Limber up
Press releases



Newcomers and returning visitors, please note that you are welcome to talk to the hermit using this new invention, email.

Newcomers are invited to limber up by reading What is an ID voucher scheme? before embarking on the main proposal.

Dematerialised ID


The voluntary alternative

to material ID cards


A Proposal by David Moss

of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)



Section 1


Dematerialised ID is a counter-proposal to the UK Home Office's ID cards scheme. The intention is to go beyond the usual, well-founded criticisms, and to make constructive suggestions.

Similar schemes are being developed at the moment by governments all over the world, not just in the UK. This proposal is aimed at them as well.

If dematerialised ID is allowed to evolve, it will save billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, in the UK and elsewhere. Money which will otherwise be wasted on flawed schemes like the UK Home Office's.


The main objectives of the Home Office's ID cards scheme are beyond criticism and are to:
  • Fight crime and terrorism.
  • Improve the delivery of government services.

The main objectives may be unassailable but the means chosen to achieve them are not. The scheme devised by the Home Office and its advisors is based on smart cards, biometrics and a new National Identity Register. The dematerialised ID counter-proposal starts with two objections:

  • Smart cards are the wrong technology to use. It is more effective, more acceptable from the point of view of civil liberties, and cheaper to use mobile phones instead.
  • The biometrics proposed for the Home Office scheme are unreliable. Since its unique selling point is the appeal to near-100% reliable biometrics, the scheme cannot deliver its promises.

Smart cards are pitifully under-powered compared with mobile phones. They are a throwback to the old days of rubber stamps and typewriters. Smart card technology is old-fashioned, pedestrian, limited and inflexible. It will stifle innovation.

It is extraordinary that governments should choose to base their ID voucher schemes on smart cards. It is some form of global illusion. At some point soon, we will all look back and wonder how we missed the obvious capabilities of mobile phones.

If the biometrics chosen by the Home Office do become reliable enough at some time in the future, then they should be stored on mobile phones, not on smart cards.

In the meantime, while they remain unreliable, there is no point creating a new national identity register based on them.

There is no point, anyway, creating a new national identity register – we already have dozens of them.

The same biometrics are being used not only for the ID cards scheme but also for the ePassports currently being introduced in the UK. In that sense, ID cards and ePassports are not two separate schemes but one. It follows that money spent on ePassports is wasted just as much as money spent on ID cards.

And the same biometrics are being used for the ePassports and ID cards currently being introduced in other countries. They have to be, to support international travel. It follows that these other countries are wasting their money just as much as the UK. To put the same point another way, just because these other countries are wasting their money is no reason for the UK to follow suit.

The expectations of biometrics have been raised to unsustainable heights. The technology is not ready yet. It cannot support the weight of these credulous expectations. The facts are all there in the public record and yet they are being ignored. Ignored by a government which, after the 2005 general election in the UK, promised to listen.

All the feasibility studies, all the lab tests, all the field trials, all the evidence tells the government that to deploy biometrics in their current state is for the Home Office knowingly to play a game of charades. An expensive game. Played with taxpayers' money, paid out of your hard-earned money and mine.

Opposition to the Home Office scheme is ranged along a spectrum, going from it-won't-work at one end, to it-will-work-only-too-well at the other. We critics cannot have it both ways. It cannot be the case that the ID cards scheme will not work and simultaneously that the scheme will work so well that it allows the government to impose 1984-style control over people.

A government that pays out £4bn in tax credits by mistake and trains 30,000 doctors for 22,000 jobs is not in control of itself, let alone anyone else.

For the avoidance of doubt, let it be clearly stated here that opposition to the Home Office scheme in this counter-proposal is located firmly at the it-won't-work end of the spectrum – the ID card and ePassport schemes will fail, they will not achieve their objectives and a lot of money will be wasted while people's hopes are being falsely raised.

The aspirations are high but the chances of the Home Office succeeding, with under-powered and defective technology, are low. And this from a government which, after the 2001 general election in the UK, promised to concentrate on delivery. They cannot deliver on the ID cards scheme. The scheme is holed below the waterline.

