Updated News emerged yesterday of a mysterious international ID card plan, described by the Tories as "a European-wide identity card project called Project Stork". The Conservatives suggested in Parliament that Stork was a huge Europe-wide extension to the planned UK National ID card with its associated databases and biometrics.
"How," asked the shadow Home Sec David Davis, did the government intend to "prevent a repetition of the disaster of the past few weeks when sensitive personal data are held not by one Government but by 27?"
The actual Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, seemed a trifle puzzled about what exactly Stork might be ("or Stalk," says the Indy. Ha ha!).
"If the right hon. Gentleman wants to give me more information about the particular allegation that he is making, I will of course be willing to follow it up... The advantage of a national identity register is that it enables the linking of biometric information, maintained on one database, with biographic data, maintained on another, thereby strengthening the protection for individuals..."
Biometrics as a panacea for database misuse has already been dealt with, so we thought we'd chase down Project Stork.
Contacted by the Reg, a Home Office spokesman said that Project Stork was a "research project" designed to explore the interlinking of national e-government services across - so far - 14 countries. It is apparently meant to achieve "mutual recognition" between setups such as the UK's Government Gateway portal, used for such purposes as submitting tax returns.
Stork, according to the Home Office, might let a UK citizen use his or her Government Gateway login in France, for such purposes as paying car tax on a French-registered car. The spokesman said that any future link to the UK national ID card scheme was "speculation at this point".
The UK official lead on Stork is Dr Mireille Levy, Head of Identity Management Standards at the Home Office Identity and Passport Service (IPS), the organisation currently taking forward ID cards for foreign UK residents and which will take charge of the National ID scheme.
Dr Levy attended the prestigious Ecole normale supérieure, an elite academic hothouse feeding the French civil service, and holds a PhD in mathematics from the Paris University Pierre et Marie Curie. She has lived in the UK for some time, however, working as a topflight government scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and as head of radio planning at the Home Office.
Dr Levy has also spent time as a "Homeland Security Executive" with the UK-headquartered arms colossus, BAE Systems plc, before taking up her current post at the Home Office IPS. She describes herself on the professional networking site LinkedIn as being employed in "Law Enforcement".
Sadly Dr Levy was unwilling to speak to the Reg directly, referring all enquiries back to the Home Office press department.
The European Commission release has recently issued some information on Stork:
European ministers, as well as some non-European countries (e.g. Iceland), set themselves the political objective to reach mutual recognition and interoperability of electronic identities by the year 2010 in the Manchester Declaration adopted in November 2005. This declaration, however, also adopts the subsidiarity principle, leaving full autonomy to Member States as to what kind of electronic identity they issue. The STORK project is expected to help bridge the gap between the different eID systems currently in use, leading to a de facto standard for interoperability in eIDs. The deadline for this is 2010, when the EU’s European eID Management Framework comes into force.
The UK’s Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is leading the pilot project, in close co-operation with the Government Gateway, the UK’s centralised registration service.
“It is about the eventual pan-European recognition of electronic IDs,” noted an IPS spokesperson. “Neither services nor entitlements will change; rather, the project is currently about looking at methods that already exist and figuring out how to make them recognise each other.”