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Personal details of passport applicants are being checked against third party databases in a scheme that could provide the basis for ID Cards.

A scheme for verifying the personal details of passport applicants, which is intended to provide the basis for an ID Cards checking system, has gone live.

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) has confirmed that the Personal Identity Project (PIP) has begun to check information provided by first time applicants against data held by credit reference agency Equifax. PIP is now live and is being rolled out to UKPS regional offices in stages.

As the project develops, the aim is to check applicants' information against other databases across the public and private sectors.

Earlier trials of the scheme involving the Glasgow passport office, which began three years ago, involved checks against Equifax databases as well as systems held by a range of public sector bodies including: the Office for National Statistics, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

Alongside the PIP, the UKPS is to open 69 new offices around the country from October 2006 in order to carry out an "authentication by interview" process. This is a further measure intended to reduce fraud by checking the details of first time applicants. The aim is to have PIP installed in all passport offices before the interview scheme begins. The Home Office is also considering the use of secure webcams for people unable to attend interviews in person.

A Home Office spokesperson told Government Computing News that there are links between PIP and the ID cards proposals.

"There's a clause in the identity cards bill which will enable checks to be made against public sector databases," the spokesperson said. "We can't actually do this at the moment. In the earlier trials people had to allow us to carry out the checks on a voluntary basis, but to be effective it would really have to be compulsory."

The ID Card Bill returned to the Commons on 13 March where the government is urging MPs to vote against a House of Lords amendment that all passport applicants should not have their details automatically recorded on the national identity register.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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