Identity Cards

More on ID Card Costs

No2ID has another article on rapidly climbing ID card costs, this time comparing the latest estimate with the price originally quoted.

Press reports of yesterday’s 6-month Dobson report focus on its timing. Philip Johnston writes in The Daily Telegraph:

The soaring cost of Tony Blair’s ID card project was divulged by the Home Office yesterday under cover of his resignation statement.

Estimates that should have been published by law last month were timed to coincide with the media jamboree surrounding Mr Blair’s farewell.

Costs have risen by £840 million to £5.55 billion - some £2.4 billion higher than when the Government floated the idea in 2004.

Providing ID cards to foreign nationals will cost an additional £200 million.

The Government says much of the cost will be recouped from charges for combined biometric passports and ID cards which will be introduced next year. These are predicted to cost £93 but this may have to rise to £100 or the taxpayer will have to meet the additional expense.

The increases have come despite efforts to save money by scrapping plans for a new database. Instead the ID scheme will be bolted on to databases in Whitehall.

Other reports take a similar line:

Mirror: ID CARD TRICK - Government ‘try to bury’ shock news of scheme’s spiralling costs

Guardian: Cost of national ID card scheme soars by £840m in six months

Sun: Good day to bury bad news

Daily Mail: Ministers try to hide £500m rise in ID cards

Independent: Reid accused of ‘burying bad news’ on release of ID card costs

… and many others.

ID Card Costs Soar

On the No2ID site we see that the cost of ID cards has risen by another £400million.

The Press Association reports:

The projected 10-year cost of the controversial ID card scheme has risen by £400 million in the last six months, it has been revealed.

Home Office figures showed the costs over 10 years were estimated to be £5.31 billion from 2006 to 2016, compared with £4.91 billion in the last calculation.

The story helpfully reminds us:

Outgoing Home Secretary John Reid published news of the increase on the day Prime Minister Tony Blair was announcing his resignation.

Someone called Guy Herbert said:

The real sting in this is actually "The update revealed that £510 million of Foreign Office consular costs had mistakenly been included in the last update…"

Which illustrates how costs integral to the scheme are actually being discounted, as not the Home Office's problem. To get a glimpse of the real bloating of the white mammoth you have to add back the consular costs, and £200 million "incremental costs for foreign nationals extending their stay”, which takes the cost up to over £6Bn, before you notice it *doesn't* actually include any provision for the UK Borders scheme or ID registration for EU nationals over the same period (presumably because the latter can't be obliged to register until UK citizens are, and the former is claimed to be separate and freestanding, despite providing the biometric database for the main scheme).

The real declared cost is up by a billion, therefore, and the costs for all elements of the scheme, including those for which no estimates are available, are rather larger.

We know that US-VISIT, a smaller, simpler system than UK Borders, costs the American DHS around $350 million (£175 million) a year to operate. Assuming UK Borders is no worse, one should then add another £1.75Bn to the 10-year cost.

The No2ID report is here, and the original report is here

ID Card Perceptions

NO2ID - Stop ID cards and the database stateAt about 7 minutes in on the most recent politics show (lasts until 22 minutes and will be streamed for a few days), they have a 'perception panel'. The idea is that viewers phone a freephone number and hit buttons to say if they agree or disagree. I got here via this post

The gut reaction to ID cards was 'a strong no'.

The first argument was for ID cards, and there was a live reaction as the argument went on.

He talked of convenience, then migration and ID theft. He talked of a system that 'cannot be faked or corrupted' (yeah, right). Talked of the US for biometric data in passports, and then saying 'the French have it' (yes, they have ID cards, but that's not what's proposed in the UK). Almost universally the response was negative, with a breakeven when talking of knowing who's in our borders (but that can be done with embarkation controls).

The second argument was obviously against. She talked about the uselessness of the cards in combatting terrorism etc, a white elephant. She talked of costs, both in getting one and keeping it updated. She talked about the intrusiveness of the system, if it goes wrong. She talked of the ability to trust not just this government but every other government in the future. Her arguments were seen as universally positive.

Then in the studio the pro ID card bloke talked of anything that can make us a little safer shouldn't be referred to about cost. Universally negative again.

The anti-ID cards speaker talked of ID cards not being able to preventing the July bombings, not preventing the madrid bombings (with ID cards in Spain). She talked of controlling the borders properly, i.e. we have a perfectly good way of looking at who is coming in and out in passports. Her response was off the scale positive.

