Friday, January 26, 2007

Conservative Cllr Lisa Rutter and ID Cards

Cllr Lisa Rutter is a conservative councillor recently taken to task by Recess Monkey and Mark Clarke for an article on ID cards where she wrote something that could be considered racist. Unlike Recess Monkey I prefer giving people the benefit of the doubt in cases of where something written (or drawn, created photoshopped etc) could be interpreted as racist. Instead I'm going to criticise the key points of her arguments against ID cards.
RFID Chips have been cloned
This is true, but the implication that this is a problem shows a serious misunderstanding of the technical issues involved here. The ID card is intended to work in combination with a biometic (either a thumb print or an iris scan). You need to provide both to verify your identity, you may clone the chip and the card, but you will also need to clone the fingerprint.

It is possible to alter the chip, but assuming that like the chip in the new ePassport it is digitally signed, a change would invalidate the digital signature. In order to change and alter an RFID chip, a potential ID criminal would have to obtain the private key used to sign the chip.
They didn't stop the Madrid Bombings, Dame Stella Rimington (former MI5 Chief) is against them.
Holding up a specific attack as an example misunderstands how ID cards will be used to fight terrorism. The key to prevention is identifying potential terrorists before an attack begins, the national identity register with it's audit trail can provide vital data that could be used to this effect.

As for Dame Stella, i'll see her Dame Stella and raise her a Dame Eliza
Only £50m a year's worth of benefit fraud is Identity Related
The first problem with this argument lies in a misunderstanding of the statistic, this statistic refers to case where a person has posed as a different person in order to claim benefit. It is wrong to assume that ID cards will only help fight this kind of fraud, the more coherent approach to identity management will make it far harder for people to get away with providing false details of their cirumstances (the vast majority of benefit fraud).

The second problem with the argument is that benefit fraud is simply one area where costs due to identity theft are a problem. The Home Office's estimate of the cost of identity fraud estimates a total loss £1.73billion a year due to ID fraud across the public and private sectors, far larger than the single figure she quotes.

The additional problem with this argument is the assumption that this £50m figure will remain constant. Identity theft is a growing problem, and identity based benefit fraud is likely to become a bigger problem in future.

citizenandreas [at] slick47 [dot] co [dot] uk


Anonymous said...

Hi there. Just read the blog for the first time and have had a couple of thoughts to some of your arguements.

1) Why should I prove my ID? You say that ID cards are supported by iris recognition/finger prints etc and while chips can be cloned, body parts cannot. I have two thoughts on this matter. The first being Dolly the sheep. The second being science can do amazing things these days - anything can be transplanted and/or cloned from an iris to a face.

2) They didn't stop Madrid. No they did not. This IS a reasonable arguement. Surely any bombing that falls through the cracks of "security" and is allowed to occur is one bombing too many. A simplistic view I grant you, but one that is still valid.

3)The only way of stopping benefit fraud is by creating a system that doesn't allow defrauding in the first place. Either by being more severe with the culprits or by having a system that is not worth defrauding in the first place and therefore only aides the deserving. ID cards still wouldn't help with this problem - I refer you to the leaps in science/iris transplant scenario. After all if they are able to screw the system for millions, the small matter of an iris transplant is a mere drop in the ocean. Especially with the NHS in it's current state. I should know - I work for them.

However, love the debate. It's nice that even deluded "tree-huggers" like myself can express an opinion. I'll be interested to hear how you respond.

Citizen Andreas said...

Hi Anonymous,

I began writing a response to you, but alas it became a bit long winded. I'm working on it at the moment and will try to address your points in an upcoming post.