back to article UK gov unleashes biometric IDs

The British Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has spent £4.7bn ($6.6bn) on its new biometric ID card system. But it has not established a timeline for a card-reader rollout. Without the necessary card readers, the biometric information such as fingerprint scans stored in the cards is inaccessible and therefore useless for ID …


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  1. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    In other words...

    ... "we're going to try to convince people that, having pissed a whole bunch of money away on ID cards without readers, if anyone tries to block the scheme subsequently, they'll be 'hurting the taxpayers' and in no way is it *our* fault..."

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    On an entirely voluntary basis

    I would like to laugh at these useless numpties!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The whole reason for the biometric passports was that our American overlords requested them; so I can't say I'm surprised by this.

  4. Island Boy


    Now we know what came first. The egg. Because if there are enough eggs out there people will want an egg carton to carry them in and someone will build the egg carton as well. So maybe this isn't as crazy as it sounds.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a Prediction

    Let me guess how this will go.

    The government will continue to legislate to require age verification, etc, for this, that and the other. Requiring shops that sell alcohol to verify the age of customers is already a good example. There will be ever more criminal penalties for those who fail to comply with such requirements.

    Various organisations, including businesses, will make sure they comply. Accordingly, they will demand secure, approved ID card readers - even though it's not what the legislation will specifically require. It's just a safe way for organisations to ensure compliance - they're national ID cards, after all.

    Oh, look! Suddenly there's a market demand for card readers!

    And so the free market comes to the rescue. Potential suppliers see the demand, and take the opportunity to profit. Card readers are available to those who want them, without the government actually having to spend any money supplying them. And the government gets to say that people obviously want this ID stuff after all.

    And with free market competition driving prices down, they'll be available at a low, low price when it's time for Job Centres and other government outlets to buy them for official use.

    I vote Liberal Democrat.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top security NOT!

    Yeah, these Bio Cards sound brilliant! not!

    First off, they're going to give them to 50,000 foreign nationals, which no doubt, a percentage will have false or fake ID details, giving them a higher level of trust than the average Joe Bloggs. Also, I bet they get them FREE!! and the rest of us suckers have to pay for them!

  7. Martin Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    I bet they get them FREE!!

    No they pay 600quid for them and when they are wrong they can't be corrected because the computer says no.

  8. T J

    Big Brother is incompetent

    That's something I guess! Say when do you guys have elections again to get rid of these bozoids?

  9. Watashi

    Broken technology

    If New Labour are, by some miracle, still in power in 2011, this could be a cunning way of helping get rid of ID cards.

    1) Move to Scotland, or already be in Scotland, which is easier!.

    2) Get an ID card as soon as possible

    3) Take your ID card and put in microwave long enough to destroy the RFID.

    4) Take card to bank and apply for new account. When they try to read your card, but can't, make a big fuss about how you knew the system wouldn't work.

    5) Demand a new card, free of charge, from the authorities. If they try to charge you, take them to the small claims court.

    6) Repeat 3) to 5) once.

    7) Write to your local SNP MSP/candidate and explain above except the microwave bit.

    If enough people do this, ID cards will become a big political issue in Scotland. Brown, terrified of loosing Scottish MPs in London will be forced to scrap them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they are actually...

    ...just very small ID bricks?

  11. JonP

    @Big Brother is incompetent

    By 2010 at the latest - the other bozoids have "promised" to scrap the ID cards, so that may be why they're be incremental in the implementation...

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Not surprised

    But does this out-do the cock-up that is building new aircraft carriers when there are no aircraft to go on them??

    Mines the one with 200 extra pockets to carry all the Credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, ID cards, Membership cards, insurance cards, business cards; OH!! and some real money.

  13. Richard Porter
    Thumb Down

    Why the cards?

    I can't see what possible use the cards are. I carry my ID on me. If you can gather my biometrics you can check with the uberdatabase that I am who I say I am. You don't need a bit of smart plastic that can be forged. If you don't have the biometric equipment you can't check that I match the card, and without the connectivity you can't check that the card matches the uberdatabase, so the card is superfluous and gives completely false security.

