Christmas U-turn on ID card database

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Data shared between existing systems cuts costs but reduces security.

Home Secretary John Reid has announced that the government is no longer planning to build a new database for the national ID card scheme, but will rely on data sharing with existing systems.

The news was announced hours before Parliament rose for the Christmas break and was buried in the official report. It now seems that every government system could be accessed in a major data sharing program. 

"The report exposes this scheme as a massive data sharing program, which is very different from what the public were sold by David Blunkett," said Phil Booth, national coordinator of the NO2ID campaign group, which seeks to stop the scheme.

"Now they are talking about sucking in data from loads of databases, which opens up huge security problems and could make the private information stored accessible by far more people."

Booth explained that Home Office systems will store the cards' biometric information, the Department for Work and Pensions will hold biographical details, and the Identity and Passport Service will hold administrative details.

However, all other government systems could be accessible, meaning worse security and making it much harder to control who can access the information.

Reid denied that the decision was a U-turn, maintaining that it was sensible policy that would save money.

"Doing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn," said Reid. "We have decided that it is lower risk, more efficient and faster to take the infrastructure that already exists, although the data will be drawn from other sources."

So far the scheme is expected to cost over £5bn ($12.5B) but the government expects to recoup some of this money by charging people to have the card.

The scheme will require every person in the country to travel to a biometrics centre to have their personal data stored or face a £2,500 ($6,250) fine and possible jail term.
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