Even IT industry doesn't trust ID cards

In a new specila report, Corporate Watch scrutinises the companies angling to be involved in implementing the ID cards scheme if it becomes law, and looks at what IT industry insiders have said about ID card technology and the planned National Identity Register

Corporate Watch report shows: Even IT industry doesn't trust ID cards

"Corporate Identity - A critical analysis of private companies' engagement with the identity cards scheme"

The government's defeat in the House of Lords last week demonstrated growing unease at the secrecy surrounding the ID cards scheme.

In a new report, Corporate Watch(1) scrutinises the companies angling to be involved in implementing the scheme if it becomes law. Some of them have previously overseen disasters in public sector IT work. For example, contractor EDS was responsible for the catastrophic introduction of working tax credits where computer errors led to £2.2bn of overpayments and eventual termination of the contract.

The report uncovers misgivings circulating within the IT industry about biometric technology(2) and the National Identity Register database. It also reveals concerns from both companies and government bodies about transparency and accountability in government IT outsourcing processes. The report's author, Rebecca Spencer, expressed concern over the findings:

'We set out to review what companies are saying to each other about the ID cards scheme and found that even some of those bidding for contracts say privately that it will be a disaster. When technology companies like Unisys and QinetiQ are questioning ID cards, something has to be wrong.'(3)

The report concludes that neither the major contractors nor the government have shown themselves capable of organising and implementing an outsourced IT scheme on this scale. No country has attempted to use biometric technologies to register a population the size of the UK.

Corporate Watch's report recommends either sending the ID cards scheme back to the drawing board or amending it so that all elements of compulsion are removed and no individual is forced to deal with flawed technology.

View the report online at http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=2298


1) About Corporate Watch - Corporate Watch is a small, independent research group based in Oxford, working on profiling, publishing and exposing detrimental social and environmental effects companies have on people and the planet.

2) Atos Origin, one of the companies involved in trialling the cards, reported that: "Only 61% of disabled participants and 90% of the sample chosen to represent the general population were able to enrol two iris scans; verification of facial scans was 48% for disabled participants and 69% for the representative sample; fingerprint verification was around 80% for both groups. 0.62% of disabled participants were unable to enrol a single biometric". See: 'UK Passport Service Biometrics Enrolment Trial Report' May 2005 - http://www.passport.gov.uk/downloads/UKPSBiometrics_Enrolment_Trial_Report.pdf

3) 'A national ID card for the UK is overly ambitious, extremely expensive and will not be a panacea against terrorism or fraud, although it will make a company like mine very happy.' Roberto Tavano, biometrics specialist for Unisys, one of the companies considering bidding for contracts. Quoted in The Guardian, 21/10/05

'The requirement for 100 per cent accuracy is huge and I don't think we've ever seen a system which is 100 per cent accurate.' Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former chair of QinetiQ. Reported on 18/10/05 by silicon.com, 'Lack of "balls" in Whitehall will hinder ID cards' Will Sturgeon http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39153447,00.htm

Corporate Watch
Homepage: http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk


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