back to article The Home Office will need to overturn a long legacy of failure to achieve ambition of all-digital border by 2025

The UK’s home secretary Priti Patel has claimed the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025, with a raft of new technology schemes which critics might be tempted to characterise as wishful thinking. In the hope of accurately measuring immigration for the first time, the launch of the new plans come just two …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    The problem here is

    They are calling it digital, everyone knows proper UK gov' systems are called cyber.

    One other stumbling block may be that shouting at it will not necessarily make it work.

    Other stumbling blocks could include civil liberties, travel agencies in the UK and abroad being unable to make it work correctly or unable to understand it, and of course it's lack of competent leadership.

    I would recommend looking for a job seeking baroness.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: The problem here is

      This lot are not competent enough to see any kind of largescale digital system up and running.

      But so long as they slap a 3 word catchphrase or two on it, it'll be, "Job Well Done!":

      Secure Our Borders.

      Take Back Control.

      Deport British Subjects.

      Super. Smashing. Great. (You can't beat a bit of Bully. )

      1. N2

        Re: The problem here is

        This lot are not competent enough to see any kind of digital system up and running.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The problem here is

          They're barely competent enough for a digital watch.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: The problem here is

            But they do recognise a really neat idea when they see one.

          2. HildyJ Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: The problem here is

            I believe they sent out the paper via fax.

    2. You aint sin me, roit
      Trollface

      Cyber?

      Doesn't cyber have to be implemented by an ex-ballet dancer?

      On the plus side, Dame Darcy would do a better job than Dido. But who wouldn't?

    3. bernmeister

      Re: The problem here is

      The problem may be the choice of the wrong model to work with. Stating from scratch or using other systems as an example gives a big choice. How come the DVLA record system is so effective a bobby in his car can identify a driver or vehicle with out of date or wrong documentation but registering the coming and going of people is so difficult? Is it the choice of suitable technology or sheer weight of numbers causing the problem? Two words of advice, don't use Excel, make sure the backup system is foolproof and bombproof.

  2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    FAIL

    Just politics .... again!

    By the time 2025 comes around the current gum'nt will no loger be in power ..... so they'll be able to blame the late/lack of delivery on the new gum'nt coming in.

    1. AW-S

      Re: Just politics .... again!

      It will be the same government, just with Patel as PM.

      Boris will outlast his usefulness soon - and depart for the other place.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Just politics .... again!

        AW-S> Boris will outlast his usefulness soon - and depart for the other place.

        Barnard Castle?

  3. Ben Tasker Silver badge
    Joke

    Coming soon

    to Bork! Bork! Bork!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Border hawk

    I have become a bit of a 'border hawk' and believe that an improved border for the UK is long overdue. Great Britain is an island surrounded by rough seas yet the level of border security is surpassed by completely landlocked microstates that are part of Schengen. Knowing who comes and goes should be a given. That the UK did not have exit checks (registering who is leaving the country) until relatively recently is a disgrace.

    I'm also not impressed by the headlines with outrage that "The UK is going to charge EU Citizens to visits the country!!!111" It's not as if the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) that will become operational next year is not going to do the same thing. Want to go on holiday to Spain? That will be €7 for an application for any non-EU Citizen. And that is fine. If you can afford a plane ticket and a ticket for Madame Tussauds/fish 'n chips on the Costa del Sol you can afford a few quid for the entry registration process.

    Now, will the UK system work? Of course not. It will be a giant omnishambles that will see massive cost overruns and missed deadlines. Half the current Cabinet will probably be serving prison sentences before it becomes operational and the next government will agree some connection between the EU and the UK system, including waiving each other's fees. But, I believe the principle is right. It makes perfect sense to know who is actually in the country and who has left again.

    1. Shalghar

      Re: Border hawk

      "It makes perfect sense to know who is actually in the country and who has left again."

      Like copying/digitizing the foreigners ID card at entry but not departure at british airports ?

      Or much better if you use the eurotunnel, scanning car license plates when going to britain and waving through when going back, with the occasional security theatre like wiping the steering wheel to look for traces of whatever but not checking any other person in the car.