  14. Michael

    @Here's a Prediction

    Somebody got there before you. (See Revelation 13:17)

  15. Phil

    Leave the card at home!

    The thing is, all of those foreign nationals will have passports or ID cards from their home country, which are both still legal ID in the UK. There's no obligation to use the UK ID card if you have another form of ID. Why have the government possibly tracking your whereabouts through the card when you can use your French, Spanish or Costa Rican passport (none of which can be traced) in the bottle shop.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Duff data, too.

    Just been checking an address and postcode--BT and the Post Office don't agree on the streetname--two wordsor one.

    It's easier to check on the address and phone number of cousins in Kansas.

    Is that a good thing? Maybe not, but inconsistent data isgoing to be a big problem for an ID database. Which version will they accept? Or will the difference lock somebody out of the ID card system?

  17. Anji

    Re "Here's a prediction"

    And once there's a ready supply of card readers, that's another leg knocked away from that super-secure database. There have always been two levels of card authentication, one - stand-alone comparison of the human in front of you with data that's on the card, or two - on-line comparison of that human with data held on big brother's database and linked to that card id.

    Maybe method 2 will be secure for a little while, but method 1 will clear the way for fraudulent access and use of the fifty pieces of information on the card.

  18. Elmer Phud


    You forgot the 'basket' bit.

    Or maybe in this situation the 'basket case' bit.

    oh, @ TJ -- you know how it goes, elections just bring the same type of bozoids, no matter how they are wrapped up.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 4:16

    As a serving Civil Servant I can safely say you're wrong, our Senior Civil Servants and Ministers will let the free market develope the card readers and when the price reduces to a reasonable amount will purchase all the old expensive and out of date readers at the original exhortionate price, which is why Govt IT projects are so expensive.

    Posted anonymously because as a junior Civil Servant I'm not allowed an opinion even if I'm right.

  20. Adair Silver badge

    Incompetence, perfidy, and farce...

    ...what more could we ask for!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    My girlfriend is here with a visa and she has to have it renewed with one of these. She has to ring an 0300 number to make an appointment for a 'biometric interview' but the number doesn't work and there is just a recorded message saying the call can't be connected please try again later, when you ring another 0870 one on the Home Office website it says that they are too busy and to call back.

    In any case, it is the New Wold Order Illuminati Zionist Orwellian uber-database which is behind the card. The reason they need biometric details is for the permanent unique ID for each subject. Names, addresses etc... are not suitable starting points for database records.

  22. Eddy Ito
    Black Helicopters

    It's sad really

    I'm beginning to think Orwell and Rand had it right. As Big Brother moves in, maybe it's time to move out to Galt's Gulch.

  23. Tom Chiverton

    Worse than you think

    It's worse than you think:

    "The manufacturers of the machines have also got to decide whether it is worth their while to produce them"

    They may never even make them !

    You've all joined your local group already, right ?

  24. Gilbert Wham

    @ T J:

    We don't. We have elections to elect *different* bozos, same as everyone else. Getting rid of bozos is not the point of elections...

  25. Mark Baker
    Thumb Down

    Save some money, UKgov

    and just scrap the whole ID scheme - that's billions saved that you can use to bail out more companies or, god forbid, actually reduce taxes on 'luxury' items such as heating and clothing.

  26. Anonymous John


    Without readers, how can they detect forged cards?

  27. b

    Your shipment...

    of FAIL has arrived.

  28. Apocalypse Later


    "Say when do you guys have elections again to get rid of these bozoids?"

    We get elections when the bozoids themselves say so! Gordon Brown funked it once, when he realised that he would lose, and now he clings to office like grim death (literally, just look at him).

  29. Neil Lucock

    We're still safe

    Thank goodness for incompetence. If anyone with any real ability or understanding were to become an MP, our liberty would really be threatened. Instead, we just get a bunch of half wits who waste our money on stupid schemes that do not do anything to help fix the problem.