Detailed questions from the presenter to the viewers: Do you think they would make you safer? Off the scale, no. If free, would you be in favour? Almost at the top of the scale, no. ID cards, yes or no? Off the scale, no. Reference to polls a year ago when it was 50/50.

The pro campaigner found the panel absolutely terrifying, with the instant feedback, and suggested that the response might be to his face in comparison to his younger, female opponent.

Apply for a passport NOW - more info at www.RenewForFreedom.org

Passport Renewals

Both Monica and I now have our new passports. The next step is to amend the 'Person of Indian Origin' documentation. The price goes up around 30% in a week or so, so start that renewal process today!

Renewal now has several advantages, not least is that if you have less than three years before expiry, you'll be better off. If you have more than three years left you'll probably still be better off as prices are likely to rise again due to ID card implementation (over £90 is estimated, so on pure financial grounds anyone with up to 8 years to go would benefit from renewing now).

Other benefits include not having to go along to be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. At some point at an unspecified date in the near future, the database for the ID cards will be activated - long before the ID cards themselves are issued in 2010.... and it's the database that's the issue.

On pure financial grounds, as well as avoiding a complex bureaucracy for as long as possible, it's worth renewing now whilst it's still fast and easy (I entered my info online, received the prefilled form within 2 days, signed and returned it with the cheque and photos, and got the passport within a week).

Renew Now

renew for freedom - 2006 - renew your passportThe price of a passport is about to go up by almost 30%, this means that if you've less than 3 years before your passport expires, you can save money by renewing now, and you can do this online. This doesn't factor in the possibility of further price rises (which are likely given the push toward ID cards). By renewing now, you ensure that you avoid the hassles of being entered on the national ID database (one great big target for cybertheft).

As the 'renew' campaign says:

You may have heard that you'll be able to opt out of having an ID card if you renew your passport before 1st January 2010. But the card is not the point. Even if you chose not to have it, you would still have to pay for it. And you will get no choice about attending an official interview, producing numerous personal documents to be recorded, and having your fingerprints and eye scans taken for the records.

The payment increase is starting now, the database will kick in at some point in the near future (no date has been set yet). The database is the real issue behind many objections to the cards.

For various posters summarising the arguments, you can browse this site.

However, for now, a quick way to protest, and one which will provide a cost saving for many in the longer term is to renew your passport. Both of our passports have been sent for renewal. Whenever you read this, renewing is a good plan, if you're reading this in September 2006, then renewing is a great choice. As I say, you can do this online - I did. You fill out your details (you'll need your existing passport number), they post you a pre-filled form, you sign it, add some photos and a cheque, and return it. Easy.

What are you waiting for?

In the US, they're about to start issuing passports with inbuilt RFID chips (RFID chips can be use to 'tag' items in a supermarket to guard against theft). This would make it possible for Americans abroad to be picked out in a crowd from a distance without their passports leaving their pockets. It may not be easy (they listened and are issuing the passport in a conducting wallet), but it'd be possible, especially if the wallet is discarded through ignorance.

One can imagine that this is open to abuse... for example, a bomb that is triggered when there are some minimum number of Americans nearby, security guru, Bruce Schneier, has recently written about this.

Other countries are also issuing RFID passports, I'm not sure where the UK is on this, but given our recent history with the US, I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't imminent. A comment on the Schneier site says that the UK is already issuing RFID.

As far as I'm concerned, RFID in passports is simply a technology which allows data to be read without the passport being presented. If my passport is examined, why the devil should I not have to present it? Or to put it another way, why would anyone need to examine it without my knowledge?

Fortunately, it should be pretty trivial to store the passport in a conducting container (the tin foil hat brigade has a ring of truth in this instance, it's called a Faraday cage!)

Schneier on Plane Security

Bruce Schneier, security consultant extraordinaire, has written on the recent 'aeroplane plot', in an article which starts:

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry onboard. Last week's foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 -- no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews -- had anything to do with last week's arrests. And they wouldn't have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn't have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot.

The rest of the article is well worth a read, and I encourage you to click through to it.

UK Passport Prices to rise

renew for freedom - renew your passportThe UK Passport Agency have announced price rises from 5th October. This is no doubt due to the new database structures resulting from the ID card white elephant. By renewing before then people will not only save themselves some money, but can avoid the ID card database fiasco for a further 10 years.

