Home Office



China (re Golden Shield)

Pakistan (re NADRA)

FBI (re NGI)

UIDAI (re Aadhaar)




The impulse purchase of biometrics systems

19 May 2011

Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, was quoted yesterday as saying that face recognition technology has become almost too accurate. Reminiscent of Rt Hon David Blunkett MP's unsolicited testimonial back in 2003. Biometrics, he said, “will make identity theft and multiple identity impossible. Not nearly impossible. Impossible”.

Where does Mr Schmidt, the David Blunkett of Google, and everyone else get these ideas from?

Mostly from Hollywood films, like Minority Report. That, and the representations made by biometrics equipment salesmen.

The more respectable evidence comes from the standards institutions who conduct proper trials and then advise governments. They have, in the past, helped to make the case that biometrics would counter terrorism, fight crime and make public services more efficient.

But a year ago, academics from three of these institutions published a paper concluding that the level of uncertainty in the field of biometrics is so great that trials prove nothing. Biometrics trials do not provide an acceptable basis for governments to spend their taxpayers’ money on biometrics.

And since then, the plans devised for trusted identities in the US and, separately, in the UK have eschewed biometrics entirely, they do not get a mention.

It’s all very boring, isn’t it. Except that these impulse purchases by governments cost money. Taxpayers’ money. UK taxpayers are currently paying £650 million for biometrics systems being developed by the Home Office and we’re all paying three times over the odds for passports. India is paying a fortune for biometrics systems being deployed by the Unique Identification Authority of India. China is trying to build a Golden Shield against political unrest and Pakistan has already paid to register 96 million of its citizens’ biometrics. Why? According to these three academics, for no reason at all.

So maybe it’s not so boring. Take a look:


About Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL):
BCSL has operated as an IT consultancy since 1984. The past 8 years have been spent campaigning against the Home Office's plans to introduce government ID cards into the UK. It must now be admitted that the Labour government 1997-2010 were much better at convincing people that these plans are a bad idea than anyone else, including BCSL.

Press contacts: David Moss,