The biometric enrolement process which will underpin the UK ID card scheme went on trial in Scotland today. Home Office minister Des Browne launched the pilot at the Glasgow DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority) office.
Volunteers will have their iris scans, finger prints and facial biometrics recorded as part of the passport service trial, and will be issued with a demonstration smartcard containing all their details.
The trial will assess the practicalities involved in the enrolement process, how long will it take, how much will it cost, how many people won't be able to register and for what reasons, etc.
Nationwide, tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in the trials. To make sure the sample is representative, MORI will manage the recruitment process.
The findings of this trial will also inform plans to incorporate biometrics in passports, which will constitute the first phase of the scheme.
The government is still peddling the line than an ID card will solve the problem of identity crime, despite the evidence to the contrary. (See Whose identity is it anyway?).
"It costs the UK £1.3 billion a year, and facilitates organised crime, illegal immigration, benefit fraud, illegal working and terrorism", Browne said. Then he explained that the ID card would fix all this, but neglected to explain how.
"This is an ambitious, long-term project, and it is essential that we get the technology right. The trial site being launched in Glasgow today is a vital part of this, laying the foundations for a robust and effective national identity card scheme", Browne concluded.
Scotland itself is not necessarily fertile territory for the ID card scheme. Whereas UK Home Secretary David Blunkett wants to keep people out, Scotland's population is on the decline, and Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell wants to encourage them to come in. The compromise scheme hatched is for an internal visa. Pass checks at Berwick have not yet been mentioned, but Scotland's devolved executive does not currently intend to require ID for numerous devolved services, so it would probably be helpful to the Home Office for the Glasgow trial to be both successful and popular. ®
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