My passport expires in 2008, but I'll be renewing in september, the loss of a couple of years is paid for by the saving - this is quite apart from the issue of protesting against an ineffectual scheme (ID cards can't tell anyone about acts which have yet to be committed - and they give a false sense of security).

The No2ID site has a press release upon the price rises. They also have a history of price rises since Labour came to power (the last price should actually be £66):

  • March 1998 - £3 (17%) rise to £21
  • December 1999 - £7 (33%) rise to £28
  • January 2002 - £2 (7%) rise to £30
  • November 2002 – £3 (10%) rise to £33
  • October 2003 – £9 (27%) rise to £42, over half claimed to be for anti-fraud measures including microchips & biometrics and also to pay off its £26m debt to the Treasury for the 1999 computer crisis - see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3078483.stm
  • December 2005 - £9 (21%) rise to £51, again claiming anti-fraud measures – see http://www.passport.gov.uk/news/news.asp?strAreaNo=320&intelement=1020
  • After October 2006 – expect another price rise of around 35% to £69*, again claiming anti-fraud measures as well as establishment of NIR. Note the first fingerprinting trials are still not expected until 2007 at the earliest. Current "biometrics" are, in fact, nothing more than measurements derived from the scanned photograph, stored as a "facial geometry template".

Further rises are expected, from the 'Renew' campaign FAQ:

Q. Isn't renewing a waste of money?

We reckon that if you renew your passport in the ordinary way and it has up to EIGHT years to run, you will be financially ahead for all that time. When the price rises to the government estimate of £93, that'll be £42 (80%) more than it costs now. A ten year passport: £51 - Ten years of freedom: priceless.

(Source)

renew for freedom - renew your passportAlso from the No2ID site, Gordon Brown is considering allowing shops to share the ID card data. Function creep if ever I saw it.

ID cards, so ill-conceived that Microsoft execs foresee security flaws!

Microsoft UK National Technology Officer Jerry Fishenden has warned that the UK ID card scheme could trigger "massive identity fraud on a scale beyond anything we have seen before."

UK Biometric passports cracked

The technology behind the 'impossible to hack' biometric security in UK passports has been broken, as reported in the Guardian.

Lukas Grunwald [...] said he had discovered a method for cloning the information stored in the new passports. Data can be transferred onto blank chips, which could then be implanted in fake passports, a flaw which he said undermined the project.

From my point of view all of these [biometric] passports are a huge waste of money - they're not increasing security at all.

The revelation also casts another shadow over the government's plan for a national ID card, which would contain much of the same information.

The government have fallen back upon 'yeah, well, he can copy it, but he can't change it'.

ID Card Delay

Yesterday was a horrible day for the UK government. For me, the best piece of news was that the ID card implementation would be delayed until after the next general election. This follows Whitehall leaks on the issue.

The ID card system will be an expensive one, and will do little to prevent terror (the July 7th bombers would have been card carrying).

This doesn't mean the the ID campaigners can relax, but it does give hope that there could be a change of government (or a hung parliament) prior to the policy being implemented.

In addition: The case of the imbalance in the US/UK extradition treaty seems to be hitting the public consciousness (it's been bubbling along for a while, for example, Boris Johnson has written on this topic).

Also: The long touted first merger of police forces has hit the rocks. This has caused The Safety Eleph... Charles Clarke to hit out at John Reid (his successor).

Finally: The Energy Review was announced. I've a lot of sympathy with the government here, as they're between a rock and a hard place. Announce nuclear and you get lots of protest (often from people who don't understand it, sometimes from those who do). Announce not-nuclear and you get lots of people worried about energy security and CO2 emissions. Announce a big increase in renewables and you have people protesting about wind farms. It's a lose-lose scenario. What is clear, is that we need to move away from fossil fuels, and the sooner we start to do this, the less painful it will be when we have to make the switch.

A horrendus dies for Tony and Pals?

Personally, I've been re-watching 'Yes Minister' and 'Yes Prime Minister'. Scary how relevant it all seems!

Excellent Independent Article

There is a well written article in the Independent today. I would advice everyone to read it.

... And what is remarkable - in fact almost a historic phenomenon - is the harm his government has done to the unwritten British constitution in those nine years, without anyone really noticing, without the press objecting or the public mounting mass protests.

Britain is not a police state - the fact that Tony Blair felt it necessary to answer me by e-mail proves that - but it is becoming a very different place under his rule, and all sides of the House of Commons agree.

