Two months on and police still can’t read ID cards

By Jonathan Moore

Two months on and police still can’t read ID cards

Police still cannot read data on ID cards more than two months after the first cards were issued to foreign nationals.

A freedom of information request by silicon.com revealed no police stations, border-entry points or job centres have the equipment to access data held on the cards.

The identity and passport service is expecting to issue 50,000 cards by April as part of the government’s £4.7 billion scheme but at present police and immigration officers have to rely on traditional methods.

Shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “Once again ministers have shown that the ID card project is absolutely farcical. What is the point of spending billions of pounds on cards that can’t be read in the UK?”

Identity minister, Meg Hillier, said there is no firm timetable to force organisations to install the equipment needed to read the data.

She said it would be up to police forces to decide when they invest in the technology.

She added the government would not be pressuring them to do so as it “would be placing a burden on these organisations”.

The cards carry biometric data and fingerprints on a chip which can only be accessed using card readers.

While photographs and some information are printed on the face of the cards the fingerprints can only be accessed by reading the chip.

Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton said: “If this capability is not there then the biometrics are, in short, a waste of time.

“I would have thought that the government would have tried to get the readers rolled out as soon as possible as it is only when you get serious deployments that you start to learn what can go wrong.”

The controversial ID card scheme has already come under fire for a number of reasons with questions raised about the cost, the effect on civil liberties and the government’s ability to retain sensitive personal information securely.