      Even better when living in serviced apartments for three weeks, then going home for a week, then another three weeks in britain. The poor census guys really did not know how to cope with temporary "residents" and a "residency" that turned on and off several times in the census questionnaire period while also changing apartment numbers in the building complex due to other guests booking and our company unable to reserve the same apartments for the 7 month duration of the project.

      By all means, i believe a "digital" border system will at least be "digital" in one aspect: either you get in(1) or not(0).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Border hawk

        Yes, you can be as anal as you want about keeping track of people who are entering the country but if you don't know who is leaving you still know next to nothing.

        The real problem (although too complex for most cabinet ministers to comprehend) is that immigration does not take place at the border. There is no way for a chap at a Heathrow passport control booth to know for certain whether the person at their booth is there to visit Madame Tussauds and Borough Market and go back after ten days or whether they intend to never leave. And you will never know if that person was a 'visitor' or has become an 'immigrant' unless you also keep track of when they leave again.

        If you want to have any meaningful policy about immigration you need to know who has left your country.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Border hawk

      Are you even tracking who leaves?

      Those of us who took one look at the Brexit shambles and abandoned ship don't get added to the debit column.

      There weren't even any turnstiles. How are you going to keep people in? You can't even build a wall now that you don't let E Germans in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Border hawk

      @AC "Border Hawk"

      What you said. Plus national Identity cards. Most illegal aliens are overstays, not border jumpers. It's not just a question of who's in/who's out. Also the "authorities" need to be able to stop people in the street and check their status. It's what we voted for!!!! Can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!

      @Shalghar

      No need to copy/digitise the passport/ID. The photo and info is already stored on it. (Including a low re photo) Just download it. You can even print it out to stick in the passport so the forces of law and order can check your immigration status in the street.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        National Identity cards ?

        You mean that thing that UK Gov has been trying to impose on Brits for the past twenty years without success ?

        I don't see that happening any time soon.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: National Identity cards ?

          See vaccine passport for this attempt.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Border hawk

        'Plus ID cards"

        Fuck off!

        We (for some defition of we) didn't votre for ANY of this stupid shit.

        Why should I be forced to carry ID at all times to satisfy your wet dreams about bashig Johnny Foreigner?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Border hawk

          "Why should I be forced to carry ID at all times to satisfy your wet dreams about bashig Johnny Foreigner?"

          'Take Back Control': What did you think they meant?! (Suckers!)

          Next Up: The death penalty.

          1. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: Border hawk

            "Next Up: The death penalty."

            And maybe those Boncentration Bamps at Minehead.

      3. Shalghar

        Re: Border hawk

        "No need to copy/digitise the passport/ID. The photo and info is already stored on it. (Including a low re photo) Just download it. You can even print it out to stick in the passport so the forces of law and order can check your immigration status in the street."

        I assume they still copy/digitize at least at the eurotunnel as well as at Bristol airport when coming in from brussels, as they took care to put the id cards photo down on some matte glass surface. You also cannot guarantee that each ID card/passport worldwide has one of the NFC/RFID/whatevertronic inside nor that those are compatible with the british systems, so i dont believe we can forget about the optical approach anytime soon.

        How you would be able to seperate me from an illegal "overstayer" is beyond my imagination. High enough res photo scan back to the base ? Highly questionable as not only british police has had its history with the "success" rates of any kind of facial unrecognition.

        To make sure i am what i am a simple printout is neither necessary nor in any way better suited than an official document with all its measures against forgery.

        BTW, how do you like the dystopian idea of a police state, where anyone can be stopped and checked on the whim of anyone claiming to check for illegal immigrants ? Now add the sorry state of any kind of coordination between official entities and the questionable functional quality of their IT.

        I fear that the foreseeable issues arising from any kind of data mess combined with the quite high probability of false positives as well as inappropriate delays for verification do more harm than the whole mess might do any good.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Border hawk

          @Shalghar >You also cannot guarantee that each ID card/passport worldwide has one of the NFC/RFID/whatevertronic inside nor that those are compatible with the british systems,

          Britain doesn't control the optical/Machine-Readable or RF spec for passports, That's specified by ICAO (UN) through ISO standards with some options made mandatory by ..... The EU. (Sovereignty!!!)

          That's how when you go to places like Israel they print your actual passport photo onto your little entry/visa card.

    4. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Border hawk

      The idea of not checking who is leaving Britain has long been a mystery to me.

