UK national identity card timetable in question

Mon, 2006-07-17 01:51 PM
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Last week, Britains Home Office found itself in the uncomfortable position of explaining that they do not have a specific timetable they can commit to with the national identity card. One of the largest public sector projects in Europe, the multi-billion pound project was supposed to get off the ground in March when the Identity Cards Act received royal assent, becoming law, on 30 March 2006.

As of last week, no date has been set for the introduction of the cards and it appears that it will not even begin this year. Originally, the identity cards were to be issued in 2008-2009, but that target now seems in doubt.

In all fairness, the project is large and complex. Not only are there serious technical issues to resolve, but the statutes and legislation regarding how it is to be launched and managed are only now being debated. And, they look every bit as complex as the technical issues.

The national identity card is seen as a method to identify each British citizen or resident, and is designed to be a coordinating document around which employment, residency, citizenship and benefits will coordinated. While there appears to be some good reasons to have such a document the potential for abuse has many people concerned.

As the project has developed, many politicians and others see opportunity to use the card in many ways. While many can be beneficial, it is also possible that something of a police-state mentality could be imposed. With very recent memories of the failed Soviet empire fresh, protections regarding the use of the card are critical.

On the other hand, the convenience of having basic identification all in one near-indestructible document is also clear. Police and security would like very much to be able to verify fingerprints, iris scans and other biometric data quickly and efficiently for general crime control as well as to combat terrorism. Immigration and the Home Office would like very much to efficiently manage who is supposed to be in the country and who has the right to work. The benefits of a national identity register are obvious.

Some compromises are in the works. And, it is yet to be decided which company will get the contract to complete one of the most ambitious computerized database projects in the world.

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