back to article More doubts on ID card readers

The Home Office has confirmed there is still no timetable for the rollout of ID card readers, without which carrying out effective ID checks is impossible. So even though the government is continuing to foist the cards on foreigners, airside workers at City of London and Manchester airports and pilots, there is no way to check …


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  1. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Flick off!

    So you lot finally admit, in a round-a-bout sort of way, that this has been and continues to be a complete waste of everyone's time and money!

    Flicking plastic cards is the best you can come up with? So you lot don't reckon that a reasonable back-street forger knows where to get blanks that are identical in sound to the genuine article? Christ on a bike, the average flea-market DVD pirate knows where to get holograms made up dirt cheap, let alone bits of plastic cut out of buckets and tupperware pots!!!

  2. Scott
    Thumb Down

    Thats the trouble

    On my ID (driving licence) the only way of chekcing it is to look at the picture and then my face, much better to roll out a whole new system costing billions that no one wants so that the unreliable way of looking at a picture of me is removed and replaced with a chip that'll be hacked and cloned in months.

    Surprised they don't just stamp a SID onto everyones forehead and have done with all this.

  3. Tom Chiverton


    So, in addition to being no need to have one, there's no way to verify it (and especially not the expensive biometrics) anyway, even if it wasn't pointless in the first place ?

    And the people of Manchester are going to rush to throw away 60 quid on it why ? Umm... oh yes, you wont be able to go to work without it (pilots). Subtle that. Real subtle.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "Flick the card?"

    They cannot be serious. Thats no better than just asking the bearer if he's lying.

    I can see it now.

    "Are you a terrorist sir?"

    "Certainly not officer, this bag merely contains plant food and old electrical wire. And a clock. ".

    "Well, your ID card makes roughly the right pling, so you must be telling the truth. Off you go."

  5. Anonymous Coward


    It is not enough for the our next Prime Minister to promise to scrap the scheme; what about promising a wide ranging public enquiry into the links between the present Government and the companies already taking taxpayers' money on this pointless scheme? With a promise to jail the guilty and recoup the money for the nation?

    AC for a reason.

  6. James Pickett


    "Official advice is to flick the cards with a fingernail because they make a distinctive noise."

    So will that replace the biometric nonsense..?

  7. Matt Vernon

    Flick it with a fingernail....

    How much has this project cost again?!

  8. Ray

    Finally, something of which we can all be proud

    "Anyone using the card to identify someone is advised to flick the card to check how it sounds"

    Anyone that says government IT projects are a waste of money is a born cynic. I applaud the government, David Blunkett and Jacqui Smith in particular, on their continuing success with this project. I wish them strength in their tireless fight to improve our collective safety, for which we should all agree that no price is too high.

    More of this great work, please!

    Happy Voter

  9. Matthew Ellen


    I don't know who coined the term security theatre, but I heard it here on the Reg and it fits so well with most of what the government seems to do in the name of keeping us safe.

    I find it hard to believe how stupid these schemes are.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Distinctive noise???

    Oh god, you just know the government is even now investing in workshops, DVDs and teams of roving ID ambassadors to show and tell security twonks about the 'distinctive noise' made by a genuine ID card.

    Fact. If you rap one with your fingernail it sounds like 'BLUNKett'.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Biometric parameters == Identity?

    Maybe I'm missing something here?

    The uselessness of the scheme without card (and biometric) readers has been well discussed.

    But, if the biometric parameters are sufficiently unique to identify a person, then surely once you have the person's characteristics (retina scan, fingerprint etc) then you can do a lookup in the central database and work out who they are.

    So, what's the bit of plastic card for?

  12. Christoph

    Call in the French

    Perhaps we should hand over all the security screening to the French police.

    Les flics.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Is this Government sponsored discrimination?