      As a dual citizen, when I leave the UK to visit Australia, I wave my Oz passport at the UK airport on my way out, as otherwise I'd be asked for a visa when I get to Oz. Likewise, when I come back, I leave Oz on my UK passport.

      The Australians manage to keep track of this. On my way out (waving my UK passport), the Oz Border Bods say "Wait a minute - you're not here!" at which point they demand to see my other passport, or otherwise prove how I got in. Then they clock me out of the country again. Simples.

      The UK? Not a hope. I arrive at the airport, show my UK passport and am allowed in with none of the obvious questions, like "How did you leave the country?" as they have NO IDEA that I've even left in the first place.

      It's an island FFS. Australians can manage the tracking - why not the UK?

      </rant>

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Border hawk

        Because although everyone can see the necessity of tracking dangerous Australians, a free country generally doesn't track its own citizens leaving in peacetime. I believe it's something to do with sovereignty

        1. Len

          Re: Border hawk

          That has very little to do with sovereignty. North Korea is very likely the most sovereign country in the world yet not known for treating its citizens that well.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Border hawk

            In the new British-English dictionary "sovereignty" just means anything wholesome and good that the Daily Mail approves of. Not demanding ID from (melanin appropriate) Britons is good therefore is sovereignty.

            N Korea is bad and therefore is not Sovereignty

        2. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Border hawk

          It's not just their own citizens that they're not tracking - it's everybody. How are they to complain about how many damn furriners are in the country if they don't know whether any of them are still here?

          1. onemark03

            Re: Border hawk

            At home in New Zealand we track everyone in and out - and we don't use ID cards or compulsory address registration to do it, either.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Border hawk

        @batfink

        And the Home Office/Border Farce better get their s**t together. Because the chances are there are going to be 100,000s more dual-national Brits in the coming years. Why wouldn't we apply for passports-of-convenience if we can ?!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Border hawk

          I'm still holding out hope of Canada one day joining the Eu - and getting back European status that way

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Border hawk

        It's an island FFS. Australians can manage the tracking - why not the UK?

        It does - at least for international flights. The airline captures your passport data at check-in. They wouldn't need to do that unless it was to pass the info to Priti's goons. I expect it's the same for ferriy crossings.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Border hawk

          No it doesn't. As I said, I leave the UK on my Australian passport. Priti's goons (nice term btw) never question the fact that I don't seem to have arrived in the UK on my Australian passport. So, they don't track the fact that one of their citizens has left the country.

          The base problem is that there's no matching of in vs out.

    5. onemark03

      Re: Border hawk

      You're quite right, of course but one method they use as an aid to border security is the use of (compulsory) ID cards and compulsory address registration. I doubt this would be popular in the UK.

  5. notmyopinion
    FAIL

    Will it really?

    So the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025?

    Did she explain how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would work, without any border infrastructure?

    And did she explain how the Common Travel Area would continue to work? It allows travel between the UK and Ireland (for UK and Irish nationals) without any documentation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Boris Border

      To be fair, the border infrastructure there will not be at the "Irish Border" but at the "Boris Border" through the Irish Sea.

      I expect the CTA to remain virtually unchanged so people can still travel more or less in similar fashion between the two islands as they can now. I suspect they will base it on citizenship rather than geography so someone with an Irish passport will not have to apply for the scheme whereas an American traveling from Dublin to London will have to.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Will it really?

      Under the NIP Irish people are now officially white so border controls don't apply.

      Scots are also allowed in freely, so long as they are posh Scots with surnames as first names

    3. MikeGH

      Re: Will it really?

      The Irish require documentation from CTA people flying into Dublin

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Will it really?

        >The Irish require documentation from CTA people flying into Dublin

        Countries generally require documentation from people flying internally

        The interesting question will be do immigration in Dublin have the right to exclude Brits with no reason other than "immigration officer doesn't like your face"?

        How does this work if Ireland joined Schengen?

        1. Len
          Holmes

          Re: Will it really?

          Not quite. It’s airlines that, understandably, require documentation about who’s on their planes for internal flights, not the countries. I’m fairly certain I flew London - Edinburgh without going through passport control.

          You can fly within the Schengen area without coming across passport control. Major airports like Amsterdam are even divided into a Schengen and a non-Schengen zone so you could do a connecting flight Toulouse-Amsterdam-Berlin without ever passing passport control.

