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IPS turns to asylum for help with ID scheme database

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Plans to use the Department of Work & Pensions' giant Customer Information Systems database for the UK's identity scheme have been officially abandoned, in favour of an enhancement of the UK Border Agency's biometric database for asylum seekers. First they came for the foreigners, as they say...

According to the Identity & Passport Service the switch - which has been expected for some weeks now - will provide better value for money, reduce complexity for security requirements, and reduce the impact on the CIS. The plan to use the CIS was in itself a cost-cutting measure, announced about six Home Secretaries ago. CIS is intended to store personal details for everyone with a national insurance number, up to 85 million records in total, and has links to local authorities and other government departments, notably HMRC.

It will also still have links to the National Identity Register. According to IPS, it will remain a core part of the verification process for the NIR's "biographic store". This will be built by IBM on top of the database that will replace the UKBA's Identity and Asylum Fingerprint System. In a £265m contract awarded last year, IBM was contracted to produce the database storing the fingerprints and facial biometrics of ID card and passport applicants, and to build the IAFS replacement.

Meanwhile, pre-election ID creep proceeds apace. A Statutory Instrument (which allows ministers to change the law with negligible parliamentary oversight) to the 2003 Licensing Act proposes a "licensee's policy" which "must require individuals who appear to the responsible person to be under 18 years of age... to produce on request, before being served alcohol, identification bearing their photograph, date of birth and a holographic mark" (our emphasis).

This effectively forces pub landlords to demand passport, ID card or driving licence as proof of age. It could be seen as tying in nicely with the Home Office's cunning plans to make young people love ID cards (if it's not your life history, why's it called a biographic store?), but as Toby Stevens observes, it's probably more likely to cause a boom in fake ID card sales.

Another possible candidate for ID creep is Alastair Darling's plan, due for announcement tomorrow, to force banks to provide a basic bank account on demand for every citizen. Darling clearly reads The Register, and noted our observation last week that banks find poor people uncompelling as customers. Sorry about that, people.

Under the plans, banks would have to open an account for anybody who can prove who they are and where they live. So all it needs now is a law to force everybody to have a bank account, and the circle is complete. ®

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