    People entering the country illegally? Terrorists blowing stuff up? Choose the best option:

    A, Employ more border guards, police or customs staff.

    B, Discourage them at point of origin.

    C, Build a huge database that doesn't work. X


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Meh, who cares about the card, the database is the big problem.

    Lots of countries have ID cards, some even biometric, but how many have a biometric card *and* a database of all its citizens with biometric information, tracking data and links to all home addresses past and present, National Insurance number, all other ID references foreign or domestic, and accessible to almost everyone in the civil service?

    I'm thinking the government has blindsided almost everyone on this.

  31. Simon

    How to lose the next election

    Yeah this scheme has been about as popular as the poll tax. 4.7bn FFS!

    I had to renew my passport recently and got stung to the tune of nearly 70 quid! They had to calm me down in the post office, it was *only* a renewal, grrr.

    So I can imagine paying for an ID card is going to be scary. If its voluntary then no one is going to willingly *iss their money down the drain for this stupid scheme. Hopefully as many people as possible are going to refuse to get one, especially with wild cat strikes being in the news it's going to give people ideas on how to protest.

    People had ID cards in the two wars, but as soon as the wars were over the scheme was dropped, no one wants them in peace time, why doesn't labour *get* this?

    They will have to march me into the post office at gun point to make me get a card.

  32. Daniel Free

    boost to underage drinking forseeable ?

    so given that these basicly use the same security as the passport chips which were broken wide open a while back

    using pretty cheap off the shelf hardware.

    so its certainly not going to be long before as AC pointed out stores will start using these as proof of age cards, and why would teenagers need a fake ID when they can edit their real one so easily ?

    so please stop these ID cards, "wont somebody think of the children!!" :)

  33. Steve

    @ T J

    "Say when do you guys have elections again to get rid of these bozoids?"

    We have to wait for Gordon to tell us when the planets are in the correct alignment.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    It really IS worse than you think...

    Its almost a dead cert that David Cameron will have rolled out the necessary readers within the next 4 years.

    I despair.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Its not 1984... fact, NuLabor have turned Britain into one big rerun of Animal Farm :(((

    If you haven't seen it, the 1954 version is a real eye opener.

    It may be a cartoon, but it certainly isn't a comedy:

  36. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    You couldn't make it up

    So they proved me wrong yet again. I thought this couldn't possibly bet more stupid and farcical.

    The one with 'Numpties of the world unite' written on the back

  37. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Cheaper option

    An easier and cheaper way around this problem is just to tattoo your ID onto your forearm. No lost cards and I'll bet no one will put their arm in an oven to erase their ID.

    What's that Skip? They already tried that 65 years ago?

    Paris, because she's a bad taste joke all by herself.

  39. POPE Mad Mitch
    Black Helicopters

    its a cunning plan

    i think its all part of the grand cunning plan, we all know that what the government really want is just the database of everyones details, and in order to get those details they have to convince them to signup for this bogus id card scheme. now they cant get away with just issuing a boring piece of plastic because joe public has become more aware of forgery and id theft, so they have waved the magic wand of "but it has biometrics" and the public swallow the technobabble. they never intended to have card readers, as it wasnt crucial to what they want from id cards.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To me, it looks far less like they actually want the card system and more like they want the database that's supposed to back it... (Sounds like a typical government manouever)

  41. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Passports DO work

    @ same technology as passports

    Yes, but the technology itself isn't bad. They have not been "broken" - the RFID chips only deal out the data to a response with the correct encryption, and given some time in proximity of a passport you can retrieve the data. That's what was broken.

    However once you get it back you've got a digitally signed copy of the photo and machine readable strip on the passport, and unless you know something about large-number factorization that I don't then that hasn't been broken.

