From: David Moss
Sent: 04 March 2010 22:46
Subject: RE: FOICR 13728/09 - PIT Response

Attn H Reid
Parliamentary & Correspondence Management Team
Dear Sir or Madam
Thank you for your letter dated 3 March 2010, received by email today.
This matter is dragging on.
I take the point that the public interest may sometimes be better served by withholding information than by disclosing it. The balance in this case must surely be in favour of disclosure.
The public are paying several hundred milion pounds to IBM to do a job on our behalf. The public surely has the right to know that that money is being well spent.
There is considerable interest in knowing that immigration controls, which you mention, are being operated effectively. That points to disclosure. The public is paying for law enforcement. IBM (and Sagem Sécurité) are the public's agents in this case. You don't expect your agent to plead confidentiality and refuse to tell you how and why they are spending your money, do you? The public has a commercial interest. It's our money. Our commercial interest deserves respect at least as much as IBM's and Sagem Sécurité's.
If Sagem Sécurité's products work, there can be no conceivable reason why they would want to keep that a secret, it doesn't make commercial sense for them.
If IBM conduct of their trials is academically convincing, why would they not want to publicise that fact?
The Home Office have a public relations project here, they need to "sell" confidence to the public. They're not going to achieve that by being coy.
While the public knows nothing about these biometrics trials of IBM's, do you realise that they were discussed at a conference this week hosted by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology? Scores of people at that conference will know something about these trials while, bizarrely, the people who paid for them, and whose security is supposed to depend on the results, to some extent, will know nothing about them.
There is a large corpus of academic data available suggesting that the reliability of biometrics based on facial geometry and flat print fingerprinting is surprisingly low. That arouses legitimate doubts whether this represents a sound investment of our money. Those doubts need to be allayed. The Home Office may believe that they are acting with a responsible purity of purpose by withholding information. But actually there is a danger that this failure to disclose is indistinguishable to us outsiders – the public, the people paying for IBM and Sagem Sécurité, the people paying for officials to attend agreeable conferences abroad – from a furtive and constipated campaign to hide a guilty secret.
The public needs a reason to believe that these biometrics will assist law enforcement. It can't be taken on trust, it's not a matter of faith, we need a reason. Every 16 year-old who has passed GCSE Science knows that. The Home Office should, too.
I hope that you will include these matters in your considerations.
Yours faithfully
David Moss

From: IPSFOIs []
Sent: 04 March 2010 14:48
To: 'David Moss'
Subject: Ref: FOICR 13728/09 - PIT Response

Dear Mr Moss,

Thank you for your email of 6 January. Please find a document attached.

<<13728 D Moss 2nd PIT extn letter.doc>>
Yours faithfully

Freedom of Information Team  


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