    I'm slightly hard of hearing. If I were to employ someone with a dodgy ID, would I be excused any legal penalty on the basis that the only checking mechanism apparently available (yes it is also speech I have trouble distinguishing in some environments, so thats the phone line check out as well) is no good to me or some of my friends?

    Next they'll be suggesting a marginal reduction in the TV licence for the blind.

    Oh, wait.....

  14. Frank


    At least a banana republic works in a way that is understandable (and thus can be modified). How the hell the UK manages to work, I can not understand.

  15. smudge
    Paris Hilton


    An excellent example of a low-cost, reliable, fault-tolerant technology with built-in redundancy - other fingernails.

    I assume there's been a multi-million pound study to ascertain the MTBF & MTTR of a fingernail, plus the rates of false positives and false negatives which arise?

    Is there now a Government-standard fingernail which has to be used?

    Paris can FLICK me any time she wants.....

  16. mr.K

    Flash - thunder

    I am not sure about the purpose of this, and it isn't really my concern due to the fact that I am from Norway where I by chance happen to live as well. However since you have mostly been very good to us over the years, I'll give you a free advice that will resolve this.

    Your government should hand out passwords to all their citizens with exception of the terrorists. The type of challenge - password they use in war from time to time. May I recommend a classic:

    "Flash!" "Thunder!"

    Should do the trick. No, no need to thank me. What was that? My coat? Sure, I'll get it. And you want to put my name down on a list, you say? A not wanted list...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    ID cards that don't actually prove ID?

    "Official advice is to flick the cards with a fingernail because they make a distinctive noise." - if I'd have been drinking tea, you would owe me a new keyboard!

    If you wanted proof that the whole ID card system is a complete waste of space, this is it.

    Wonder what sort of advice you get from the phoneline? "Give the card a scratch 'n' sniff - does it smell of bovine excrement? If so, it's genuine."

  18. Adam Foxton

    This has had side effects, however

    Tuning Forks are now banned as "equipment that could be of use to a terrorist".

  19. Anonymous John

    "there is a phoneline with further advice."

    So you flick the card next to the phone, and someone in an Indian call centre tells you if it sounds right?

  20. Ash
    Thumb Down

    The new Terrorism

    I am now petrified of my government.

    This seals the deal; I'll vote Tory just to get rid of this scheme. I don't care what else they do.

  21. Juan Inamillion

    I can see the headlines now...

    So if it makes 'the wrong sort of noise" is that the ID equivalent of the "the wrong sort of snow" ?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The Fuzzy Wotnot

    What? Who is your comment aimed at? I don't think anyone on this site has ever thought that id cards were anything but a completely unnecessary, impracticable, expensive, unwanted imposition forced on us by a few short-sighted, egotistical fools in the Commons who wouldn't be out of place on an MBA course.

  23. Matt Anonymous

    A Distinctive Noise?

    "a distinctive noise"? Kinda like laminated plastic? I have a wallet full of cards that all make the same or similar noise when flicked with a fingernail.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    "Anyone using the card to identify someone is advised to flick the card to check how it sounds"

    I haven't laughed so hard in days. That's amazing.

    I swear they should appoint me as the Czar of stupid pointless government projects, with the power to overrule anyone in government.

    I could save the tax payer a few billion on the first day of my job.

    Wind power. Out.

    Solar. Out.

    ID cards. Out.

    DNA database. Out.

    Central or decentral email tracking and all that jazz? Out.

    Then I would direct the billions saved from all those useless pissing in an ocean of piss projects into nuclear power. We're too reliant on foreign power.

    The problem with these stupid projects are that they're the pet of the very person who has the say in if the project continues. They almost have an emotional attachment to them.

    They can't step back for a second and look objectively at how shit their idea was.

    So instead of doing the right thing by resigning for being so stupid and writing off the money spent, they plough even more money into it in a retarded attempt to justify their spending.

    I'll get my coat. Im too good for this countries government.

  25. Steve

    Phone support line?

    "Please flick your card after the beep."



    "thank you, please hold the line and the cardholder whilst we analyse your sample. Our current waiting time is..... forty.....two.....days.....thankyou"


  26. michael

    A Distinctive Noise?



    *cos they are a load of bull

  27. Dennis

    Re: Thats the trouble

    "Surprised they don't just stamp a SID onto everyones forehead and have done with all this."

    Ah! You haven't used a pair or mirrors recently. I've discovered that our overlords have tattooed a "best before" date on the back of my neck.

  28. relpy

    A Biometric Noise

    The data encoded on the chip means that the noise each card makes is unique, so the skilled listener can tell if the ID is fake or not by flicking it.

    If that's inconclusive, weighing the card will be the back up as '1's are heavier than '0's.. It can't give a positive, only a negative however.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe there should be a new tango advert

    Featuring Sir Flickalot and his quest to find the

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    RE: Juan Inamillion

    It was actually the wrong type of snow. Below -10c snow forms a finer form of crystal which was making its way into the engines via the cooling duct (through the air filters) and melting in the electric engines. :)

  31. Frank

    @Dennis re. Re: That's the trouble

    That was your wife after you'd been married a couple of years. It happens a lot.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 12:48

    "what's the point of the plastic card."

    In the current system, post fingernail flick anyway, i have a feeling it's going to be money saving, ie all the id check will do is compare you to the card at the point of sale, making the central database pretty pointless.

    If they are serious about security*, the card would contain part of a 2 part encryption key, and then use that key to encrypt your fingerprints/iris/face sent to the central database for comparison, rather than store it all locally. That would not only ensure that you matched the card, but that the card also matched your entry on the database, and that you matched your entry, as no-one elses card/key combination could decrypt the prints/iris, to compare them.

    The only problem with that, is that the database would have to field requests non-stop from every reader, and would need to be permanantly online, which would be terribly expensive to run, at least several mp's annual expense claims, and you couldn't verify anyone if you were offline. Although it could always fall back on a card-stored copy of the prints if you were.

    *i have not really read how it is supposed to work, this is just where i'd start from

  33. Scott


    Finally we find out that the BOFH and PFY work for the home office

    Boss "So this new ID system that you have installed for billions of pounds, what type of security checks does the card use to prove it is valid"

    BOFH "Well we've employed the latest in cutting edge cloudsy 2.0 twitter cattle probe technology of the highest secruity"

    Boss "And what would that be?"

    PFY "you flick it with you finger nail and it makes a sound"

    And although the El Reg readers can get on soap boxes with stories like this (me included) its good to see form the comments here that we can all laugh at the billions of pounds of our money spent on the latest technology like this. Keep up the good work El Reg comment-kings.

  34. Mark S

    28 posts and nobody stated the obvious???

    i.e. that one must use the middle finger to get the proper flicked-off sound.

  35. Sillyfellow

    temperature and sound

    is this inept government (and their advisers) not aware of the fact that:

    a plasic object will sound different when 'flicked' (har har), when it is at different temperatures?

    this will be a problem, especially in england during the winter when it's freezing outdoors and hot indoors..

    IDIOTS. the lot of them !

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flick Jacqui Smith.

    At least I think that's what it said.

  37. Me Again

    Not WORM then?

    Ha - the data on the chip on the chip can't be read. So there we have it - write-only data. Stunned silence...

  38. Gav

    It's the DATABASE

    You're missing the point. The ID card is irrelevant, that's why they don't care if there are no readers.

    It's the DATABASE that they want.

  39. Dennis

    Re: 28 posts and nobody stated the obvious???

    I want to know where all these fingernails come from that are to be used for card flicking.


    I've just realised. Of course. You 'donate' them while answering questions about your identity.

    Mine'e the one with the thumbscrews in the pocket.

  40. kain preacher

    I'm thinking

    That this whole ID card thing was nothing but a scam. Think about this you being paid to work on a system that looks like it never b delivered .

