ID cards 'taking focus away from e-crime'

Infosecurity 2006: The government is spending millions on a programme designed to control the population, instead of tackling the real problems, according to Lord Erroll

The government is ploughing too many resources into the ID cards scheme while failing to fight e-crime, a member of the House of Lords has claimed.

Lord Erroll today said plans to roll out ID cards in the UK have been promoted by the government as a way of fighting crime, but he questioned their validity.

During a keynote speech at the Infosecurity conference in London, Erroll said: "ID is very much on the political agenda. E-crime is not so much. Why not?

"You consider the millions [of pounds] to sort out ID cards. I could do a lot more with that. ID is seen as a way of stopping crime — a quick solution. But I question whether that is true. People think it's used to keep you safe.

"We can be much more subtle about this. The thing that no one is talking about is electronic ID. That's sad."

Erroll said central government is planning to use ID cards as a way of controlling the population, whereas local governments are looking at the range of services they can provide, such as healthcare.

He also questioned the technology — such as biometrics — that the government is planning to implement for identity control, saying one in 200 DNA matches is incorrect. He added that the police required more resources for labour-intensive computer forensics work.

He said: "The problem is when you have all the technology. All of these things are not perfect. The Home Office worries about policing but there is a huge drought of forensic research resources and that can take up an awful lot of police time."

Erroll doubted whether the formation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency would solve government's e-crime fighting problems.

He said: "I'm not sure the right way to deal with it is by setting up new agencies with new powers. If those powers are used wisely, I would still like to see some sort of democratic accountability secured."