Chakrabarti, who once worked as a lawyer in the Home Office, explains: "If you throw live frogs into a pan of boiling water, they will sensibly jump out and save themselves. If you put them in a pan of cold water and gently apply heat until the water boils they will lie in the pan and boil to death. It's like that."

This leads to my favourite quote:

In Blair you see the champion frog boiler of modern times

The article goes on to discuss the Civil Contingencies bill, as well as The Legislative and Regulatory Reform bill:

I realise that it would be testing your patience to go too deeply into the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which the Government has been trying to smuggle through Parliament this year, but let me just say that its original draft would have allowed ministers to make laws without reference to elected representatives.

Imagine the President of the United States trying to neuter the Congress in this manner, so flagrantly robbing it of its power. Yet until recently all this has occurred in Britain with barely a whisper of coverage in the British media.

ID cards also get a mention:

George Churchill-Coleman described it to me as an absolute waste of time. "You and I will carry them because we are upright citizens. But a terrorist isn't going to carry [his own]. He will be carrying yours."

Blunkett on ID Cards

Blunkett was on the 'Today' programme yesterday morning condemning the judgement in a recent case where a judge passed a seemingly light sentence (interesting as Lord Falconer was on Question Time last night saying 'It wasn't the judge's fault - his hands were tied by legislation', or words to that effect).

At the end of the interview from 12 mins, 40 secs in, Blunkett was asked about a possible amnesty for illegal immigrants. This is what he said:

Interviewer: Let me as you, because as you say, the Home Office is engulfed in difficulties, about Amnesties and Illegal Immigration. The Immigration Minister made a statement to the Home Affairs Select Committee which indicated that he's looking at the evidence which bears on the question of an Amnesty. Did you seriously consider an Amnesty for illegal immigrants when you were home secretary?
David Blunkett: Not without Identity Cards. We had a little debate, it was supposed to be under Chatham House Rules [Should be Singular] at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in 2003, it immediately was released as ever, erm, about the issue, as I was asked this question specifically by a journalist. And I said it was impossible to have an amnesty without ID cards and a clean database because you firstly don't have any incentives for people to actually come up front and register and make themselves available, and secondly you have no means of tracking them. And what you can't do is announce an amnesty in advance of the date of the amnesty because obviously you then act as a magnet for pulling people into the country....

Read that again, ID cards were needed to track people who had been given leave to remain. This is essentially saying, unless I've greatly misunderstood, that ID cards could be used to track anyone. At will. The only way this can work is if papers are demanded frequently and often....

Sounds rather un-British to me. ID checks for there own sake won't mean a thing. Anyone planning something naughty will not show up on an ID check, rendering checks meaningless (at least, unless a lot of background searching is done at the time of the check). Recently in the states, there was such a check on a public bus. The woman won the case.

When Willcock v Muckle eventually reached the High Court in 1951, Lord Chief Justice Goddard said the continuation of the wartime ID card scheme was an "annoyance" to much of the public and "tended to turn law-abiding subjects into law breakers".

Update: No2ID have also commented upon this.

Update: Number 10 have denied Amnesty plans

Renew for Freedom

renew for freedom - MAY 2006 - renew your passport

There is a website devoted to the idea of 'Renewing your passport as a protest' against ID cards.

This is an idea I considered a little while ago (and am currently promoting every time an ID card post hits the homepage). The problem isn't when the cards start to be issued (projected for 2010), but instead is the database behind the card, which starts much earlier.

The Liberal Democrat home affairs team have taken part on this campaign.

"... anyone who feels strongly enough about the linkage not to want to be issued with an ID card in the initial phase will be free to surrender their existing passport and apply for a new passport before the designation order takes effect."
— Charles Clarke, on 21st March 2006.

For myself, assuming that we don't decide to make a booking in the next couple of weeks, my renewal will be going in on about the 30th May.

I would encourage everyone who opposes the ID cards to take part in this campaign.

Australian ID

In an Australian article, we read that 'Only the almost innocent need fear a national ID card'

(Let's leave aside the concept of 'Almost Innocent', most people see Innocence, like pregnancy, as a binary issue; you are or you're not - I think the point here is that there are so many laws we're all guilty of something, even if we don't know it ourselves)

To summarise: In a free society the people should scrutinise the government, not the other way around. A super access card will, effectively, put people under surveillance by acting as a guide to information from other databases. When it's established, the card's functions will almost certainly be expanded. Once personal information is on file, decision-making civil servants take a career risk by not consulting it. ID cards in other countries have not inhibited the depredations of serious wrong-doers.

