Teachers and 16 year olds are the favoured 'soft targets' for the redesigned ID card scheme rollout, according to an Identity & Passport Service planning document seen by The Register. As suggested in leaks last weekend, IPS now plans to soft-pedal fingerprints and - astoundingly - it seems on the point of abandoning the notion of forcing ID cards onto the public via passport renewals.
The document, National Identity Scheme Options Analysis - Outcome, appears to be a summary report of strategic planning sessions which took place at the end of last year, and has more than a smack of desperation about it. Although e-borders and immigration, 'counting them all in and counting them all out' has been the main focus of the government's identity sales pitch over the past year, and identity cards are a key component of the full e-borders picture, actually doing it turns out to be too hard, too expensive, and the benefits "narrow in nature". Yes, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne has precious little else to talk about, but no, that's not how they're planning to do it.
Says the document: "The Citizenship (Borders) model requires a high proportion of take-up and a higher integrity Scheme, and requires the capability to read passports and cards at borders - suggesting you don't start here."
Which is odd, considering they've already started there, but no matter. The abandonment of universal fingerprinting goes along with the de-emphasising of e-borders. "On the assumption that at some point in the future we will need to include fingerprints in the passport, we should eventually work towards a Scheme including a high proportion of fingerprint enrolment, driven by designation of the passport once an affordable and convenient solution for enrolment has been developed." (Our emphasis)
It's worth noting that these days we're merely assuming that we'll be doing fingerprints in passports one day, but that it's somewhere off in the middle distance. We were solidly committed to doing fingerprints in passports, but now we're not. The EU Schengen countries remain solidly committed, deadline 2009, but we're not a Schengen country so we can take our time, or not do it at all, and they can't touch us for it. Also note that fingerprint enrolment systems are currently too expensive - has somebody told Liam?
The document's favoured initial target markets are "Trusted Relationships and Inclusion." These can be "focused on [i.e. victimise] specific groups - suggesting that you could start here". Nailing trusted relationship groups will essentially mean targeting people who, because their work places them in positions of trust, are required to undergo CRB checks. So teachers, carers, anybody working with children and/or vulnerable groups will be forced to get an ID card, commencing in the second half of 2009. The "level of assurance", i.e. whether or not they will be fingerprinted, will "be driven by the services that individuals will access. Individuals within these groups may enrol at a lower level of assurance, but then be asked to provide fingerprints later, if they need access to products or services that require a higher level of assurance."
The document does not explain why its authors appear to believe that fingerprinting someone, ipso facto, results in a higher level of security.
A 'lower' level of security is deemed necessary for cards issued in the name of Inclusion. "We should leverage existing databases such as the DWP's Customer Information System to stimulate applications through marketing to target groups. For example, rising 16 year olds could be sent pre-populated forms for the 'inclusion' card, based on existing cross-referenced databases, which would only need to be signed and returned. We also agreed the to consider further the option of sending cards to selected individuals whose identity was already verified, requiring only an 'activation' process to complete formal enrolment."
So there you have it - the mighty, super-secure, identity gold standard that the government has been imagining for all these years has been reduced to a 'sign here and it's yours' offer. 'You have been selected...' Clearly they've managed to learn at least something from the credit card industry. But note, should this demented scheme stagger on to the point of attempting to corrupt 16 year olds, the plan is not going to work if they charge - the 'inclusion' card offer is going to have to be free.
Alongside this, we have the coercion plans we reported yesterday, where selected groups of victims are forced to get cards in order to apply for driving licences, and similar. Also worth noting alongside the 'we can't afford e-borders and it's too hard' revelation is the dismissal of transformational government as a rollout enabler. This would be dependent on "provision of a compelling series of public and private sector services to target groups, enabling individuals to prove their identity 'quickly easily and safely'. So obviously that's too hard as well.
All in all, dead scheme walking. Coincidentally, No2ID is holding a pledge demonstration tonight at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4R, where supporters will be able to publicly pledge non-participation in the ID scheme. Events kick off at 7.30pm - under the circumstances it could well be a particularly jolly event. ®