    Of course all this depends on the signing keys used on the passports being verifiable, and currently... they're not. For the same reason as this article basically, that the verificiation infrastructure (key distribution etc) isn't in place. Which, of course, is completely missing the point of digitally signed passports.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Just Fuck Off

    They will pry my biometrics from my cold, stiff corpse.

    My plan is to renew my passport at a nice remote embassy somewhere that doesn't have any kit yet. BTW, don't microwave your passport/ID Card, just hit it pretty hard with a hammer. The microwave method can leave burn marks which are obvious on inspection - the hammer method works just as well, but leaves no discernable marks.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The Stalker State

    People tend to call it the "surveillance society" - even though the main problem is the State doing the surveillance, rather than "society" (by which New Labour really mean the State anyway).

    Let's get blunt. Let's call it what it really is: the STALKER STATE.

  44. b
    Thumb Up

    David Cameron...

    "Its almost a dead cert that David Cameron will have rolled out the necessary readers within the next 4 years."


  45. Ash
    Thumb Down

    @"When is the next election?" comments

    The next election is when we want it. It's called a referendum.

    The fastest way to bring one of these about by putting on a warm coat stuffed with trail mix, bovril, and a small stove and you go stand outside of parliament until one is called.

    Our major issue is that the majority of the electorate doesn't want to miss the final of Strictly Come Limb-Flailing or Big Brother Factor's Next Britain Pop Idol Model, and would rather read about how they want ID cards in the Sun, as told by Britney who is "a qualified nurse and ID Card expert".

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A title is required

    Meg ("NuLabur Hack") Hillier is sadly my own MP, although I didn't vote for the useless idiot! Somehow this doesn't surprise me in the least. How many more banks could we buy up and mismanage for the cost of this almighty cockup?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Just Fuck Off

    > BTW, don't microwave your passport/ID Card, just hit it pretty hard with a hammer. The

    > microwave method can leave burn marks which are obvious on inspection - the hammer

    > method works just as well, but leaves no discernable marks.

    Thanks for that - that counts as useful information in my book (esp. as I was planning to microwave my card (in the unlikely event that I am ever forced to have one))

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why should the government pay for the readers? (stick with me here)

    Employers/banks/shop owners/web sites that let kids read them/hospital trusts/etc are all liable if they employ/sell/give/open account/etc someone who they arn't supposed too, unless they have checked the details on the ID then they have a one way ticket to a £100,000 fine and some jail time. As such it's the responsibility of these people to source their own compatiable readers.

    there's no mismanagement here, just shiffting a cost, and what else do you expect?

    Note the only group I expect to get a "free" rollout will be the filth.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Do these things to that a photo drivers license didn't already do? I mean, stores and banks et al will have to have contingency measures for when cards won't read, or when their link to the DB is lost, so what stops an enterprising crim from sticking a realistic looking ID chip on the card surface and acting surprised when it doesn't work?

    I mean, I can't really see stores turning away potential sales over it.

    Incidentally, I totally look forward to having to provide fingerprints every time I want to rent a DVD or buy booze.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Is the Home Office being clever?

    Note how this has successfully redirected public attention and controversy to the card again, after the NIR started to get some exposure, and all such articles end up complaining (mocking being equivalent for this purpose) about *how* the Home Office is doing this, rather than that they are doing it at all.

  51. Steve Swann

    @Ash - "When is the next election"

    Unfortunately, Ash, you can't protest outside parliament anymore. In fact, you can't protest within a good couple of KMs of parliament. It was made illegal several years ago, and some would say that it was in prepartaion for these new, totalitarian moves....

    ...It's like this concept of 'illegal wild-cat strikes' - methinks the politicians, employers and 'partner' unions need to re-examine the history of unionisation and realise that, when people become angry enough, then they *will* take action, regardless. I'd be interested to see what would happen if tens of thousands of people decided to 'break the law' and protest outside parliament.....

  52. A B


    This is a story about the BRITISH passport authority on a BRITISH news site, so I though we called it Autumn not Fall. Or do we have to tow the line on language as well as passports now!

