* Posts by Andrew Watson

5 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Oct 2007

CERN celebrates 30 years since releasing the web to the public domain

Andrew Watson

Out of interest, I dug out a slide I wrote about the Web in 1995 as part of a report for the ANSA distributed systems project (PDF, 35KB):


ID cards: the first year report

Andrew Watson

How to become "Identity Scheme Commissioner"

Readers may be curious to know how Sir Joseph got his job providing "independent oversight" of the ID Cards scheme, despite having worked for 20 years for the Home Office, the very department that's now actively selling ID cards.

It turns out that the government spent £42,000 on recruitment consultants and £9,000 on advertising this post in the Sunday newspapers and on the internet. Twenty people applied and six were interviewed - after which Sir Joseph, who did not apply and was not interviewed, was 'phoned at home out of the blue by his former Home Office bosses to be offered the job. He's paid £88,000 annually for a three-day week, and reports directly to the Home Secretary, the minister who's relentlessly promoting the ID cards scheme. His annual reports are vetted by the Home Secretary before publication, and he has no powers to investigate individual complaints or to punish the Home Office if it abuses the personal data that will be held in the massive database behind the ID cards scheme.


FOI request about how Sir Joseph was appointed


BBC News story about his appointment and pay


Sir Joseph's biography, including his career at the Home Office


His first report, in which he says he provides "independent oversight"


Identity Cards Act. Section 22 says what he can and can't do.


Chip and PIN security busted

Andrew Watson

Get a Chip-and-signature card instead

I refuse to use Chip-and-PIN - there have been too many verified attacks on the system over the years.

If you press your credit card company, they can issue you with a Chip-and-signature card (also sometimes called a "PIN suppressed" card). Although the card has a chip, every face-to-face transaction is verified by a signature, leaving a permanent paper record which can be inspected later (by the courts if necessary) if the transaction is disputed.

I've had a C&S card for 4 years, and never have any trouble using it. Many cashiers tell me they think it's "more secure" and a "good idea". If you have a C&P card, I recommend calling your credit card company and asking them to send you a C&S card instead.

Awed fraudsters defeated by UK's passport interviews

Andrew Watson

Interview network set up under false pretences

The whole pretext for setting up the interview network is a sham. This was never about detecting passport fraud. All the interview centres have been designed for future conversion to fingerprinting centres for ID cards, but by pretending this has something to do with passport fraud, IPS has hidden the expenditure in the passport budget, not the ID card budget.

One reason why interviews cannot detect frauds is that in many cases IPS only asks questions based on details that the applicant (fraudulent or otherwise) wrote on his or her own application form. The comment thread on a Daily Mail article about the same story provides a typical example:


"I recently had to attend an interview with my son, who was 16 in January. Because he is a minor I insisted on sitting with him. I had to provide evidence of my identity (driving licence) and then sit in silence while he answered the questions. Because he has no independent means and is not on credit databases or the electoral register, he could only be asked questions based on the application form. First of all he had to spell his name in full (good job he's not dyslexic nor has any other learning disabilities), then he had to give all the details they had on the form, including the name and approximate age of the person who countersigned it (his old headmaster). In essence, all the interview can establish is that the person seen is the person on the photo and is familiar with the contents and progress of the application. It cannot conclusively establish that the person being interviewed is actually who he says he is. The process is fundamentally flawed."

Enough said.

MPs call for ID theft czar

Andrew Watson

The £1.7bn ID fraud figure is itself a fraud

Some more data to back up the point made by the previous poster:

In July 2002 the Cabinet Office published a study saying ID fraud costs the country £1.3 billion per year.[1] In February 2006 the Home Office revised this figure upwards to £1.7 billion.[2] Ministers have quoted these figures repeatedly to justify the huge cost of their National Identity Scheme. However, they don't stand up to independent scrutiny. For instance:

* The 2002 report shows £370 million of identity fraud reported by APACS, the bank clearing service for plastic cards and cheques, but APACS itself says the real figure was only £20.6 million – about 6% of the government's claim.[3]

* The Cabinet Office says identity fraud cost the insurance industry £250 million in 2002, but in June 2005 the Association of British Insurers told reporter Andrew Gilligan "I'm not sure where that figure comes from. It's not from us. ... Insurance fraud tends to be people claiming in their real names for false losses. ID fraud is not a particularly big problem in the insurance sector".[4]

* The 2002 and 2006 reports both include £215 million for Missing Trader Intra-Community" (MTIC) fraud, also known as Carousel Fraud, where goods are bought and sold by fictitious companies in different countries in the EU, with VAT which was never actually paid "claimed back" from EU governments. However, a spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs told Andrew Gilligan "We wouldn't normally describe MTIC fraud as ID fraud".[4]

Once these and other dubious "costs" of identity fraud have been excluded, the true cost of identity fraud to the UK has been estimated at £150 million in 2002, or about 12% of the government's figure.[4]


[1] Cabinet Office, "Identity Fraud: A Study", July 2002, Annex B, page 73, http://www.identitycards.gov.uk/downloads/id_fraud-report.pdf

[2] Home Office, "Updated estimate of the cost of identity fraud to the UK economy", 2 February 2006, http://www.identitytheft.org.uk/ID%20fraud%20table.pdf

[3] Riten Gohil, APACS, "Information, Identity Theft and the Internet", November 2004, page 5, http://www.ecb.int/events/pdf/conferences/epayments2004/041110_eConf_Gohil.pdf

[4] Andrew Gilligan, "Revealed: how Blair is playing the fear card", Evening Standard, 20 June 2005, http://www.spy.org.uk/spyblog/2005/06/evening_standard_andrew_gillig.html