Watt
    Thumb Up

    Excellent suggestions.

    Minimal discolsure in particular is very good. Selling this to the public would be easier too - you can state that an "identity transaction" is like a conversation where only the things pertinent to what you need to prove are disclosed: PIN control of this sounds good too.

    Nice to see balanced positive ideas in the article. I do think Dave B's comments might be a little naive (perhaps)? If the card contains only an ID, we still have a monolithic database back-end, and the infrastructure to back this up, and monitoring of access, etc - and allowing people access to their own records? How do you prove who you are to change items of information?

    Minefield stuff - which is why it's such a good idea to look a this with a fresh perspective, and not the miserable attempts UK governments make to create vast IT infrastructure projects which inevitably go MASSIVELY over-budget and FAIL anyway...

    Summary - good stuff. Debate. Reboot. Rethink. Change concept.

  20. Jez Burns

    @David Bell

    When I was a teenager (around 15), me and my mates came up with a cunning and foolproof way of obtaining beer and cigarettes, which would outfox any ID scheme imaginable. We'd simply bribe an adult to purchase them for us in return for a cut of the booty.

    Actually, scratch that. I propose implanting an RFID chip into the hand of anyone under the age of 18 that can pass information to an RFID chip implanted in the fabric of any beer can / cigarette packet, bongo mag etc. These can both then register with terminals hidden in pub tables, park benches, bus stops, which will alert the authorities in the case of minors making use of such contraband. Of course, any such scheme could be entirely voluntary- if you don't have the ID chip you just can't purchase any unsavoury items. The chip will only activate in the case of interaction with said goods, so privacy will not be an issue.

    Underage drinking never really did me any harm anyway, it just led to a well developed sense of paranoia. The prison doctors said I might be eligible for a liver transplant in a couple of years anyway, so all good!

  21. Joel Mansford

    But why do we NEED ID cards??

    I mean seriously the costs of putting in a system versus potential savings? I doubt that one weighs up.

    I honestly can't see what I could possibly need an ID card for. OK, so I have a driving licence, how often have I shown it to anyone for driving? Twice. In 10 years. We don't have the policy to actually use it anyway, if someone gets stopped and has no driving licence don't go thinking anything actually happens to them.

    Sorry...I just can't see the point in spending all of that money.

  22. Nic Brough 1


    I've seen stuff like this before, and I can't fault it - essentially, you own your identity, and retain a decent level of control over it, without compromising organisations abilities to keep track of information about you that is *relevant* to them. It would stop identity theft overnight, and provide a solid *secure* workable framework for law enforcement, entitlement claims, travel and anything else where some numpty seems to want your inside leg measurement before tying your credit record to the wrong person.

    It will never happen - the government and corporations want control, not our freedom.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    David Blunkett Easily Fools El Reg?

    "Its original architect has changed his mind..."

    Really?!? Got a link for that?

    If I remember correctly, David Blunkett did call for voluntary ID cards to be scrapped, and to be replaced with compulsory passports that could also be used as ID cards.

    Compulsory passports!

    In other words, far from changing his mind, he actually called for them to be made compulsory instead of merely voluntary. I thought the way he'd spun it was really obvious.

    Let's see if I can find a link... Ah, yes:-

    Seems Jerry Fishenden is very, very easily fooled. Perhaps he also believes MPs are being entirely open and transparent about their expenses claims, too?

  24. John Sager

    Um, M$ again

    Applaud the sentiments, but I sincerely hope our future identity management system isn't exclusively based on Microsoft-owned tech, however good it is. Just as for electronic voting systems, there is a good argument for this stuff to be open & non-proprietary so that its construction & use can be publicly audited.

  25. Alastair McKinstry 1

    David Bell: Why ?

    David, Have you read the article ? why even make that amount of information public ?

    Note: Here in Ireland we've been relatively sensible about this to date.

    The police (Garda Siochana) will issue a proof-of-age card (voluntary) to prove your're over 18.

    Its got: Name, Photo, "This person is over 18".

    Period. No other identifiers.

    As was pointed out in the article, even the name is unnecessary. But once you've put enough

    info on it (A unique number, or DOB + NAME + something else) you've given away the bank:

    enough info to track and tie all other records to. In an age of mobile phones, those bits will

    tie you to an audit trail and get any other information that a nosey tracker / company wants.

  26. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    RE: But why do we NEED ID cards??

