Millions could be asked to provide ID card and fingerprint data to get a job under new systems being developed by the Home Office following a collapse in the accuracy of background checks.
News of the plans emerged in the response to a Register Freedom of Information Act request to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Today campaigners warned it could be used to help impose ID cards through the back door.
Previously, the CRB ran a small trial using passport data "aimed at accelerating and toughening-up background checks on people who want to work with children and vulnerable adults". It carried out research about public reaction to a possible ID card-based process, but has been silent on progress since.
Proposals to use ID cards are being quietly developed alongside official "research" into how to incorporate fingerprint data into employment background checks, which was alluded to in the Criminal Records Bureau's most recent business plan.
"This research is still in the early stages of feasibility and several options are being considered as part of this work, including options for the use of ID card data and fingerprints," a CRB spokeswoman said.
"We really are in the very early stages of looking at the possibility of introducing biometrics into the Disclosure service. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment or speculate on any detail as yet."
She declined to discuss the mechanisms for gathering fingerprint and ID card data, or how they would be used.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2009, identity errors at the CRB more than doubled compared to the previous year. More than half of the 1,570 mistakes were made in just one month.
The CRB declined to offer a specific reason for its disastrously inaccurate month, saying it was reliant on the quality of data provided to it by police and employers. It added that plans to use ID card and biometric data were part of its policy response, however.
Phil Booth, national coordinator of the campaign group NO2ID, said that he was "not surprised by this."
He added: "This is entirely consistent with the various forms of coercion strategy they've been working on to create artificial 'volunteers' for ID cards.
"Biometrics are part of them wanting clean, unique identifiers. It's patently ridiculous given they want people to give their fingerprints in high street shops."
The Home Office has previously said ID cards will help speed up the CRB process, which has been regularly criticised by employers as too slow.
Indeed, the CRB will soon be under more pressure to process checks. It expects a large increase in disclosure requests when the new Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) comes into force from October.
The VBS will mean everyone who has working or voluntary contact with children or "vulnerable people" - estimated at 11.3 million - must be centrally registered. ®