Police chief criticises ID card scheme

A massive security threat is how acting chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Colin Langham-Fitt has described the proposed National Identity Register.

Speaking at the Government IT Summit that took place earlier this month, Langham-Fitt told the online news organisation ZDNet UK that: “In creating a national database you are creating a gold standard for ID [authentication]. It will be worth whatever it costs to hack it, to mirror it and subvert it.”

Jun 1, 2007
By David Howell
A puncture mark on the hand of a suspected spiking victim.

A massive security threat is how acting chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Colin Langham-Fitt (pictured) has described the proposed National Identity Register.

Speaking at the Government IT Summit that took place earlier this month, Langham-Fitt told the online news organisation ZDNet UK that: “In creating a national database you are creating a gold standard for ID [authentication]. It will be worth whatever it costs to hack it, to mirror it and subvert it.”

Instead of aiding the police in their duties to apprehend criminals, Langham-Fitt expressed his concern that the card scheme would not deliver on its promises. “We are at risk from insider threats and card cloning. The idea the card can be used to fight terrorism is completely fatuous. This scheme is convenient for Government, but not for citizens.”

However, Langham-Fitt’s comments have not gone unchallenged. Phillip Webb, former chief executive officer of the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), that became the NPIA (National Policing Improvement Agency) earlier this year, said that linking police and identity databases could help to solve unsolved crimes. “The ID database as a super-tool is of huge value to us. Today we have 1.2 million [fingerprint] marks from crimes that we don’t know who they belong to.”

The creation of the identity database has also come under increased criticism as the database would possibly be linked to other police databases to give officers access to more detailed information. Mr Webb did, however, acknowledge the associated concerns regarding civil liberties.

Annette Vernon, the chief information officer of the Identity and Passport Service, said that holding data centrally would be safer. “We’re already in a society where a lot of information is held in a myriad of places. Data held centrally will be more secure.”

The ID scheme itself looks likely to go ahead regardless of costs, which currently stands at £5.7 billion pounds over a ten-year period. How the ID card database interfaces with other information sources that the police have access to has yet to be made clear.

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