    Personally, I welcome personal Ids if it helps to fight identity theft.

    In particular, if (forged or not) utility bills are not longer considered proof of address, because more secure alternative is available to everyone.

  27. Tim O'Tay
    Thumb Down

    There is no solution, stop trying..

    This article almost hits the nail on the head, but the general theme of it is that we should still be trying to have an ID system. I hate to repeat old phrases for the sake of it, but 'i am who i am, my identity is me, i dont have to prove my identity to anyone'. There will never be a day when technology if fool-proof and never fails. I would have thought that by now enough blunders and gaffs had be exhibited by Governments and high-profile companies that it was clear we as humans are not capable of looking after large quantities of confidential data that could affect the lives of other human beings. (even parcel delivery systems!)

    If a device exists to create a secure system, then shortly afterwards a device will be created to crack or bypass the original. You could cite any number of video and music encryption systems at this point.

    Staff will always be corruptible or bribable, and people will always be forced under duress to reveal their personal PIN's or forced to perform and act on behalf of someone else. What I am basically saying is there will always be crime, and the more things you make into 'a criminal offense' the more criminals you will have. (eg, if copyrights didn't exist there would be no such thing as music piracy). What I hope is that one day someone looks back over the course of the last 12 years of Labour and sees hows many things are now illegal that were not before, and realises that just because you don't like something, making it illegal doesn't make it go away.

    ID systems will not stop terrorism ( I use that term loosely as the act of distributing terror and fear of a future consequence, is actually quite far removed from the actual act of doing evil). Even if you gave every al-qaeda supporter an ID card, it won't stop them making threats. Making everyone into 'a number/GUID/RFID' to try to weed out the few rotten apples puts everyone's identity at risk of theft.

    I personally do not want my actions to be tracked by bigbrother, nor do i care to follow the movements of others. All the IT admins that read this site, surely know all too well how one can become power-crazed. When you are sysadmin it is oh so tempting to spy on other people, and the more power you have, the more you want. That is just the 'government' in a micro environment.

  28. John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: David Blunkett Easily Fools El Reg?

    Blunkett HAS changed his mind, in that he has flipped from being the foremost promoter of the cards to arguing for their abandonment. Certainly he still thinks everybody needs to be logged and is viewing the passport as an alternative mechanism for doing so, and certainly Blunkett Plan B would if adopted look and feel pretty much like Blunkett Plan A. We mentioned this on The Reg two months before the Beeb got around to it (, and Jerry's well aware of that.

    Do try to keep up.

  29. JohnG

    Here in Germany....

    ....they issue a simple (and cheap) card from a local office. It has the holder's photo, signature, full name, current address, date of birth, where born, nationality, etc. The whole thing is laminated to avoid damage and discourage tampering. Everyone is required to register within three months of moving/changing address. The local town issues the card and registers the holder as a resident. What they have not done is add all the additional biometrics and RFID nor have they put everything into a huge leaky central database to which every man and his dog has access. The card is used as a means of identity not only by police and similar authorities but also in banks or shops when opening accounts, ordering stuff, etc.

    It is not controversial here as there isn't the Big Brother mentality that seems to have infected goverment in the UK. As a bonus, it makes identity theft very difficult.

  30. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    big brother? I see no link

    As I tried to demonstrate in my first post, personal Ids are used accross the world and their primary purpose has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, tracking citizens etc.

    Very few personal details are needed for well working system, and even some of them may be made optional (like address). Not even online database is necessary, although it may help to hide optional data (per David Bell's suggestion). Most importantly, no central location needs, nor should, store information on when and how the data is accessed. It is up to interested parties to verify proof of identity and optionaly store record of this verification - locally.

    The primary purpose here in UK would be to replace this ridiculous "proof of address by showing documents you could have easily printed yourself" system used here.

  31. John Chadwick

    Who said..

    There is always a obvious and simple answer to everything, that's also wrong, ore something like that.

    Government seems to work like that a lot of the time, things are done more in reaction to comment in the media to some event, to which politicians feel they need to be seen to be doing something. So they do something, which usually takes no account of the side effects it might have, or the things that they have already done that it contradicts.

    ID Cards were/are supposed to be the gold standard for proving your identity. So how do you actually do that, baring in mind that if it's the gold standard, not only will people then try to subvert it, and that if you happen to have your identity stolen, you need a relatively painless process to recover it.

