Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ditching a single ID Card database

Reported here and here. I'm thinking I probably should have covered this story a good deal earlier, although the delay has allowed me to gather my thoughts a little on the subject.

Essentially, all these stories were based on the release of the Home Office's ID cards action plan. On the same day, NO2ID put out a different press release also relating to this document. Having read through it, I now think I'm a little clearer on things.

Key points of the scheme are:
  • Data for the national identity scheme held across three government departments, the Deparment of Work and Pensions (DWP), the Home Office and the Immigration and passport service.
  • The ID scheme will still implement a single biographical record that will be associated with a set biometrics and essentially form a persons unique identity ticket.
  • Existing data held by the DWP and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) will be used to validate a person's details when they first apply for an ID card.
Whether this should be considered a U-Turn is debatable, personally it seems a sensible clarification of the practical details. Rather than have a separately built system and then integrating it with other government departments, ensuring that the departments likely to make the most use of system are involved in the implementation from the beginning seems like a sensible move.

One of the main criticsms of the ideas laid out in the action plan is that the data in the existing databases is likely to be incorrect, and this might cause difficulty compared to constructing a new clean database from scratch. I belive this criticism misunderstands the way the process will work. Most of the bad data comes in the form of duplicate or false details (records for people who don't exist) rather than incorrect or missing details. As applications for ID cards are processed they will essentially be bound to existing records, duplicate and false records will become orphaned. Due to the checks involved in registration for ID cards, this would mean that implementing the NIR would assist in cleaning up the existing data belonging to the other departments.

From my point of view, the action plan indicates the government are moving forward on the scheme and have got some clear ideas of how the implementation will work.

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

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