Email to the UK Statistics Authority


From: David Moss
Sent: 10 February 2009 21:33
To: [UK Statistics Authority]
Subject: Misleading use by the Home Office and others of statistics associated with biometrics

The Home Office's National Identity Scheme (NIS) depends to a large extent on the reliability of two biometrics, facial geometry and flat print fingerprinting. The Cabinet Office's Transformational Government initiative relies to some extent on the same two biometrics. The Home Office/FCO eBorders scheme relies to a large extent on these two biometrics and irisprints in addition.

The experts are keen to emphasise that the ascription of an identity to someone using any of these biometrics is probabilistic.

Politicians and civil servants, on the other hand, repeatedly treat it as a deterministic matter. The biometrics in the NIS and the other two schemes are said to lock people to a single lifetime identity. It will be impossible, so they say, for people to have multiple identities.

That is a mistake, surely. The politicians and civil servants are wrong. No such degree of certainty is available. They are ignoring what their own experts have told them.

When they were tested in the UKPS biometrics enrolment trial, they were shown to be highly unreliable. Verification of identity by facial geometry suffered a 31% false non-match rate. That figure was 19% in the case of flat print fingerprinting. And 10% of participants in the trial couldn't even register their irisprints in the first place. Those are the figures for the able-bodied participants. In the case of the disabled participants, the figures are 52%, 20% and 39%, respectively.

With failure rates like that, the NIS will sink and eBorders and Transformational Government will be seriously holed below the waterline. A lot of money is being wasted. A lot of people will be disappointed.

And yet the politicians and civil servants continue to speak of the chosen biometrics as though they are unquestionably reliable.

Is this a matter which concerns the UK Statistics Authority? If so, may I respectfully ask you to act. It would be helpful if someone who will be listened told the politicians and the civil servants that they seem to be the victims of a latter-day tulipmania.

Yours sincerely
David Moss

Some references:

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

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on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd