A word in your ear, Home Secretary, if I may


by David Moss

November 2008


"WIBBI* the government listened to people”, a thoughtful person may say.

Well, good news, thoughtful person, they do. It says so in this press release from the Home Office:

ID cards are on time, and on budget
6 November 2008

The Home Secretary today announced significant progress in the national identity scheme, which will protect your identity in the most secure and convenient way.


Today’s announcement also sets out how the government has listened to the public, and responded to the views raised in the consultation following publication of the government’s national identity scheme delivery plan in the spring.

We can’t just take their word for it, of course. We need to test this claim that they listen.

In order to do so, take a look at this part of the press release:

Talks begin with businesses
The Home Secretary also revealed that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is to begin talking with businesses and other public organisations about how customers can join the scheme and give their biometrics using locations that are convenient to customers, like the high street.


A prospectus is available on application, to any organisation interested in registering people’s biometrics:

Service providers’ facilities
Front office services will need to be accessible to all. The processes for biometric recording should be as straightforward as possible for both the operator and the customer, without compromising data security or integrity.

The most likely way services will be provided, we believe, is via fixed facilities in retail outlets that meet all relevant standards. The precise layout of the facilities would be at the service provider’s discretion, as long as these offer a customer sufficient privacy in which to complete their application securely. Fixed facilities will ideally be located in areas with good transport links and existing customer footfall, such as high streets or large shopping centres providing easy and convenient access for customers.


This is odd.

Back in 2004, at the end of our biometrics registration session, each participant in the UKPS biometrics enrolment trial was given a questionnaire to complete, please see Atos Origin report, p.298:

Q27. Which of these types of locations if any do you feel would be suitable for biometric passport enrolment in the way that you have just done?


Passport offices 
Post offices 
Town Halls 
Police stations 
Community centres 
Bank / building society 
Travel agents 
Other  Please write in ?


None of these 

The results are discussed at length from p.120 onwards. In summary:

As for the type of locations participants would favour enrolments to be conducted in, the more ‘institutional’ locations are the highest scorers, i.e. post offices, passport offices, banks, police stations and town halls. The least ‘liked’ locations are the ‘open spaced’ venues for example community centres and supermarkets. Compared with the White subgroup, the BME sub-group prefers post offices, with the former showing more preference for passport offices and police stations.

Numbers are available from p.143 onwards. Post offices and passport offices are the preferred locations of between 60 and 80% of participants. Supermarkets get between 20 and 40% of votes.

There were 10,000 participants in the UKPS biometrics enrolment trial. The Home Secretary already knows that people expect biometrics registration to take place at official locations, not retail outlets measuring footfall, we’re not customers.

She has known for four years.

And yet here she is now promoting the opposite.

She is not listening.

Support for the NIS is fragile enough – ID cards can only make our life harder. The Home Secretary seems to be trying to reduce it even further. Soon absolutely no-one will want this foreign invasion of our everyday lives. Truly, she is better at making the case against the NIS than us – thoughtful people listen to her, even if she doesn’t listen to them.



* WIBBI = wouldn't it be better if

David Moss has spent six years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.

2008 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd