Ruddock on Monday said that the government is going to review the feasibility of a national ID card and dismissed any concerns about privacy as "misplaced".
"[ID Cards] are important in terms of broader national security questions: we have to know who it is you are dealing with, who comes and who goes... The fear that a lot of people have about national identifiers is really quite misplaced... It is a fear based upon concerns about possible intrusions into privacy and I am saying that privacy issues are dealt with not by whether or not you have one identifier," said Ruddock.
However, his comments have been slammed by security experts, many of whom believe that a national ID card will not make Australia any safer and could have the opposite effect.
James Turner, security analyst at Frost & Sullivan Australia, likens ID cards to signature-based security applications. He said: "ID cards cannot protect us from terrorism because an ID card cannot indicate intention. It's like signature based anti-virus, the AV signature can only point out the currently known viruses; and an ID card can only identify currently known baddies."
Jo Stewart-Rattray, director of information security at Vectra Corporation agrees: "As far as its goal being to protect us from terrorist attacks, I don't think so. The bad guys will always find a way to propagate their own version of these cards. It is not protecting us against terrorist attacks by any means."
Stewart-Rattray's comments echoed those of ex-MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington, who late last year said ID cards were "useless" at fighting terrorism.
"If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless. ID cards may be helpful in all kinds of things but I don't think they are necessarily going to make us any safer," said Rimington.
Security guru Bruce Schneier has for years argued that ID cards will not help improve security and could actually have the opposite effect. On his Web site, Schneier points out that a national ID card will require an "immense database" with "enormous" security risks.
"The security risks are enormous. Such a database would be a kludge of existing databases; databases that are incompatible, full of erroneous data, and unreliable. As computer scientists, we do not know how to keep a database of this magnitude secure, whether from outside hackers or the thousands of insiders authorised to access it," wrote Schneier.
Roger Clarke, who has been a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation for almost 20 years, asked whether the "billions it would cost would be worth it", especially considering the "enormous intrusions into the affairs of the majority of law-abiding citizens".
"The primary issue is whether Ruddock can find any justification for such a scheme. To date, the assertions have been without foundation, and a huge amount of evidence exists that counters those assertions," Clarke told ZDNet Australia.
In the UK on Monday, a government proposal for introducing ID cards was dealt a blow when the House of Lords voted against the government to force ministers into revealing the financial details of their proposed national ID card scheme before it could be passed as law.
However, Ruddock was adamant that an inquiry into the feasibility of an Australian ID card would be carried out: "I've been asked to do it and with my Department we've been collating information that we believe is useful for undertaking a form of inquiry. I'll be announcing some terms of reference and a review and I'll be doing that fairly shortly."