          As for the Irish Republic joining Schengen? Not a chance before Irish Unification. The other Schengen countries would never allow an open border with the UK and all 26 of them have a veto on new applications.

          1. batfink Silver badge

            Re: Will it really?

            Not to mention simply being able to drive (or walk, if it comes to that) between Schengen countries without showing passports. Or even slowing down, in most cases.

    4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Will it really?

      > And did she explain how the Common Travel Area would continue to work? It allows travel between the UK and Ireland (for UK and Irish nationals) without any documentation?

      Magic Pixie Dust, the essential component of all political planning

  6. N2
    Trollface

    No doubt

    The owners of The Ivy are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of yet another long running Crapita failure

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: No doubt

      Interesting question, can an economy survive solely on the fees paid to government lawyers to sue government contractors ?

  7. Peter2 Silver badge

    So we are 15 years on from the point where the Labour minister responsible for the home office described it thus:-

    "Our system is not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes," he told MPs.

    If all of their existing IT systems are flagged as being likely to fail then I suggest that the problem is probably more attributable to the leadership, management systems and processes which were known to be defective 15 years ago.

    The only way your going to do better is to design a new system with new staff and new management, slowly transfer responsibilities from the old team to the new one and then dismantle the old wreckage afterwards; to judge from the sea of red status reports on all of it's projects the existing department shows no great signs of being likely to manage a structured transition to normality any time soon.

    Blaming the minister in charge of the omnishambles of a department is probably not going to help since several changes of ministers clearly hasn't fixed the problem in the last 15 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well it could be the people working on the project or it could be that ministers are appointed for political reasons rather than their ability to do the job.

      In my experience the problems come from the top, that is government level. Failure to think through what they want, failure to finance properly, stamping of feet when wishful thinking is criticised, sudden changing of goals, sudden changing of staff...... to name but a few....

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Changing ministers is never a solution, it is a distraction.

      It is a ploy to have more time before the disaster is inevitable, at which point you change Prime Minister and start over again.

      Yes, I am a Yes Minister fan.

  8. iron Silver badge

    > capture a person’s biographic and biometric identity just once, and as early as possible, in “new, unobtrusive ways.”

    That doesnt sound scary as hell at all.

    DNA fingerprinting at birth?

    I'm sure Commandant Patel wil protect our rights and privacy in all these schemes.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      How to do identity ...

      DNA fingerprinting at birth?

      Chip under the skin - they are doing another trial run at the moment - with cats.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure uberhauptbahnfuhrer Priti Patel has our best interests at heart.

      1. Shalghar

        erm... i believe you mean something like "Obersturmbannführer", as "Bahnführer" sounds more like the guy driving the train.

        Not to disagree with you, though. There are quite a lot of things happening in "western" self proclaimed democracies at this time that would make a certain (luckily deceased) austrian post card painter proud - or at least seem very familiar to him.

        Yes, talking about the guy who stole Charlie Chaplins moustache style...

        The only luck for those who are fans of old fashioned things like human rights, democracy and citizens rights is the proven incompetence of those who try to establish creepytech "to protect" $whatever.

  9. R Soul

    the mother of all omnishambles

    A government IT project - probably outsourced to Crapita or Fujistsu - with unclear requirements, unrealistic goals and impossible deadlines. At the "unfit for purpose" Home Office. Headed by the spectacularly stupid and incomptent Priti Patel. What culd possibly go wrong?

    1. Shalghar

      Re: the mother of all omnishambles

      Making a guess here:

      Everything but the cashflow ?

    2. Julian 8

      Re: the mother of all omnishambles

      surely it has to go to InfoSys now so Rishi can get his cut

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    FAIL

    Prediction

    It will become sort of operational in 2030

    There will be a 3 billion pound overspend in getting the system to a state where it can be turned on

    There will be another 500 million overspend sorting the problems out.

    Crapita share price will go up

    Several ex-ministers will have non exec directorships with crapita

    Mrs Bloggs coming back from holiday will face 4 hrs delay because they forgot to train the staff and buy more than 1 terminal per airport.

    All user data will leak out to black hat hackers and unleash a wave of identity theft and phishing emails.

