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How can ID cards be made safe against fraudulent use

01:00 Tue 25th Sep 2001 |

asks Allan:
A.
The Government is seriously thinking about compulsory identity cards as part of a new anti-terrorism package.

Q. Would this the first time they'd be used in this country
A.
No, they were first used in WW1 but stopped in 1919, when the war ended. They reappeared in 1939 at the outbreak of WW2 and weren't abolished until 1952. The Conservative government thought about bringing them back in 1995, but dropped the idea.

Q. Why
A. Partly because the committee that looked at the possibility of using ID cards said that there was no firm evidence that ID cards reduced crime in the countries that have them.

Q. What are the benefits of ID cards
A.
According to the police, they would help to track down suspects, or identify victims.

Q. Would they prevent benefit fraud
A.
Not really. The DSS says that only five per cent of benefit fraud is related to identity - the biggest cause is people lying about their circumstances, and an ID card won't change that.

Q. What about banks and shops
A.
An ID card would be useful here, but they'd need the machines which could check that the cards hadn't been forged.

Q. Which brings me to my original question...
A.
Technology has moved on beyond the basic photo-cards which are easy to forge. The identity cards of the future are more complex and use biometrics.

Q. Bio-what
A.
A biometric is a measurable human characteristic which is unique in each individual. It could be a fingerprint, for example, or an iris scan. Such cards would need special machines to read them, of course, but they are being developed as you read this.

Q. What sort of information would these more complex cards contain
A.
It's fairly certain that any form of ID card would contain smartcard micro-chip technology, so any amount of personal information could be held there - from your credit rating to your criminal record.

Q. If the majority of the public are for them, what's the problem

A. Civil liberties groups point out that� ID cards contravene your right to remain�anonymous if you want to. They also give the state powers it usually only has in wartime. An updated ID card scheme would also be extremely expensive to run.

Q. What are the other measures the Government is considering
A.
They include the right to monitor email, bugged telephone conversations allowed as evidence in courts, banks forced to reveal confidential details of accounts of suspected terrorist supporters, and the loss of some of the appeal rights of people refused entry to the UK.

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By Sheena Miller

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