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Photos: UK's ID card revealed

The first pictures
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1 of 3 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The first pictures

This is the first glimpse at what the British ID card will look like.

The design for the British cards was unveiled by Home Secretary Alan Johnson at events in London and Manchester today.

People living in Manchester will be the first UK nationals to be able to apply for one of the cards from Autumn of this year, with cards being offered to people living in the North West soon after.

ID cards will be able to be used to verify a person's identity via the cards' embedded microchip, which will store the cardholder's biographic information, their photograph and a scan of two of their fingerprints. These details can then be checked against copies of that information held in a central database called the National Identity Register (NIR).

But the scheme faces an uncertain future, as the Conservatives have pledged to scrap ID cards if the party is elected next year.

There is also doubt among MPs and academics over how many people will be willing to pay £60 to have an ID card, after Johnson announced it would never be compulsory for UK citizens to carry a card.

However critics of the scheme claim that legislation under the Identity Cards Act 2006 will allow the government to collect personal details for ID cards by the back door. Part of the act allows the government to designate an official document, such as a driving licence, so that anyone applying for the document would have their details entered onto the NIR.

The cost of providing the cards and biometric passports for UK citizens over the next 10 years will be £5bn.

Photo credit: Home Office

40152848-2-idcards3.jpg
2 of 3 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The rear of the card is embedded with the microchip that stores the cardholder's biographic and biometric information. It is also marked with text and numbers that can be read by machine.

The Home Office claims that the British cards will feature "the latest security features", compliant with European and International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, designed to protect against identity fraud and forgery.

The cards will also be able to be used instead of a passport to travel between countries in Europe.

An Identity Commissioner will be appointed to oversee operation of the service and report annually on how government and authorities are making use of the cards and the integrity of information collected for the scheme.

People living in Manchester and London will be able to discuss their thoughts and concerns about the ID cards scheme at forthcoming public panel meetings to be held by the Home Office.

Airport workers at Manchester and London City airports will be able to volunteer for the cards from later this year and ID cards will be made available to the rest of the UK public from 2012.

Photo credit: Home Office

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3 of 3 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The white British card looks rather different to the pink and blue ID cards for foreign nationals, seen here, that were unveiled last November. The card holds similar biographic and biometric details, with the foreign cards printed with additional information, such as rights to draw benefits.

It will eventually be compulsory for all foreign nationals staying in the UK for more than six months to have an ID card.

The government claims to have issued 50,000 cards to foreign nationals but in April the CIO of the IPS Bill Crothers admitted that readers for the cards embedded chips would not be in place at UK border entry points until next year.

Photo credit: Christ Beaumont/silicon.com

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