    Holding biometric details centrally ensures that when that degree of identification is required, it can be given. Government's own security requirements for such a database mean that it can't be distributed, yes you can hold the biometric on your card, but then it can be subverted, unless there is a master copy to compare against. Using a distributed cloud system is also a no-no, because you can never know where an individuals data actually has been, so that it can be erased once used. Government systems are supposed to always know who has looked at your data, who has done what to it, and when they did it, BIP008 is good for a laugh if you want to see one set of standards.

    BTW your NI Number or NINO isn't actually unique any more, so it's always paired with the date of birth. There were plans to use the Identity register as a method of bridging all the government databases using all the possible identifiers from DVLA, DWP, HMRC and NHS, but even here there are existing data protection issues which actually prevent the references being used. Education and Heath records are guarded by zelots who know every single Act athat guards your details. Which is a point that a lot of people miss, the civil service are not a joined up organisation bent of domination of your day to day life, in fact in the main they are very good at protecting you from other departments. In fact the most dangerous databases out there are held by the likes of Experian and Tesco, not HMG, these databases can tell you far more about peoples lives and habits than anything else. Worry not about ID cards, your Nectar card is far more dangerous.

    ID Cards will come back, and we really need a sensible debate about what goes on them, what they prove, and what they can be used for, because shouting "No not at any price" and burying your head in the sand won't work. You might land up with a Bank sponsored card run by Experian, and you really won't like that, or perhaps you won't care because it's not the government, until it's too late. It's not the Card that's important, but the governance.

  32. Jez Burns

    @Bronek Kozicki

    Your arguments in favour of an ID card system (simply to allow proof of address) are totally redundant. The idealised system you propose is not the one being considered by the UK government, which is an ID card tied into a necessarily monolithic database system with access necessarily granted to tens of thousands of anonymous officials. Even if it was, the positive aspects you set out do not even touch on the potential negatives. It is facile to bring other countries with an ID card system in place into the argument. For one, they do not have the same system in place as that proposed by the UK Government. Secondly, where is the evidence that the ID system of other countries is not already open to abuse / being abused. Thirdly, the implementation of a massive database backend, which is the true point of contention in the ID cards debate appears to be a Europe-wide, not just UK-centric plan. Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent.Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent towards their privacy and liberties.

    Having said that, maybe you are a part of a minority who find the prospect of state intrusion and control of your life comforting?

  33. Tim O'Tay

    Re: big brother? I see no link

    You comment about utility bills is spot on, its totally crazy policy. I can liken it also to 'sending a fax on letter headed paper to authorise domain transfers!' Or having return to the missed parcel collection office with 'a company letter head', which a) i could have printed myself b) the clown on the desk wouldnt even know what the 'real' letter head looked like anyway!

    But your blinkered view on what Big Brother state implies does actually worries me. If you introduce the means to track people, then even if originally nothing is implemented, then by god sure as eggs is eggs, in the future the data will start being stored and analysed. The whole point about objecting to ID cards is to kill the possibility at the root. Just like the laws being passed, its a slow 'creep' that people don't realise its happening/happened until its too late.

    If I were you, I'd start brushing up on my Newspeak, doubleplusspeed.

  34. mmiied


    "do try to keep up"

    with how quickly polititions flip flop not a hope

  35. D Moss Esq

    Dematerialised ID

    I take this article of Jerry Fishenden's to be a ringing endorsement of dematerialised ID (, a proposal first brought to his new colleagues at the LSE's attention in 2004 and to his old colleagues at the UK Government Gateway a few months ago.

  36. Paul Shirley

    why do I need one?

    Underlying the technical analysis is the assumption I need the card. Sorry, I don't need an ID card to walk the streets and will resist any attempts to impose one. Until the whole concept of a card is 110% irrevocably *voluntary* and run for my benefit not some power mad cretin in government it doesn't need fixing but nuking from orbit.

    Beyond that any scheme that allows anyone to see my records without my direct approval is fundamentally unacceptable. In a country that's started electing fascist's to power no sane person wants to give access to them or the BNP infiltrators in the police and civil service. This is power governments should only have in times of dire emergency, not in the years it takes them to manufacture a self sustaining 'emergency'.

    Government cannot be trusted to keep the system safe, however hard we work on fixing the problems. They shouldn't be allowed to run or impose it as a point of principle.

  37. Mike Richards

    One thing I'd like to see in that article

    The option not to take part.