  53. spiny norman

    If the TV Licence and post code databases are anything to go by ...

    About 30 years ago the house we live in was split into 2 tenancies, 1 called "The Flat", the other "The Cottage". About 20 years ago the new owner re-combined the two into one dwelling, called "The Cottage". When we moved in 10 years ago we bought a TV licence for "The Cottage", but started getting letters addressed to "The Flat" about not having a licence. Eventually I managed to convince TVLA that "The Flat" hadn't existed for at least 10 years and the letters stopped. Meanwhile, we changed the name of the house. The post code database admins happily removed the old name, but have since failed to add the new one, despite being told by the local authority that they approved the change. Now anyone looking up our postcode can't find the address and the last TV Licence renewal came addressed to "The Flat". So I'm not expecting much from an ID database.

  54. Laura Witters
    Thumb Down

    There really is no hope

    @ Martin - Thanks for posting the link to the Guardian article, it just goes to prove that the Home Office are completely useless morons.

    Having married an American, he has to have one of these pointless little bits of plastic. We received a letter from the UKBA stating that we had 15 days to apply for a biometric appointment from the date of their letter, what was really nice of them was that they did not post said letter until the day following its printing, then sent it second class, thus we lost 3 working days.

    When we got the appointment, we went to Glasgow, only to be told 20 minutes before my hubbys appointment that the systems were down and we had to come back for another appointment, which they would call us and make to ensure we got a quick appointment. That was four weeks ago, we are still waiting.

    No doubt they have lost our contact details as that is the only thing this government seems to be good at. Doubt we will ever see our passports again.

    £495 well spent i'd say!

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Slightly off topic

    Why do need hi-tech biometric id cards to be able to fuck up everything? I was in ‘merkin-land last year and the one of the fuckwit zombies that work for department of homeland (in)security ‘forgot’ to take the departure card from my sons passport (I think the cunning use of a staple to hold the card in the passport was too technical and defeated the zombie).

    The result, Uncle Sam thinks my son is still in the country and want me to prove he left when we did. What a bunch of Kentucky fried headless chickens.

    Paris, brainless, but not compared to department of homeland suck-curity

  56. Righteously Indignant

    How much??

    Seriously now, can someone give us an idea of just how you can spaff 4.6 BILLION on an 'off the shelf' rfid card system? Mastercard style please...

    Here's my guess:

    Cost of actual cards: 500,000 (we use cards with rfid in and they are about a tenner a pop)

    Admin costs: 0.00 (because johnny foreigner has to pay for the privilege)

    Printing equipment: 5,000,000 (I'm feeling generous)

    Expenses for all MPs involved: 594,500,00

    Cost of various commitees and quangos etc: 4,000,000,000

    Will the one-eyed idiot please call an election?

    Come the revolution.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Here's a Prediction

    Something like this?

    "The Business Use and Applications of the UK National Identity Card"

    "Over a period of time, public opinion, as measured by opinion polls, appears to have shifted away from support for the scheme towards opposition. This appears to have become more of a concern since the disclosure of the loss of 15 million records by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

    However, this could change if a commercial and business value of this card could be established, what opportunities are there for this unique and accredited form of identity to be exploited?"

    with Meg Hillier as keynote speaker.

    ("Hillier will provide an overview and perspective of the future services for business provided by the national identity card scheme" -

    Surpised El Reg hadn't already commented.

  58. Roger Heathcote

    When will we have...

    ...enough laws do you think?

    Seriously, we've been making them for about 800 years and they're just getting silly now. So we'll be rid of Labour within a year but it' not like the Tories aren't going to think up some freedoms of their own to take away from us. Where's a Cromwell or a Fawkes when you need one eh?

    I shudder to think what the future has in store for the country I love, the place I first kissed a girl, first earned a wage, first read a book, first formed an opinion all blissfully free from CCTV and ID cards and enormous state databases. What of the future though?

    Imagine a plasma-screen stamping on a human face forever :-/

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