Home secretary criticised over biometric booth concept

News by Dan Raywood

The home secretary's proposal to ask companies to collect biometric data has been branded as irresponsible.

The home secretary's proposal to ask companies to collect biometric data has been branded as irresponsible.


Jacqui Smith has announced plans to setting up booths to gather biometric data for the proposed ID cards. She also revealed that the Home Office is talking to retailers and the Post Office about them housing the booths, as they believe it would be ‘more convenient' for people and cheaper than setting up its previously planned enrolment centres in large population centres.


Ms Smith discounted claims that handing enrolment over to private firms would compromise security, she said: “Provided that it is conducted in a secure and trusted environment, by service providers accredited and verified by the IPS and to high and rigorously enforced standards, enrolment should be able to happen at the convenience of the customer - on the high street, at the nearest post office, or at the local shopping centre.”


However TSSI has said that such a system that allowed private companies to gain ownership of public identity data could be vulnerable to abuse.


Stewart Hefferman, COO of TSSI Systems Ltd, said: “Handing over the keys to public identity data to organisations such as Royal Mail will open up a whole new can of worms. It seems preposterous to put public data into the hands of a third party when data loss is as commonplace as it is.


“It's clear now that the government has intended to link the ID card scheme into its other services. I've been concerned about such an extension of ID card use since they were very first announced.


“The big concern with ID verification is impersonation. Unfortunately, the Government's ID card scheme does not go far enough to address this problem – and by opening up a photo kiosk style fingerprinting service at a post office with data made accessible to various employees – will further exacerbate the problem.


“The two main weaknesses are firstly, an over-reliance on biometric security, and secondly, the preference for centralised data storage. Together these leave the ID card system vulnerable to cloning.”


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