Identity Theft

With investigations into Identity Theft within government departments, is it any wonder why many think that a single unifying, all-knowing and all-pervasive database may not be altogether a good idea....

It emerged at the end of last year that the identities of up to 13,000 civil servants from the Department for Work and Pensions had been stolen and used in tax credit fraud.

The article goes on to day that:

"Obviously, 99.9 per cent of civil servants will be honest but it only takes a tiny minority to be working with criminals and passing on details for there to be a very significant problem," he said.

Further details on the identity theft are on the BBC News website

I'm Back!

After a week of downtime on the servers, things are now back... and what a week to be cut off!

Blair government in meltdown, Clarke sacked. Prescott removed from job (but not title or perks....), an apparent climbdown on the potentially disasterous Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (I haven't had a chance to study this.. have we won?)

On the geeky side, I'm now up to 26 geocaches (having got a few in Dorset at the weekend), and I've discovered the wonders of Google Calendar - a lovely application - still in beta and needing improvement, but already pretty damned good!

On server issues, at the moment the email may not be working fully, and the web side of thing has been back for only five minutes - so I'd appreciate any bug reports via comments (or via gmail)

Charles Clarke uses his current difficulty to promote ID cards

First Charles Clarke's department releases 900 foreign prisoners on completion of sentence (instead of reviewing cases for deportation), but now he's saying that ID cards would have helped prevent the problem. As the great Eric Morecambe would have said, the boy's a fool.

Seeing as he's currently in the news I might mention that Charles Clarke is often referred to online as Charlie the Safety Elephant. Also, Sweaty Baboon. For an explanation of the baboon thing, see this page.

It's also worth reminding ourselves of his other public relation success, in dealing with the families of people affected by the July 7th bombers, people who are his constituents.

Select quotes from the ID debate

Richard Shepherd, Conservative
Those are the people who will be squeezed to try to remember who they are, but we will remember who we are. One day, this Government will experience the wrath and indignation of a country that understands that this is not a small social measure; it is in fact a declaration by Government that the centralised state is more important and greater than the sum of every individual free citizen of the country that we were sent to represent. We should oppose to the utmost and to the end this benighted and wrong Bill.
Lynne Jones, Labour
none of our fellow states in Europe is going down the route of having the central database. Indeed, the European Commission's data protection working party believes that the centralised storage of biometric information on a centralised database presents an increased risk of data misuse. I share its preference for information to be kept on a smart card that is within the control of the individual. The Lords amendment does not address any of those issues. For the privilege of being involved in this draconian scheme and having their data on the centralised database, even those who do not wish to have an identity card, but want to have a passport, will have to pay £30. I remain opposed to the legislation.
Stewart Hosie, SNP
I will be brief. There is no real compromise in the amendments for UK citizens. They do not change the compulsory inclusion on the central biometric database, merely the carrying of an identity card. Although there is a time-limited opt-out in the amendments, that is only for carrying the card and that time limit ends prior to the last date possible for the next general election. That is important. This series of measures has been opposed, at least until tonight, by six Opposition parties and many Labour Members. It is a shock that the Conservative party has capitulated at this late hour. The measure is a fundamental shift in the relationship between the citizen and the state.
William Cash, Conservative
The Bill should be excoriated and put in the dustbin. I shall not support it under any circumstances whatsoever.
David Davis, Conservative
I will accept the Government's limited stay of execution, but I do not accept the Bill as a whole. It is still an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the individual. It is still ineffective, costly and potentially dangerous. It is still a massive reversal of the relationship between the citizen and the state. While I recommend that my party support the amendment, let there be no doubt that my first act when I take over as Home Secretary after the next election will be to do away with the Bill.
Simon Hughes, Lib Dem
If the Home Secretary thinks this is the end of the matter, he is wrong. Many of us have made it absolutely clear that we will do everything in our power, personally and on behalf of other people, never to have identity cards or to be on a national identity register. I encourage everybody listening and watching to renew their passports now so that they will not have to be subject to the ID card regime for the next 10 years. I hope that many will do so.

See also: Passports at Dawn, Where did all the Tories go?, Lords Climbdown