High-street plan for ID card enrolment

High-street outlets such as the Post Office are talks to scan fingerprints and photos for the cards, but security experts have concerns over the safety of these details
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

The Post Office, pharmacists and photography shops are in talks to scan photos and fingerprints for ID cards.

Under the plans, customers will be able to use the high-street outlets to scan their fingerprints and facial photographs that will be stored on microchips in the cards or biometric visas and the central National Identity Register database.

The Post Office and trade bodies the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Photo Marketing Association International (PMAI) supported the idea of providing enrolment booths in their members' stores, ahead of a meeting with home secretary Jacqui Smith to discuss the proposals.

Making high-street stores responsible for enrolling people's details will help limit the cost of the scheme, but security experts have raised concerns over how safe these details will be.

Figures released on Wednesday also revealed that the projected cost of producing ID cards and biometric passports for UK citizens over the next 10 years is £4.9bn, up £175m on previous forecasts.

The home secretary believes that the overall National Identity Scheme could stimulate £6bn of business over the next 30 years.

Smith said in a statement: "While private companies will clearly benefit from the increased footfall from offering this service, their customers will benefit from being able to quickly provide their biometrics while they are out doing the shopping. With an identity card, people will be able to prove their identity quickly and conveniently while helping to protect themselves against identity fraud."

Alan Cook, managing director of the Post Office, said in a statement: "The Post Office branch network with its nationwide reach and its reputation for trust and integrity is ideally placed to play a key role in the rollout of the National Identity Service."

But Phil Booth of anti-ID cards pressure group No2ID expressed disbelief that high-street businesses would voluntarily sign up to provide a costly new service during the credit crunch. "What business is going to want to make the capital and staffing investment in setting up enrolment booths at the height of a recession?" Booth asked, adding: "The other question that has to be asked of them is how secure is a booth in a camera shop really going to be."

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