U.K. May Axe National Fingerprint Registry

By Matthew Harwood

A central element of the United Kingdom's move toward biometric identification cards is in jeopardy, according to a leaked Home Office document obtained by The Observer.

The Home Office's Identity and Passport Service questions the cost-effectiveness of a cental database for fingerprints, saying, "We should test for each group we enrol whether the cost of fingerprints is justified by the use to which they will be put," according to the document.

Over at The Register, John Lettice says the system won't work unless everyone is fingerprinted:

[I]f you don't necessarily collect everybody's fingerprints, then you don't have a complete national biometric register, so you might as well save yourself a pile of money, chuck away any notion of online biometric checks as a matter of routine, and forget any ideas you still had about a national biometric register.

Quite a few of the claimed 'benefits' of the ID scheme go out of the window if you do this. The police cannot trawl the register in order to match crime scene fingerprints, nor can they use their mobile fingerprint readers to identify you or to prove that you are who you say you are. Effectively, the ID card would be chip-backed picture ID, with the security of the chip only of value in circumstances where a reader was used.

If fingerprinting everyone is scrapped, it won't be the first casualty of the government's search for better identity verification methods. "The use of iris scans has already been quietly dropped,"The Observer reports.



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