Fingerprint problems leave ID cards ‘vulnerable’

The government’s ID cards scheme risks being derailed by mistakes in fingerprint matching, the government’s own experts have warned

The £4.4 billion National Identity Scheme’s (NIS) preference for relying on fingerprint and facial recognition biometrics exposes the system to error, the Biometrics Assurance Group (BAG) claims.

BAG claims that “exception handling” – dealing with mismatched or unclear fingerprints – will end up occupying a large amount of NIS’ resources and as a result technology, delivery and costs will all be under strain.

In its annual report, BAG claims it urged the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) to adopt iris scans as a “fall back” for when there were problems matching fingerprints.

There are four million people aged 75 and over and the independent group suggests taking their fingerprints will be difficult.

BAG calls for more research to be taken into exception handling, guarantees on compliance with the data protection act and rules on data sharing.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Far from being the gold standard of identity as the government claimed, the experts are now clear that the ID card scheme will be riddled with errors and vulnerable to fraud.

“If ministers lose your bank account and benefit details, these can be changed. If they lose your fingerprints, the cost of cosmetic surgery is in a different league.

“The government has proved time and again that it cannot be trusted with sensitive data. Ministers will be totally incapable of maintaining the security of the enormous identity database. This unnecessary, intrusive and extravagant plan should be scrapped immediately.”