  41. Nigel

    I'd like to tell them where to flick it ...

    but you wouldn't print that.

    But is it possible, somehow, to communicate to this bunch of dangerous idiots, that if they were merely all feathering their nests at the taxpayers' expense, we wouldn't be nearly as angry as we are. Twenty grand p.a. times four years times 600 MPs ... that's a mere 48 Million quid harmlessly spent. (Even some benefit to those in retail trades).

    It's things like these ID cards that reallly make my blood boil, and constitute a reason why I won't ever vote Labour again as long as Jackboot Jacqui and her ilk are still party members. They are spending many *billions* of our taxes on a project that will make every last one of us hostage to the good intentions of all future governments. Our children and many future generations as yet nor even conceived as well.

    If you haven't already worked out the full possible implications, find a German Jew (if you can) and ask him.

  42. smudge
    Paris Hilton

    "offical advice"?

    OK, we've all - including myself - had a laugh at the "official advice" to flick it with a fingernail.

    But is there any evidence anywhere to show that this really is the official advice? Even by the standards of this pitifully inept Government, this is hard to believe.

    Show me, and I'll laugh even more.

    Paris because she swallows everything....

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useless t**sers

    Only this pathetic completely f**ng useless government run by the worst prime minister ever in history could come up with an identity verification scheme, spend billions on it, introduce it before it's even finished, encourage people to spend money on their own cards and then for it to serve no purpose whatsoever. Let's just pay for the privilege to carry a piece of plastic around in my wallet and that can't be used for anything. Completely f**n pointless.

    This government has to go, no question about it.

  44. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Before we laugh with glee

    There is no budget for rolling *new* card readers, including Manchester and London City airports. Good so far.

    But are there not card readers *already* in place at passport desks to read the RFID tags on passports? The ones with the unsecure crypto.

    In which case this is a software upgrade, not a new hardware job.

    Like incorporating Oystercard travel functions and Barclaycard on one card and upgrading the barrier readers in the London Tube.

    You remember what happened during that right?

    Thumbs down for the whole project.

  45. David Ramsay

    For god sake ...

    Just refuse to provide any detail at all, what the hell can they do but lock you up and then release you 5 seconds later!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ AC 13:20 GMT

    "Then I would direct the billions saved from all those useless pissing in an ocean of piss projects into nuclear power. We're too reliant on foreign power."

    So ... your solution to the problem of relying on a finite material sourced mostly from abroad for all our energy needs is to rely on a finite material sourced mostly from abroad for all our energy needs.

    The Stupid Czar was always going to be foist by his own petard and that right quick.

    Paris, because commas are for girls.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yeah, wind power. That's a stable form of energy.

  48. Snafu
    Paris Hilton

    I've never been to Manchester, but

    I'd imagine an MU home game to provide about the same amount of background noise as is on Oxford Street W1, except slightly different in character - buses & taxis y'see

    So the plod stop & search in a crowded area - perfectly normal, & to a certain extent justified - & try to hear a distinctive 'ping' from the ID card amongst all that noise..

    With luck it'll be tested in Scotland soon (apologies to my Scottish associates, but that seems to be where crap UK Parliament ideals seem to be tested before ignoring the results & rolling out anyway) & the new Scottish Parliament will laugh their socks off & throw it out ASAP

    Back in the 1950s (or maybe slightly earlier) we got rid of ID cards for a reason. Is that reason not valid anymore?

    Paris, because she may be more intelligent than our curent government

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Whats wrong with an ID *card*

    You know, a bit of stiff paper with a photo stuck to it, a signature and an official stamp. And maybe a drop of sealing wax to make it obvious when it is tampered with.

    Just as easily forged as the hi-tech version but much cheaper. And without the pretence that it will stop crime[*], illegal immigration, sunspots, etc, there will be less incentive to fake them. So they might actually be just as reliable...