    But a nicely written piece.

  38. Luther Blissett

    Hard on ID databases, hard on the causes of ID databases

    censored Posted Friday 19th June 2009 12:26 GMT is entirely correct. The ID database is a monster pork barrel from the UK fascist-corporatist nul abour government to one section of big business.

    The reason for most other countries having an ID card as a simple printed documented with a minimal of information is that sometimes the authorities do need to enquire as to your identity, and handing over a card saves them time and you your breath. Everyone can read quicker than they can talk - a situation everyone seems happy with. Only in the UK do you have officious little jobsworths who want to direct your every business, and kiddies so stressed out that if they're not trying to blag ciggies or alcohol it's only because they've been doped to the gills on ritalin by anxious parents.

  39. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    @Jez Burns

    "The idealised system you propose is not the one being considered by the UK government, which is an ID card tied into a necessarily monolithic database system with access necessarily granted to tens of thousands of anonymous officials"

    this is unfortunate. But the debate is not what will happen with the current proposal, because it is lost anyway. It is whether we need another proposal and whether that would be useful for anything.

    "Thirdly, the implementation of a massive database backend, which is the true point of contention in the ID cards debate appears to be a Europe-wide"

    I do not see how this appears to be Europe-wide. Until now I belived that central database is purely Nu Labour invention. I see no need for it, thus am not concerned if system of personal Ids were to be proposed which would not include such a database. Or would only include central database with very limited information about citizens, equal in scope to that printed on the document itself.

    Besides, it is difficult to imagine system more open to abuse (identity theft in this case) than what is currently used in UK.

  40. spam 1
    Thumb Down

    "I am over 18", "I am over 65"

    Most of the reasons for someone needing to identify themselves in person are government created bollocks we could do without.

    I couldn't care less if under 18's are able to buy booze/fags/porn/knives. Children need to be responsible for their actions long before they reach 18. The constant erosion of personal responsibility and replacement by state responsibility is a root cause of many of our social problems. Of course NuLab (perhaps they should be called FuLab now?) love it, they love the idea that we are all dependent on them and that they are not mostly a waste of space. For them the bigger and more important the state the bigger and more important they feel controlling it.

    Likewise subsidies for OAPs are a complicated and expensive waste of time. Give them enough money to live on and let them spend it like the rest of us without artificial market and price distortions.

  41. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    @Tim O'Tay

    "If you introduce the means to track people, then even if originally nothing is implemented, then by god sure as eggs is eggs, in the future the data will start being stored and analysed"

    good point. Such means would be incidentally provided if verification of personal id requires access to central database. I do not believe this is necessary. Asymmetric cryptography is sufficient to sign the data and does not need it.

    Even if some optional information (e.g. address) is only stored in online db (not on the document itself) and thus requires such access, this only provides means to track access to such optional information and nothing else. It does not provide means to track other simpler scenarios, like identification only or age verification (because do not require such information and thus work perfectly well "off line").

    I do not insist that such "optional information stored in db" is such a good idea. Nevertheless, there are good uses for it. Besides giving the holder ability to manage optional information about himself, it might (potentially!) help fighting unauthorized duplication of the document or improve its security in other ways. It is something which can be considered and possibly dropped, won't make my sob.

    As opposed to the current system, where identity in UK has very little value and state pays no attention to its protection. This is wrong.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Stefan Brands' U-Prove technology was bought by Microsoft last year. Kim Cameron is Microsoft's Chief Architect of Identity."

    So this is just a push by M$ for more government contracts, or to put it another way M$ wants your money. Anyway, as it is M$ that means it will be hacked in about 5 min.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    The nice man from microsoft is trying to sell the govt another mega IT cockup. And I bet there's a chocking great database somewhere behind the smoke & mirrors.

    "- proof of entitlement and authorisation to access a service"

    oh really? Like the getting on a bus service?

    "- using a choice of devices that makes sense not only to government, but also to us as citizens and to the commercial sector"

    I choose dev/null

    "- the management of electronic credentials throughout the lifecycle between issuance and revocation"

    The problem here is with the database, not the credentials.

    "- decentralised governance of identity infrastructure across the private and public sectors, without the need for anyone to sit in the middle and log and monitor everything we do"

    Bullshit and fantasy. There's a database (hint, it's called identity infrastructure) in there. The private and public sectors can get their hands off my identity.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re Re: David Blunkett Easily Fools El Reg?

