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UK ditches single ID database

Swaps Big Brother for fraternal triumvirate

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The UK government has ditched plans to put all our identities on one big database, saying that sticking with existing systems will help cut fraud and save money.

But this is not a U-turn. Home Secretary John Reid was very clear about that.

The system will now be built using existing data, with additional information being stored on existing databases.

As it is collected, biometric information will be stored on systems that are used to keep record of asylum seekers. Biographical information will be stored on the Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) Customer Information Service. This is where national insurance information is currently kept.

Also, the passport services' computer system will be used to track the issue and use of the identity cards.

Reid has already said that as of 2008 all new visitors to the UK will have to register their biometric information with the government. But now this will be extended to all non-EU foreign nationals in the UK. The scheme will start for those reapplying for visas.

"We want to count everybody in and count everybody out," said Reid.

He also conceded that the system will not prevent people having fake IDs, but argues that it will put a stop to multiple identities, the BBC reports."You can go around claiming the first time you are John Reid, but you can not then come round a second time claiming you are Liam Byrne", he said.

We are mystified as to why anyone would want to pass themselves off as either, but that may be beside the point.

At first glance, the U-turn, sorry, slight change of tack, might seem a blow to big IT firms smacking their lips at the prospect of building pricey systems to support the cards. However, the government's previous lack of clarity on its ID cards plans has already concerned some vendors. In addition, the government has tightened up its IT contracts, and any vendor involved in the ID card scheme could have come in for a very public slapping should things have gone pear-shaped. A smaller, more manageable scheme might be much more to the IT industry's liking. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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