Government to sell access to ID database?

There is a report in The Independent that the government is planning to sell private companies the means to access the ID card database in order to mitigate the up-front spiralling cost to the individual (replacing it, presumably with hidden costs). Admittedly, this only implies that the company will have the ability to compare a checksum produced when checking the card with the database, but once the wedge is opened up.... remember when these things were just going to be 'entitlement cards'?

If this is to be the case, then it seems that we will need to prove our identity in order to buy a toaster. (Certain electrical retailers already ask for personal details, which end up with the customer on mailing lists. I tell them to take the money, or don't).

On top of this, the 'uncrackable' biometrics could be replaced by chip-and-pin, which is vulnerable to learning the pin from a 'man in the middle' attack.

It isn't so much the card that's the problem, I can prove my ID now when I need to by other means. Part of the problem is the hassle of an extra penalty if one forgets the thing, the inevitable spot checks and the point that they won't help to prevent terrorism - despite Charles Clarkes' protestations and may even aid ID fraud.

It's not so much the fact that they won't work as advertised, or even the cost.

It's the database behind it, which will provide a big target for hacking, and which will allow an unprecendented level of automated surveillance of citizens.

The recent LSE report includes a warning by a former Nato security chief that the cards could be a &quotsecurity disaster", are "too risky" to introduce, and could lead to a national meltdown in the event of a security breach of the central database. [Source]

The bill is in front of the Commons on tuesday, and even 10 year old children can spot the flaws.

Why is the government so keen on this bill? Well, let's set aside notions of trying to set up an all-powerful state which controls what people think and do (and many would argue that it's not reasonable to set this aside as a motive). The only real argument is that the US was insisting on biometrics in passports. Given the hassle of doing this, let's have an ID card too "As you may be aware that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has established standards in the use of biometrics in passports. From next Autumn, British tourists who need a new passport will have to get a biometric one to visit the US or obtain a visa in advance and have their biometrics recorded on arrival." Interesting that the US visa requirement has been kicked into the long grass. Introducing a national ID scheme because of a relatively small number of people who want to travel to the US under the visa waiver scheme? That's silly.

The cards will cost us as a nation (and hence individually) a lot of money, which could better spent. In addition, they will not make us safer.

Whilst I have your attention (if you're still reading!), this is worth a click (audio alert).

Update: This post is referred to in Tim Worstall's Britblog Roundup Number 19