    Blunkett's 'change of mind' is just a sleight of hand to fool the plebs. It's no good trying to use this in aid of yet another ID scheme.

    This article goes to show that this scheme isn't yet dead; we need garlic and silver crosses.

    The apparent need for proof of identity is a product of the government passing dozens of laws saying you've got to produce ID at every turn. The answer is, I hope, obvious.

    Do try and keep up.

  45. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "..card from a local office. It has the holder's photo, signature, full name, current address, date of birth, where born, nationality, etc."

    "..The local town issues the card and registers the holder as a resident. What they have not done is add all the additional biometrics and RFID nor have they put everything into a huge leaky central database to which every man and his dog has access."

    Pretty much what I suspected most European ID cards do. Basically "I am official document. I say this is John Gxxx. His address is xxxxx xxxx etc."

    We don't have a tradition of carrying something to *prove* who we are to "Authority." I do not see why we need to start it.

    Our real issue is the stupidly *huge* NIR (in fact a virtual database with fields apparently split between 3 existing (as far as I can tell) databases).

    Its fetishistic desire to cross-reference *every* identity document issued by the UK government in with your personal details (with Draconian penealties for not instantly updating any changes in your circumstances).

    In short the cradle-to-grave surveilance of *every* individual UK subject. Forever.

    I could argue that the coalition of the willing (Authoritarian ministers coupled with power crazed and IT illiterate senior civil servants) who planned this did not know about the authors proposed options. Personally I doubt they *bothered* to look at *any* approach which did not centralise the data and give a complete lifetime map of a persons travels, permisisions and relationships. They are not ignorant. They are actively hostile.

    Whatever their *current* justification (and it has changed over time) their objective is monitoring and control.

    The author's proposal makes excellent sense as a way of achieving the projects *stated* goals.

    But not it's real ones.

  46. Anthony Cartmell

    How does it get boot-strapped?

    OK, so we invent a new identity thingy. But how do you prove who you are to get one? Presumably with a driving licence, passport, gas bill, or... ah... I think I can sense a recursion problem here...

    Who am I, anyway?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anthony Cartmell

    My Lord Blunkett of Chatsworth was proposing a 'clean database', from which all goodness flowed. You could be whoever you wanted to be, but that was your name forever: all they cared about was the biometrics, the name didn't really matter so long as they could lock you up.

    This was abandoned because it was too difficult / the natives got restless / it was too expensive.

    Consequently the metaphysical question of who one is has been answered by the statement 'we know where you live'.

  48. Jacqui


    "Everyones driving entitlements could be tied to their ID number, meaning we dont need to carry a second photo card, with access to that database being limited to those who need to access it only, the same for police records, even medical records."

    This assuimes that we can trust organisations such as DVLA. Having recently seen the watchdog episode where the DVLA managed to get not only driving entitlements wrong but the change gender of the owner during the renewal process.

    Thier response to all complaints until watchdog was aired - our computer systems are never wrong - you are Mr Sally xxx and you must retake your bike test after 15 years of biking.

    What worries me is if they decided to 'delete' your date and the police looked your recent travels up via NPR - you could get a nice big court appearance for having no licence etc even you you though you have one.

    FInally MS are only puching this scheme because they have patentied it - the open source solutions bit is a red herring as like all other MS standards they will either use legal force against competitors or require exorbitant licence fees - another MS monopoly!

  49. Richard Neill

    Why over-authenticate?

    There is a creeping "disease" everywhere that is requiring authentication for trivial things. Most services shouldn't require *any* authentication, and we should make it harder for businesses and services to require it.

    Every jobsworth in the country now seems to want proof of identity when 10 years ago, the same process used to be accomplished without doing so.

  50. SDF1586

    Compulsory ID will always be a bad idea

    It is indeed a good idea to apply the information, to the extent it exists now, on plastic cards in an invisible way - perhaps with a photo of the carrier and a bank logo or whatever - it's one of those obvious ideas that should have been thought of before. Beyond that the scheme is easily turned into a tool for population control. Technological development in this area should lean towards preventing fraud not monitoring by the government. But as long as this remains a government project and not an improvement of security for credit/bank/store/membership cards then it will inevitably become a monster.

    My personal information is disseminated by me for my convenience, not for anybody else's. And as for proving one's age, I thought that teenagehood was invented for doing stuff you're not allowed to do!


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