The UK's Universal ID Card Proposal

Kim Cameron discusses the proposed universal ID card system in the UK. Stefan Brands has a four part discussion at The Identity Corner. Here they are: part I, part II, part III, and part IV. Stefan's posts discuss a London School of Economics report that critiques that proposed UK system. (Note: I had to use the Adobe Reader to view this document rather than Preview). Here are the conclusions of the report:

The Report concludes that the establishment of a secure national identity system has the potential to create significant, though limited, benefits for society. However, the proposals currently being considered by Parliament are neither safe nor appropriate. There was an overwhelming view expressed by stakeholders involved in this Report that the proposals are too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence. The current proposals miss key opportunities to establish a secure, trusted and cost-effective identity system and the Report therefore considers alternative models for an identity card scheme that may achieve the goals of the legislation more effectively. The concept of a national identity system is supportable, but the current proposals are not feasible.

Many of the public interest objectives of the Bill would be more effectively achieved by other means. For example, preventing identity theft may be better addressed by giving individuals greater control over the disclosure of their own personal information, while prevention of terrorism may be more effectively managed through strengthened border patrols and increased presence at borders, or allocating adequate resources for conventional police intelligence work.

The technology envisioned for this scheme is, to a large extent, untested and unreliable. No scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious systems have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in a large-scale, national system. The use of biometrics gives rise to particular concern because this technology has never been used at such a scale.

We estimate the likely cost of the ten-year rollout of the proposed identity cards scheme will be between 10.6 billion and 19.2 billion, with a median of 14.5 billion. This figure does not include public or private sector integration costs, nor does it take into account possible cost overruns.

Any system that supports critical security functions must be robust and resilient to malicious attacks. Because of its size and complexity, the identity system would require security measures at a scale that will result in substantially higher implementation and operational costs than has been estimated. The proposed use of the system for a variety of purposes, and access to it from a large number of private and public sector organizations will require unprecedented attention to security.

All identity systems carry consequential dangers as well as potential benefits. Depending on the model used, identity systems may create a range of new and unforeseen problems. These include the failure of systems, unforeseen financial costs, increased security threats and unacceptable imposition on citizens. The success of a national identity system depends on a sensitive, cautious and cooperative approach involving all key stakeholder groups including an independent and rolling risk assessment and a regular review of management practices. We are not confident that these conditions have been satisfied in the development of the Identity Cards Bill. The risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals.

The report goes on, in some detail, to outline concerns. As such, I think it represents a valuable resource for government planning identity systems. Section 19 of the report is an alternative blueprint for a national identification system. Recommended reading for any government official contemplating identity.