    I hope I'm wrong on all counts , but given past experience with government IT projects.....

    1. Blofeld's Cat
      Devil

      Re: Prediction

      "... All user data will leak out to black hat hackers ..."

      I suspect that the data will have already been sold to a social media company or somebody the minister in charge went to school with, long before it can be leaked.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Priti Patel has claimed the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025

    perhaps she confused 'digital' with 'virtual'? As in 'virtually digital', but in reality... no. But hey, she wont' have been around by 2025, so she can claim whatever she wants. By that time, there'll be another clone in her place, with equally empty claims, only the date will have changed. At a cost but, hey, who claims failures are cheap?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Priti Patel has claimed the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025

      Priti Patel is three hundred thousand and thirty four, nine hundred and seventy four thousand percent sure that the system will be up by 2025.

    2. TDog

      Re: Priti Patel has claimed the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025

      I wrote software for a large shipping support company to allow them to facilitate the US homeland security requirements back in about 2000. I thought it was fucking stupid as they were charging less than 0.1% premium on costs. And the risks were about 90-200% on costs. They had more faith in what I could do than I did.

      BUT HS did enforce it and some of my code is still being used now. What we had was a very clear statement of requirements by HS and a load of bullshit about how it would work. And every time we asked a question we got a "get back to you later" response cos' they were too busy dealing with US companies.

      But what we also got was a consistency of the API - there were two options and we chose the email one - risky and no guarantee of delivery but there were acks (so risk was inverse square law (lore) - had to fail twice) and they didn't change the requirements.

      Not in the business any more but if you want it to work ensure that you have a clear set of requirements that are very simple (e.g. Name, Passport Number, Visa Number, Country of Origin, Address (although you have to be a prat to believe it) and perhaps nowadays COVID status.

      You can be bloody sure that this will not catch terrorists but it will give you a +/- 5% set of border control information.

      And that is better than we have now. What you do with it is political, but you can't do the political stuff until you know what is happening. (Unless you are a politician, then you lie.)

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Priti Patel has claimed the UK borders will become “fully digital” by the end of 2025

        "(Unless you are a politician, then you lie.)"

        Opening and closing of the mouth generally suffices.

  12. DarkwavePunk

    Curious

    I am genuinely - as per the title - curious as to why the British are so against the concept of ID cards. Is it some kind of reactionary instinct against "Papers please!"? I'm English (albeit a mildly weird journey to actually live here) but I can't really remember a time I wasn't carrying some form of ID. From having my name, address, phone number written in biro in a school book to the heady heights of having a bank card... Surely the vast majority of people have something identifying on them. Is that the issue? Perceived overreach of the state? It's not going to be hard to find out that I spent £34 at BoozeMart at 11pm last Saturday in Bogville. Nor does anyone seem to bat an eyelid at having to produce a passport to travel (remember that?).

    I am just honestly interested. This is not an attack and a real question.

    (from someone who probably had a name tag sewn into their pants at pre-school)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious

      British people are shy and don't like to say their names to anyone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious

      It's all about the "English Exceptionalism" mindset.

      And the anti-ID mindset that goes with it is something they indoctrinate at school. Pretending that the general public are somehow free. In reality there was a certain amount of truth to it, but that all stopped circa 1985 when the Conservatives gave the Police powers to stop and question people who were just going about their business. (Because: Flying Pickets.)

      We have the same attitude to driving documents too. Why should I have to drive with my actual licence & registration documents? I'm a Freman![sic]

      1. onemark03

        Re: Curious

        Brits historically and culturally associate ID cards with non-democratic forms of government. This is the core of the objection.

        Ergo, being asked on the footpath or the road to hand over an ID card is grossly offensive.

      2. onemark03

        Why should I have to drive with my actual licence & registration documents?

        Nobody is forced to obtain a driving licence and/or motor vehicle. That is the difference.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why should I have to drive with my actual licence & registration documents?

          onemark03> Nobody is forced to obtain a driving licence and/or motor vehicle. That is the difference.

          Just wait until the next election and you try to vote without Photo-ID: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/voter-identification-faqs

          Ironical "we" voted these clowns in so "we" are just reaping what "we" sowed.

