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IPS stands ground on ID cards

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The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is resisting some elements of the recommendations from MPs on the National Identity Card Programme

It has responded to a number of criticisms and recommendations made in the report from Parliament's Science and Technology Committee, published in August, with rebuffs in some instances and agreement in others. On the key points of transparency on advice and the use of the card it has claimed it is not possible to follow the MPs' recommendations closely.

The new report notes the committee's call for more transparency on the scientific advice provided to the programme team. It says a Concept Viability report was published in August as part of the procurement strategy, but claims full transparency is impossible until after the scheme's requirements are published.

Similarly, a call for more detail on how the card might be used is met by an assertion that, until the card is in widespread use, it will not be possible to say for which processes it will be used. It reiterates, however, that no medical data will go into the National Identity Register that will be developed alongside the card.

The IPS disputes the committee's claim that consultation with academics has not gone far enough, and says existing efforts in specialised groups negates the need for a cross-government consultation focused on the technology for identity cards. It also rebuffs the call for it to publish an overview of the scientific advice it has received from international schemes, claiming this would undermine its ability to take part in them in future.

There are, however, areas in which the IPS emphasises that it goes along with the views of the committee. One is the establishment of an ICT Assurance Committee of academics and industry experts to review the programme's specifications. The government and Home Office chief information officers are leading the effort to set up this group, although the report shies away from saying when it will be in place.

It also goes along with the recommendation that adequate testing is not sacrificed to "chasing unrealistic delivery dates", but claims it would not be realistic to test everything before the scheme goes live. It relates this to plans to roll out identity cards incrementally, stating it will evolve over time.

Overall, the IPS claims to have been on the right track all along. In response to the MPs' conclusion that, if changes are made, the scheme could become an example of good practice in handling scientific advice, it says "the government believes this is already the case".

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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