More UK ID card chaos

This topic just won’t go away. It seems that a committee in the House of Commons itself has serious doubts over whether the National ID card scheme can actually be implemented using current technologies.

The most disturbing thing about this whole business is the monolithic single-mindedness of the administration in wanting this thing pushed through. Maybe they’ve noticed how easily the US administration has been able to consolidate its hold on some very dubious powers by waving the ‘against terrorism’ banner. When it comes to politics, I’m a great believer of analysing these sorts of story by asking ‘who will benefit most if this comes to pass?’ The government claims that it will be the people who benefit. But any analysis of the situation from an objective viewpoint plainly shows that it is in fact the government themselves who are set to benefit most from the implementation of what can only be described as an exceptionally draconian attempt at installing the framework for a totalitarian regime.

We have discussed the technological invalidity of the system here at VCTB before, but a more complete discussion of the political flim-flam and sketchy justifications can be found at the website of the NO2ID organisation. Furthermore, there is some debate as to how easily the government will be able to actually get all the biometric data they want, how much failure will occur in the system (Child Support Agency ring any bells? or the Air Traffic Control fiasco?), and the exceptional cost and workload that such a data-gathering initiative will consume; some great figures-work here at Blairwatch gives an idea of just how problematic this scheme could become:

So adding it all up, from NIR Day 1 for ten years you’ve got to keep processing people at the rate of 50 per hour at every centre, or one every 72 seconds, each of whom requires a scan of the whole central NIR to avoid multiple registrations, so the database has to be up and accessible every minute of the day to avoid delay. In the early days it’s a nailed on certainty that we’ll get failures, resulting in potentially hundreds of people making pointless journeys (say it’s down for an hour during a particular day – that’s 50 people at each centre having their time wasted, a total of 3500 people). I have no idea of the MTBF for major government IT projects, and they almost certainly won’t tell me on the usual ‘commercial confidentiality’ grounds. What I can do is provide some figures based on possible percentage reliability and estimate the number of people inconvenienced per year and the kind of reliability that would be required *from day one* to stop the scheme sliding into chaos.

Government IT projects rarely run smoothly, I think it’s fair to say. So it seems that not only is this scheme dodgy as hell from the perspective of liberty, but it also looks to be a mammoth time- and resource-consuming scheme which is unlikely to run as effectively as its proponents would like.

I’ve already emailed my MP, and got a nice letter (on House of Commons stationary, no less) saying that he has been fighting it all along, and will continue to do so – luckily my MP is a Liberal Democrat. But it’s a good thing to let the buggers know how you feel – our political system may be inefficient, but it’s the only one we have. So we use it, or lose our basic right to freedom. Make some noise, before they line us all up against the wall.

Some links purloined from BoingBoing; others found by trawling.

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