    3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      I don’t get it either, but it’s a good question

      A well-founded distrust of the Government in general and the Home office in particular doesn’t help, but it goes deeper than that. It seems to be the only issue on which you’ll get Guardian and Daily Mail readers agreeing, both of them probably using the term freedom at some point (though the guardian reader means it for everyone, and the Mail reader means for himself).

      I’ve always suspected it’s the differences between a society raised in common law, where things are allowed unless forbidden, and Napoleonic law, where things tend to be forbidden unless allowed. But thats a half formed idea at best. Some sort of Anglo prioritisation of individualism over society maybe.

      Personally I always liked the idea of a Voluntary card with a name, photo etc on it, digitally signed by the govt. but without the vast database backing it - which, with a public key infrastructure, you don’t need for validation. The benefits of an ID card without any big brother aspects. So of course it will never fly, because that the bit they want.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Curious

        What benefits? Demands for ID from pasty-faced youths every time you buy beer? Show ID to borrow a library book? Show ID to login to the internet or use a credit card?

        You're suggesting a scheme that's voluntary. That would never last. Mission creep will ensure the ID cards become mandatory. Y'see if everyone has to carry their ID card, this would stop terrorism and drug dealers, deport foreigners, catch paedophiles, bring an end to parking on double yellow lines - whatever our fuckwit politicians claim is the bogeyman-of-the-week.

        Oh and BTW if these ID cards don't need validation, what's the point? They could be faked/cloned just as easily as a bank card or driving licence or passport.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          I'd assumed that public key encryption would be fairly well understood here, given this is a technical website. But as you insist.

          Digitally signing the ID with a government issued public key means that the digital content on the card can be verified as unaltered by anyone with the public key and the technology to use it. You don't need to look it up in the database, or even have a database. All you need is the government's public key to ensure that it was, in fact, originally created by the government.

          As for what benefits - how about opening a bank account, claiming social welfare, voting, not being deported for being black - all things that people without ID find it increasingly difficult to do under the hostile environment our dear leaders are rolling out to everyone, not just foreigners.

          1. onemark03

            As for what benefits

            I say this with a gnashing of teeth but freaking things do have their uses. I don't like it but it's a fact.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          The UK has a difficult relationship with identity, especially in recent years when providing identity to take part in society is becoming more important.

          I have several relations who have had problems over the last decade or so.

          For people who don't drive, don't travel abroad, don't pay bills (because they live in bills included accommodation or with relations), or maybe just get their bills delivered online, proving your identity is getting to be difficult.

          My mother-in-law was wanting to rent a house while she was moving from one region of the country to another. Only had a paper driving license. Did not have a passport. Shredded bank account statements as soon as she had reconciled them. The letting agency wanted more documents than she could easily provide. It was very difficult to persuade them who she was, and it seemed like it was necessary because of a change in the law with regard to illegal immigrants.

          My youngest son. Left school before he set up a bank account. Did not have a driving license or passport, did not pay any bills. Had no picture ID at all. Obviously did not have bank statements. We had significant difficulty setting up a bank account (eventually had to apply for a provisional driving license just for ID, and not everywhere accepts provisional licenses).

          My wife. She's a beneficiary in a will. The solicitors what picture ID, but again, she does not drive, and does not have a passport. She doesn't work, so doesn't have payslips or receive any government benefits. She's also only on many of the bills as Mrs Gathercole. They won't even accept a person of importance (we know a local government Councillor) vouch for her. We're still arguing this one.

          A non-compulsory ID card with biometrics, but without the large database backing it up (just enough to prove the card was issued by the government) would solve all of these. When applying for a bank account, credit, or any myriad of different accounts and services, it would negate the need for a huge list of 'identifying documents' that many organizations want.

          What most people in the know objected to with the last ID card system in the UK was not the card itself, but the database and identity number that the Government was wanting to use to pull all of the government information about someone together as a super-index that could be added to existing databases relatively easily. The bill to introduce the whole system would have allowed secondary legislation (laws that don't have to be debated in parliament) to extend the database in any way that the Government saw fit, without any scrutiny (this is where it upset the House of Lords).

          The other thing was that the government wanted people to pay for the privilege of having a government issued ID card, and to keep paying every 10 years or so, for something that they wanted everyone to have.

