May 6, 2009
Manchester will this autumn become the first city where people can sign up for an ID card, said home secretary Jacqui Smith. "ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists," added Ms Smith.
The home secretary's speech signals her determination to push ahead, despite opposition, with the cards, which will initially cost £30. The Tories and Lib Dems want the £5bn scheme scrapped, while some Labour MPs have expressed doubts about its cost.
The Conservatives claim the Cabinet is split on ID cards, with some ministers keen to scrap them to save money. But the Home Office says it is determined to push ahead, claiming ID cards will reduce fraud - thus saving money - and are vital to combating terrorism and organised crime.
At a series of meetings on Wednesday, Ms Smith said post offices and pharmacies could play an important role in the success of the ID scheme, allowing people to give their fingerprints and a face scan while "out doing the shopping."
Anyone over 16 in the city with a UK passport will be able to apply for a card from the Home Office. The cost of the cards will be capped at £30 for the first two years and then there will be an additional cost to the applicant of getting a card via a post office or High Street pharmacy. This charge has yet to be decided, but the Home Office says it hopes it will be "competitive," and reports have put the total cost at about £60.
People in Manchester will only be able to get the cards by applying directly to the National Identity Service. They will then be told later in the year how to get their card, which will probably involve a visit to the Manchester passport office to be interviewed and have their fingerprints and photo taken. They will not be able to get them from shops and post offices for another two years.
Government officials will seek to allay people's concerns about the amount of personal data to be collected and retained for the new cards, saying it will be no greater than for passports. "I think it is important to recognise that we're not collecting some massive accumulation of information about citizens," said James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service.
Efforts to issue cards to pilots and other airport workers - a scheme which is being trialled at Manchester and London City airports - are meeting with growing resistance. Pilots say they are effectively being forced into signing up for the cards.
"Our members believed the government promise that the ID card would be voluntary," said Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots' union Balpa. "But they now know it is anything but. Our members must have an airside pass to operate aircraft and now discover that to get that pass they must have a national ID card. This is coercion and a case of Big Brother knows best."Officials said they were prepared to work with unions to resolve any differences but stressed that ID cards would improve security at airports and speed up recruitment procedures.
The Manchester launch will mark the beginning of the main phase of the ID scheme which ministers say will culminate in cards being available nationwide by 2012.
ID CARD TIMETABLE:
2009: Workers at Manchester and London City airport
Autumn 2009: Manchester pilot
2010: Students opening bank accounts offered ID cards
2011/2012: All UK passport applicants
2015: 90% foreign nationals covered
2017: Full roll-out?
Non-EU residents have been required to have identity cards since the end of last year.
May 12, 2009
Distinctive brain patterns could become the latest subject of biometric scanning after EU researchers successfully tested technology to verify identities for security checks. The experiments, which also examined the potential of heart rhythms to authenticate individuals, were conducted under an EU-funded inquiry into biometric systems that could be deployed at airports, borders, and in sensitive locations to screen out terrorist suspects.
Another series of tests fitted a “sensing seat” to a truck to record each driver’s characteristic seated posture in an attempt to spot whether commercial vehicles had been hijacked.
Details of the Humabio (Human Monitoring and Authentication using Biodynamic Indicators and Behaviourial Analysis) pilot projects have been published amid further evidence of biometric technologies penetrating everyday lives.
The Foreign Office plans to spend up to £15m on fixed and mobile security devices that use methods including "Facial recognition (two and/or three dimensional), fingerprint recognition, iris recognition and vein imaging palm recognition."
The biometric sensors and systems, it appears, will primarily be deployed to protect UK embassies around the world. The contract, about which the FCO declined to elaborate further, also mentions "surveillance" and "data collection" services.
The Home Office, meanwhile, has confirmed rapid expansion plans of automated facial recognition gates: 10 will be operating at major UK airports by August. Passengers holding the latest generation of passports travelling through Manchester and Stansted are already being checked by facial-recognition cameras.
Biometric identity checks are also becoming more common in the world of commercial gadgets. New versions of computer laptops and mobile phones are entering the market with built-in fingerprint scanners to prevent other people running up large bills and misusing pilfered hi-tech equipment.
Among security experts there is a preference for developing biometric security devices that do not rely on measuring solely one physiological trait: offering choice makes scanning appear less intrusive and allows for double-checking.
The holy grail of the biometrics industry is a scanning mechanism that is socially acceptable in an era of mass transit and 100 per cent accurate. Researchers are eager to produce 'non-contact' biometric systems that can check any individual's identity at a distance.
The US government's secretive IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) is seeking development proposals to enhance such technologies. Insisting that it is not interested in 'contact-type' biometrics, it asks for ideas that will "significantly advance the intelligence community's ability to achieve high-confidence match performance ... [for] high fidelity biometric signatures".
The Humabio project, based in Greece, is involved more in blue-sky scientific thinking than in intelligence work. Its research, highlighted in the latest issue of Biometric Technology Today, is at a "pre-commercial, proof-of-concept stage."