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The Home Office said yesterday that businesses and public sector agency access to the national identity card database will be allowed on a graded basis, according to need. The idea is that so-called trivial checks on people's biometrics should not be allowed to overload the system.

According to The FT, Katherine Courtney, the ID card programme director at the Home Office, said that the government wanted to build safeguards into the scheme to avoid "people attempting frivolously to use the system when there is not a business justification for that".

Situations when a check would be justified included car rentals, for instance. A car hire firm would be able to access the database to confirm a potential customer's identity. At the time of writing, the Home Office has not been able to clarify exactly what information the firm would have access to in this scenario.

Employers would be able to use the database to check on candidates, and the database could be used to run much faster background checks on those applying to work as teachers, the officials said.

Courtney said it was unlikely that the ID card would be demanded for everyday shopping transactions, but went on to outline plans for the ID card to be linked into the next generation of chip and pin credit and debit card readers.

She argued that integrating the cards into business and public life would provide incentives for people to register for the card, even before they become compulsory. In effect, life without a card will become increasingly inconvienient, so most people will register for one, just to speed things up. ®

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