    [*] I'm still fuming that, years ago, Blunkett said on the Today program that the ID card+db would "stop terrorist attacks". And bloody John Humphries didn't challenge him on it.

  50. John Smith Gold badge


    "Back in the 1950s (or maybe slightly earlier) we got rid of ID cards for a reason. Is that reason not valid anymore?"

    It was 1953. The argument was that WWII ended 8 years previously. Why should we still carry a card to tell some busybody that you are who you say you are.

    The ID card excuses have shifted over time. From TWO T to streamlining service delivery. I repeat. The IRA were a serious force throughout the 1970s,80s and early 90s at least. If Margaret Thatcher did not think ID cards were necessary to defeat them (and she certainly would have bought them in if she did) the fact that she did not suggest we think very carefully out about any more limited threat. In 4 years they this assorted bunch of twonks have killed 57 people (including 1 South American electrician) and severely injured one special needs type who blew himself up. Mind you they have released a lot of depressing video. I don't think 600m down and £400m a year (at least) is a good use of my money.

  51. H Allen

    What an IDEa!!

    Re: "@dee By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 20th May 2009 23:23 GMT

    Yeah, wind power. That's a stable form of energy."

    Presumably methane gas from stable sources like hoses and cows? Too much of this stuff about and it stinks. Elephants or mice me thinks.

  52. Anonymous Coward


    Snafu wrote: "With luck it'll be tested in Scotland soon (apologies to my Scottish associates, but that seems to be where crap UK Parliament ideals seem to be tested before ignoring the results & rolling out anyway) & the new Scottish Parliament will laugh their socks off & throw it out ASAP"

    Ohh, I'd love to see the polis stop some neds from drinking buckie to ask them for ID. It happens all the time. The difference is that with ID cards, the polis are probably outside the bus stop with their biometric reader, in the pouring rain. Would a reader work in those conditions? Well... they could just flick the card instead.

    Oh to be a fly on the wall during that one. The neds would tell the polis exactly where they could stick the ID card (and probably in ways that none of us could ever imagine).

    ...and yeah, the Scottish Parliament wouldn't just vote this one down. They'd probably have the words "GET A FUCKING GRIP YOU DAFTIES" emblazoned on it before they sending it back to Westminster on a manure cart.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What I don't understand is..

    Why all the fuss over terrorism now?

    We had the IRA for bloody yonks blowing us up left right and center. And they did a better job, too.

    As soon as it's muslims though, run for the hills, lock your doors and put your DNA on file!

  54. John Smith Gold badge

    @jsp , AC@08:45


    "You know, a bit of stiff paper with a photo stuck to it, a signature and an official stamp. And maybe a drop of sealing wax to make it obvious when it is tampered with."

    But how could justify the national Identity Register to enable the cradle-to-grave surveillance of the population?

    IIRC most other European ID cards basically say "I am an *official* document. I say this person is John Smith and there address is xxx, yyy, postal ID whatever zzz"

    Estonia has a much more elaborate system which Charles Clarke was very impressed by (he made a channel 4 documentary on it) and it has an NIR. It allows users on-demand acces to check their personal details and the audit trail of who else has accessed their details and why.

    Estonians seem to feel its *their* data and they have a right to see whose been checking up on them. Can't see that attitude with her Wackiness and the Civil Service in this universe.

    Estonia is a country of 4 million people and a history of Communist repression dating from WWII. Sounded like a virtually clean sheet system. They knew what they wanted. They also had the mainland European tradition (absent from the UK) that you should be able to prove who you are to "Authority" at all times.

    Why *should* we acquire this tradition?


    IIRC the Reg has reported the Scottish parliament has voted to make no use of ID cards. No support for them, no enabling existing or future systems to use them if you have one. No mandatory requirement to have one in the first place.

    Scotland is beginning to look quite attractive. Of course Mr Broon and Martin have their constituencies there at present. But that might be changing.

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