UK Gov "Forgot" To Buy Readers For Its Biometric ID Cards

The controversial Biometric ID cards have already been issued since the beginning of November 2008 to foreign residents living in UK but it seems that no electronic readers have been deployed yet to access data stored on them.

According to UK tech website, Silicon, 50,000 cards will have been issued by April this year but the police and immigration control have yet to receive hardware capable of retrieving the data including fingerprints, photos and related pieces of information.

The details, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, show that the minister in charge of the £4.7 billion project, Meg Hillier, cannot give a clear timetable as to when the card readers will be available.

It is also understood that, not only police forces have to rely on traditional methods for checking the Identity of the ID Cardholders but they will also have to allocate part of their already strained budgets to invest in the machines.

It is therefore unsurprising that the Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling crucified the current government by saying "Once again ministers have shown that the ID card project is absolutely farcical. What is the point of spending billions of pounds on cards that can't be read in the UK?"

In related news, the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA - an agency of the European Union) said that it is worried that UK's ID Card Scheme is the only such project in Europe where it is unknown whether the the card has an electronic signature and had a number of troubling black spots; Heise-online says for example that the public is still not aware whether the UK Biometric Card will include features like PIN based access control, symmetric key based access control, certificate based access control and encrypted data transmission.

Ulf Bergstrom, Press and Communications Officer of ENISA sent us this note: "ENISA has in fact not expressed any opinion of being worried or commented on the UK choice of privacy features, [or of any government. It is however correct that the UK, at the time of the Paper’s production, did not provide input on such privacy features. The Position Paper gives an overview of the present situation in Europe however, the vast disparity between privacy features in eID cards across Europe and the need for a common strategy for eID cards, as to have them interoperable."

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In reply to a request by Techradar for more information, a spokesperson for the Home Office said that "this is all part of an "incremental rollout" of the ID scheme, which has already been detailed in the Identity Cards Act". (ed: Apparently giving out cards first instead of readers rather than the other way round makes more sense).

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