This story reveals that the penalty for not updating your information on the ID Card database could be as much as a £1,000 fine. But for me the more interesting aspect is how the Home Office don't actually seem capable of justifying their widely promoted idea that ID Cards - and the National Identity Register - will protect us from identity theft. A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service - part of the Home Office - said this:
"The National Identity Scheme will bring real and recognisable benefits for British citizens by offering a more convenient way of proving identity and helping protect people from identity fraud."
Leaving aside the fact that here we see yet another example of a Civil Servant pushing the government's agenda - when the hell did this become okay? - there is another issue here. There is absolutely no way ID Cards will prevent identity fraud; in fact, should the database become corrupted, infiltrated or lost on two fucking CDs in the post, there's a good chance every single one of us will be the victims of identity fraud of some kind. Let's take a look at the Identity and Passport Service's website, with my comments in sexy red:
"Criminals can copy personal information (from a bank statement, for example) or steal or forge the documents – such as utility bills – we currently use to prove identity." True, but the introduction of ID Cards will not stop bank statements or utility bills being produced by banks and utility companies. And the way identity thieves get ahold of these documents is by going through rubbish and intercepting post; not robbing people on the way to the bank.
The National Identity Scheme is designed to be far more secure than anything we use at present. Security is built in to the system in the following ways:
"- Biometric data is held both on the card and in the National Identity Register (NIR). A criminal may steal your card, but your unique biometric data cannot be taken from you. Anyone trying to make a major financial transaction, for example, would have their biometric data checked against that held in the NIR. If they were not the registered cardholder this check would fail." But all this means is that this particular type of identity fraud would be prevented; when a fraudster actually poses as someone in the bank. It doesn't stop them using your information to apply for a false driving licence, passport or TV licence. It just means that identity fraudsters will find a new way of working within the parameters of the ID cards.
"- Each ID card has a PIN known only to the cardholder." So what? So do Chip and Pin cards, and the evidence suggests that credit card fraud has actually gone up since signatures were done away with.
"- Each card also has a biometric image of the cardholder’s face. This looks like a photograph and can be used for a quick visual check that the customer presenting the card is the genuine cardholder." That's what they say about passports too, but that time my brother and I checked in for a flight by accidentally using each other's passports suggests otherwise.
We expect the increased security offered by the National Identity Scheme to:
"- make it far more difficult to commit identity theft and fraud." They assume.
"- act as a deterrent for the future." It will deter people from certain types of identity theft and move them towards other types. You will never stop the problem with ID Cards.
"- make it much easier to catch and prosecute those who attempt identity theft and fraud." How, exactly? ID Cards are going to be optional, apparently. So do you really think that people planning a life of crime - and most identity thieves are career criminals - are going to sign up to have their fingerprints and other information put on the database?
The simple truth appears to be that the people responsible for introducing ID Cards are resting a substantial amount of their hope on the fact that the scheme might prevent identity fraud. So the fact that their arguments on this front are so easy to shoot down is almost disturbing in itself.