Government starts building ID card database

The National Identity Register, which underpins the ID card scheme, has added more than 500 people since going live in October
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The database behind the national identity card scheme is up and running, with more than 500 people added in its first month in operation.

Sir Joseph Pilling, the identity commissioner appointed in October, said that the National Identity Register had 538 people on it as of 19 November. All of the people on the register are UK nationals, bar one, he told the home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

The database went live on 20 October, and it is being populated with the data of people who either have an ID card or have applied for one, according to a Home Office spokesperson.

"[Home secretary] Alan Johnson has got one, for example," the spokesperson said on Wednesday. "Some of my colleagues have made applications."

The identity scheme is first being rolled out to the general public in Greater Manchester. People who live or work in that area can apply to put themselves on the National Identity Register from 30 November.

The next phase of the rollout will be in the North West of England and will take place early in the new year, the Home Office told ZDNet UK. The likely venue for the launch will be Liverpool, the department's spokesperson added.

Privacy campaigner Guy Herbert, general secretary of No2ID, said that he was not convinced the general public will embrace ID cards when they become generally available.

"The Identity and Passport Service has persuaded certain Home Office employees to sign on the dotted line," said Herbert. "Whether the general public will be prepared to sign up is another question altogether."

A No2ID survey in October found that 60 percent of the population are against ID cards, while two-thirds oppose the National Identity Register. This contradicts the latest government figures, which found that almost 60 percent of the population support ID cards.

The National Identity Register consists of various government databases. One of the main pieces of the register is the National Biometric Identity Service (NBIS). The main contractor for NBIS is IBM, which subcontracts to Atos Origin and Sagem Sécurité.

Technology firm CSC has a contract to upgrade UK passport application systems.

The government said in October that the Department of Work and Pensions' Customer Information Service (CIS) would not initially be used to store data for the ID cards scheme, following CIS security issues.

The Conservatives have consistently said they will scrap the ID cards scheme should they win the general election in 2010. IT security experts, civil liberties campaigners and some politicians and policemen have expressed IT, security and privacy concerns about the scheme.

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