The aspirations are high but they could and should be higher:

  • Civil liberties The ID cards scheme cannot avoid the objection that it is a new assault on civil liberties. It is polluting the political atmosphere. It could bring about a lethal political climate change. Managing civil liberties acceptably is another aspiration, which should be added to the specification of any new ID voucher scheme.
  • Empowering the disabled The use of ID cards will require people to be able to manipulate them in card readers, it will require them to use keyboards, and to follow instructions on screens and to use cameras and/or fingerprint readers and/or iris scanners to verify their identity. This will be impossible for many disabled people, who will thus be disempowered. The very opposite, surely, of what should be the aspirations for the scheme.
  • Getting the scope right It is not just individuals who suffer from identity theft. So do organisations. It is not just individuals who are involved in money-laundering. So are banks and other organisations. Getting the scope right is essential and should be added to the aspirations for the scheme. Issuing ID cards to individuals alone can be at best only a partial solution to the problems of identity theft and money-laundering. Dematerialised ID proposes ways in which banks and other companies, charities, trades unions, and so on, could all be brought into the same infrastructure as individuals. The government's ID cards scheme doesn't.
  • Wellbeing, the national mood The ID cards scheme is supposed to reduce the incidence of crimes like identity theft, money-laundering, illegal working, illegal immigration and benefit fraud. There are other crimes. Car crime, burglary, mugging, drug-dealing, and so on, and these are the crimes which depress the national mood more generally, more than crimes like money-laundering. And yet ID cards, because they use the wrong technology, cannot even claim to be likely to reduce them. That is another aspiration which could be added to the list – to tackle crime more generally and to improve the national sense of wellbeing thereby.
  • Expansion of the economy eCommerce is flourishing already but it is probably being artificially stunted by problems to do with identity management. The real thing is likely to dwarf the present levels of eCommerce. ID cards will be of no assistance. Again, they are using the wrong technology. Identity management should be concentrated on the mobile phone. The consequent expansion of the economy through the unshackling of eCommerce, also, could be added to the list of aspirations for a new ID voucher scheme.

Dematerialised ID is one scheme among many which could contribute to the five aspirations immediately above, in addition to the two first listed, fighting crime/terrorism and improving the delivery of government services. Whereas the ID cards scheme seems to be purely punitive, dematerialised ID offers incentives.

What is all this about civil liberties, pollution and political climate change? It is not just a non-specific sense that something is wrong, that the relationship between people and the government is changing, in some unarticulated way, for the worse. It is relatively precise:

  • The government case for introducing ID cards makes some factual errors. Examples are given. These errors need to be corrected.
  • Their case ignores certain evidence. Again, examples are given. The omissions need to be corrected.
  • Some of their arguments are invalid. Examples are given, all taken from the public record.

What we want and need and deserve and pay for is a government which behaves rationally, which takes evidence into account, which argues logically and which obtains good value for our money. It is when those wants, needs and interests are, untypically, not forthcoming that the political environment is polluted. That is what is meant by the references above to civil liberties and climate change.

Dematerialised ID is offered for consideration as an evidence-based and logical alternative to the government's scheme, a return to the natural order, ecologically sound in terms of its politics.

Dematerialised ID does not rely on biometrics. Instead, it relies on established technologies, principally the global mobile phone network.

It will be 2012 at least before we are all using the national network of ID card readers and biometric identity-verification equipment required by the government scheme. Whereas, dematerialised ID is available now and we have already paid for it, voluntarily. We already have four national mobile phone networks up and running in the UK. Mobile phones are more powerful and more adaptable than smart cards. We do not need to hold our breath for six years while we wait for our national security to be improved.

The evolution of society into one where just about everyone voluntarily carries a mobile phone with them wherever they go is there for all to see. It is wanton to ignore it.

Like privatisation, dematerialised ID could take off worldwide. It would be pleasing to see dematerialised ID pioneered in the UK. If the government ignore it, they will miss this valuable opportunity and they will waste billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

midata 2
midata 1
Brodie Clark 2
Brodie Clark 1
Whitehall * *
Hacked off
Evidence * *
Appealing 3
Appealing 2
Faith *
Fraternal review
Appealing 1
Torpedo *
Psychobabble *
Compromise® *
Delusion® *
Clean water *
ID in care *
Ely, St Neots
Intelligence *
Scholarship *
Elor (4,8) *
Misery *
SOPCom *
Charity *
Carols 2 *
Carols 1 *
Lifebuoy *
Woolies *
Segments *
Listening *
Hallmark *
dIPSticks *
Cost *
Data sharing
Noitatlusnoc *
Mobile ID
Respect * *
Reid 2
Reid 1
Emperor *
* also available at
Off topic:
Public interest 2
Public interest 1
Nick Robinson
Less for more
Polarisation *
Swiss guards *
Good news *
Competition *
Miliband 3
Covenant *
Heseltine *
Watergate *
Influence 2 *
Influence 1
NewWorld 2
NewWorld 1
Miliband 2
Miliband 1
* also available at

Unsolicited testimonials:
  1. Spy Blog
  2. RogiLife.Com
  3. Gronmark
  4. Thought Alive
  5. ... er ...
  6. That's it.

Table of contents
2002-2011 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd
Mobile phones are today's ID cards

Limber up
Press releases