ID Cards - a reply to Des Browne

A little late, but I have finally got around to drafting a direct reply to Des Browne's letter concerning identity cards.

I'm slightly concerned that it's too long and won't get addressed at all as a result, however, this is a risk I thought it may be worth taking.

I'm watching the FOIA request site with interest and it'll be interesting to see what they get!

I hope the House of Lords once again shows its worth!

Dear Mr. Browne

I am writing in response to your letter of 2nd November, which you sent to Nick Hawkins MP. He forwarded a copy of the letter to me.

Please allow me to first apologise for the delay in this response.

There are a few questions which I would like to put directly to you, if I may. I am putting the questions because I truly wish to understand your position.

  1. Exactly how would ID cards have prevented acts of terrorism, such as the Madrid bombings or the September 11th attacks (which were performed by non-US citizens who entered the country legally)?
  2. The production of an ID card can lead to a false sense of security. Checking the ID of an individual does not give any test of intent. How would the checks operate in practice?
  3. For any checks to be effective, the cards would need to be universal, and checks frequent. How does this match up to the "voluntary" aspect of the card?
  4. If cards are "voluntary", how can the system do what it claims?
  5. If cards effectively become compulsory to exist in this country, why do we have to pay a "voluntary" fee?
  6. Having one form of ID will provide a tempting target for thieves. It seems that people checking ID will often check that the ID exists rather than that it belongs to the person. For this to be avoided the scanners would have to be ubiquitous.
  7. Would the cards contain RFID chips? This would allow the nationality of any bearer to be established at a distance, and hence provide a security risk if traveling abroad in some of the less savoury parts of the world. It is this aspect which is causing much concern about RFID chips in US passports at the moment.
  8. Though 21 of the 25 EU member states have ID cards, how many of these are a remnant of World War 2 or extremist regimes?
  9. How many of the 21 countries use cards which contain biometric identifiers?
  10. Have the cards in any EU country contributed to making ethnic minorities feel more excluded and isolated?
  11. How many of the 21 countries have unwritten constitutions?
  12. Have ID cards been used in countries outside the EU to oppress their citizens?
  13. How does the Government intend to ensure that the system which they set up cannot be misused by any future administration?
  14. The necessary decision to include biometrics into existing documents has already been made. How was this decision made, and by whom? What parliamentary oversight was there?
  15. Who will hold the data? Who will have access to the data? What rights will the citizen have to view this data?
  16. Will the ID card contain information such as home address in a human readable, or unencrypted, form? If so how does the Government intend to mitigate the security risk this presents if the card is stolen?
  17. On a mundane level, how will the process of providing biometric information be handled? Personal attendance at a passport office could prove to be difficult in many cases.
  18. With the technology under consideration, what is the rate of false negatives? What is the rate of false positives?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours Sincerely,