          Since that time, the Government have realized that for all people of working age (and children, as they issue them while at school), the National Insurance number forms a perfectly good cross-data-source unique identifier, which is why they are asking for your NI number when interacting with vehicle and driver licensing, the NHS, and so may other things that really don't need the NI number.

          Whilst it may seem obvious to people outside the UK that governments may want to marry say tax, benefits and criminal records together, we have a history of all of these things existing in disjoint databases that have been difficult to cross-match. We don't like the idea that the Government will obtain significant powers to monitor what we are doing, but at the same time, many of us are prepared to let the internet giants, banks, credit card companies, mobile phone operators, and any company issuing 'loyalty' cards or apps track us in minute detail.

          Even though I am generally against ID cards, I would support a card that proves who you are without any anbiguity, although I would not want to make carrying it compulsory.

          1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Curious

            One of the problems is that the only people who are really inconvenienced are the law abiding.

            A lot of these proof of identity checks are required by money laundering laws. When I came back to the UK in 2004 (having lived and worked in the USA for 22 years) I had to live with family until I had 3 months worth of utility bills (for a business phone, as it happens) before I could even contemplate renting.

            I dislike statists such as Priti Patel and the estate agents I dealt with were pretty much in her mould (more's the pity). If there were a method that is not tied to a government database I might be tempted to try it, but knowing the UK governments of past and present (and these issues have been around for a lot longer than some might think) that isn't going to fly.

            I got a new bank account relatively easily, but only because I had one with that outfit in the past.

            The people that the government claims they are targeting (money launderers primarily) are usually way ahead of this game.

            In intelligence parlance, they create legends where bank accounts, work history, driving licences, utility bills (and $whatever) are all acquired over the years so they have all the necessary documentation as soon as they walk into the country (on a passport with the name in question).

            For them, it is not a problem at all.

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

              Re: Curious

              > In intelligence parlance, they create legends where bank accounts, work history, driving licences, utility bills (and $whatever) are all acquired over the years so they have all the necessary documentation as soon as they walk into the country (on a passport with the name in question).

              I think you might have money launderers and secret agents mixed up.

              All you need to do to launder money here is have a lot of it, a foreign residence and a glib, offshore-flavoured answer for "and what is the source of your funds sir?". At the lower end, all you needed was a fixed-odds betting terminal nearby with a high limit, and a willingness to lose 5-10% as transaction fees. Although fortunately now we have a £2 limit at last, that avenue has closed.

          2. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: Curious

            Sir, you have just made the case for getting a passport regardless of whether you intend to use it for travel or not.

            Really, what's the point of a duplicate ID and Passport system when one is widely accepted and does the job well.

            And regarding cross-purpose databases - I remind you that a Doctor can recommend you should not drive, but they cannot tell the DVLA. Such things allow dangers to society behind the wheel of 2-tonne death machines

            I totally understand the potential to use and abuse personal data in this manner, but when we're talking quangos and government the fact of the matter is the data can be cross referenced, if you put your mind to it. A central database, properly normalised and secured of course, could significantly reduce civil service/quango overheads and improve "societal" services.

            This is absolutely no different to the banks putting two and two together regarding your transaction history to make observations like "likely has credit card with another provider" to provide sales personnel an avenue to try and flog you something. And I'm pretty sure the police can request your bank statements if they have justifiable cause to do so.

            Privacy is nothing more than an illusion in this digital age. But then I'm the sort of tech nerd that misses sneakernet and pre-internet.

  13. Ochib

    If it is fully digital

    does that means that the immigration officers will be counting on their fingers

  14. Binraider Silver badge

    Fully digital. Lol. I've had nothing but trouble with the digital passport readers ever since they went live.

    Talking to the good people that actually work the border, the problems partly stem from the paper and laminate being used, in many passports (including British ones). They are too reflective so the scanner often struggles to do anything - necessitating you leaving the electronic queue to join the meatbag queue instead.

    Dropping paper means going for some sort of silicon or magnetic format instead, which in either case the potential to break is vastly more obvious to break than the extremely hard to forge paper setup. Full digital by contrast - buy an appropriate flash ROM burner and you're good to go.

    Like ballot papers, sometimes simple is the best and most secure solution. Don't just go digital because marketing. Throwing people at a problem instead of a giant IT exercise may well be more effective and cheaper.

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