Not Saussure

January 2, 2007

ID cards and biometrics: an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes

Filed under: civil liberties, hubris, ID cards, nemesis — notsaussure @ 9:18 pm

Back in November, the Dear Leader explained to readers of The Daily Telegraph in an attempt to convince us that ‘We need ID cards to secure our borders and ease modern life’ (stop sniggering) that

Visitors to the United States now digitally record their fingerprint, and new UK passports from last month must carry a facial biometric. We also know how effective it can be. In trials using this new technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying to get back into the UK illegally.

A national identity system will have direct benefits in making our borders more secure and countering illegal immigration. Biometric visas and residence cards are central to our plans and will be introduced ahead of ID cards. I also want to see ID cards made compulsory for all non-EU foreign nationals looking for work and when they get a National Insurance number. This will enable us, for the first time, to check accurately those coming into our country, their eligibility to work, for free hospital treatment or to claim benefits.

At the time I suggested he was being a tad disingenous about the costs and benefits of the system and noted that the US-VISIT system, which so impresses him, seems to apprehend some 500 baddies a year at a cost of $15 million each.

I now see, courtesy of Bruce Schneier, that

In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.


But in recent days, officials at the Homeland Security Department have conceded that they lack the financing and technology to meet their deadline to have exit-monitoring systems at the 50 busiest land border crossings by next December. A vast majority of foreign visitors enter and exit by land from Mexico and Canada, and the policy shift means that officials will remain unable to track the departures.

A report released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, restated those findings, reporting that the administration believes that it will take 5 to 10 years to develop technology that might allow for a cost-effective departure system.

Domestic security officials, who have allocated $1.7 billion since the 2003 fiscal year to track arrivals and departures, argue that creating the program with the existing technology would be prohibitively expensive.

I look forward to another Telegraph article by St Tone shortly, explaining either that we’re in the happy position of being able to sell the Americans the technology to make this work when they can’t do it themselves or that we’ve learned from their costly mistakes and are ditching the project.

I fear that I’m in for a disappointment, but ten years of this lot have taught us to bear such things with stoicism, have they not?

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  1. Just your one little comment sums it up: “Stop sniggering.” I couldn’t and I suspect most of Britain can’t. Therefore they won’t get it through. Hope.

    Comment by james higham — January 2, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

  2. It’s chilling on the one hand to contemplate the future in terms of being monitored but their inability to organize their way out of a paper bag is surely a good sign.

    Comment by james higham — January 3, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

  3. I suppose eventually they’ll face reality and realise that the whole ID card project is a monstrously expensive white elephant and would be even were this government competent. It’s just worrying to contemplate the amount they’ll spend before this happens and the size of the melt-down it’ll take to make them admit defeat (e.g. all passport control terminals in the UK crash simultaneously on August Bank Holiday, or no pensions get paid for a month or something).

    Comment by notsaussure — January 3, 2007 @ 8:16 pm

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