back to article Yet another Cabinet-level ID card farce

Today, we publish the next extract from SA Mathieson's book on ID cards in Britain, a hot potato of politics, technology and more politics. January 1995 saw an episode which might have been rejected by the writers of Yes, Minister as a little too silly, when the Cabinet Office’s confidential plans for the national ID card, …


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  1. Bumpy Cat


    Sometimes a change in policy is needed, but when you change direction so completely in the space of five years it's pretty clear that there's no real principle involved, just headlines and mindless opposition to the policy of the other party. Bah, spineless politicians.

    1. Dave 15

      Re: Flip-flopping

      Opposition.... is the job of her majesties opposition. As far as I am concerned if the current government says white is white then the opposition should be arguing white is black... primarily because this system is designed to try and force the government to argue its case. The problem lies when we have either an overwhelming majority for the government where the government MP's are spineless and won't vote against their own party because they won't get up the slippery pole, or we have a situation where the opposition won't oppose and therefore won't force the government to correctly consider and argue things.

      Unfortunately as we all know we have both of the problems above in spades, with no one in westminster actively holding the government to account (and haven't had for decades). This leads to c**** policies from civil servants passed on by ministers, passed through by MP's who need not be there creating total and utter havoc throughout the country...


      the jump into europe

      scrapping of our entire aerospace industry

      destruction of mining, shipbuilding, car manufacture - indeed any manufacture

      destruction of IT by passing the largest contracts to India and America

      ID cards





      in fact the list includes absolutely everything that either party has touched in the last 60 years.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Bah, spineless politicians."

    "Advised" by senior civil servants with no personal stake in the outcome*

    Note even the Chief Constables did not like it. Given their normally hand-in-blouse relationship with the HO this alone speaks volumes for what a deeply rubbish plan it was.

    *Except of course the huge non-executive directorships they will pick up from some of the suppliers or operators of the scheme.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: manifesto

      written 'sham manifesto'

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The concept is fine

      And of course it should be up to you if you want one and when you want to carry it with you. The difficult question is if the picture of you is enough to identify you or not and if it is easy to fake one or not.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: The concept is fine

      An ID card doesn't prove your identity, since it might be faked or obtained by deception. At best it provides a short-cut to an identity. It saves some time in data-entry. It proves nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The concept is fine

        Driving license need to be updated every 10 years.

        Future licenses could include a smart chip for offline verification using public key security.

        Or the government could create an online system where verifier types in security numbers from the license and your photo is retrieved.

        Why create something totally new when you can leverage current infrastructure and build upon it. Less risk of total project collapse and failure.

        The government needs to avoid awarding ill thought out projects to ill thought out companies who are only interested in making a quick buck.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The concept is fine

          The online system would be far cheaper to implement.

          We already have offline biometric passports for those organizations that are not connected.

          Maybe the RFID page of the biometric passport can be duplicated for citizens to carry in their wallets.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The concept is fine

          "Driving license need to be updated every 10 years."

          Driving licences issued prior to the ones with the person's picture do not have to be renewed until the age of 70 - or if you change your name or address.

          My bank has an apparently standard process even for relatively small cash withdrawals over the counter. They refused to accept my passport, renewed every 10 years, as a valid identitification - unless accompanied with my non-picture driving licence or a recent household bill.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The concept is fine

      "The problem was they started loading 100s of extra data items onto the card."

      No, the problem was they started loading 100s of extra data items onto the NATIONAL ID DATABASE. Searchable by everyone from council jobsworths upwards, the potential for abuse was enormous.

      Also, it's pretty clear what would happen: although in theory you're supposed to do biometric checks to verify the identity of the cardholder, in practice websites would just ask you to enter your national identity number and that will be treated as sufficient to prove your identity.

      So it would become rather like people using knowledge of a credit card number to buy things on that account. Except with a credit card, you can get it cancelled or reissued with another number; no such chance for the national identity register. So if someone learned your number, and you were the victim of fraud, it would be harder than ever to get your life back on track.

      Good riddance to the scheme.

  5. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Here comes Godwin

    One problem is that identity documents are so strongly associated with films of Anton Diffring in a long black leather overcoat shouting "Ausweis! Schnell!".

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  7. DaddyHoggy

    Driving License = Photo ID card?

    I used to carry the photo ID portion of my driving license around with me. One day I got pulled over by the Police for one of those morning-after-the-night-before-stop-every-3rd-car things they do sometimes - they asked if I had my driving license on me - I said I did - opened my wallet and pulled out the photo ID bit - he looked at it and handed it back - telling me that this wasn't my driving license as it's only a driving license if it's accompanied with the paper section as that carries your convictions/points etc.

    So after that I chucked it in a drawer - because it was obvious at that point it was just an ID card and I don't carry an ID card (even if it's disguised as a driving license)

  8. keithpeter

    hang on...

    "...bought in a junk shop in Camden for £35.57"

    Hummm, three consecutive odd numbers (which happen to be prime) with the middle one (equal to the mean value of the four digits) used twice. The figure is remarkably accurate for a piece of second hand furniture - my two drawer filing cabinet cost me a nice round £25 from the shop down the road and came with no extras.

    Obviously a cunning dead letter box for a document drop. The price is a pre-arranged code.

  9. Adrian Midgley 1

    oddly not made useful.

    The general mucking about with utility bills and passports for financial things could have been eased by the state declaring it had checked identities and it was illegal to demand any other form of identification if presented with a matching ID card.

    Bingo, a useful device and service to the citizen.

  10. bonkers

    Paper driving licenses - I've had the same one for 24 years even though I've moved 3 times since then , and filled in the new address and sent it to DVLC to have points put on it :-( . It still comes back with a few more handwritten endorsements. I hate things that put you the wrong side of the law after some stupid time-out expires - i.e. for no valid reason.

    I love the use of the cooling tower from Brazil - still the best film of all time.

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