Government wants business ideas for ID cards

ID card

The government needs to get business "buy-in" on ID cards, according to identity minister Meg Hillier.

Speaking to journalists and industry representatives in Westminster yesterday, Hillier said of the private sector: "They need to take on a roll of provisioning a broader variety of services."

She compared ID cards to the Apple iPhone. "The iPhone is just the infrastructure, it's the apps that make it interesting," she said.

While government is "best placed" to develop that infrastructure, it's up to the public and private sector to come up with good ways to use the cards and supporting database.

For example, the cards could speed up criminal record background checks. "Having a simple card, possibly with a simple reader machine, will speed up those checks," she said.

Hillier also suggested banks will see a use for the cards, as checking identity to set up an account costs them as much as 85 for the most difficult cases, such as the fifth of people in the UK without a valid passport - which includes young people, the elderly, and the poor.

While the system is currently in card form, Hillier noted: "In the future, it's the chip that's the important bit." She suggested chips could be integrated into mobile phones, get Chip and PIN for security, and also be used to prove identity online.

Asking for feedback, she said: "There's lots of potential, but we don't have all the answers." She added that the Identity and Passport Service is "keen to talk to more businesses all the time... [it's] not about adding burdens for business."

Other details

So far there are three databases backing up the cards, one for fingerprints and photographs, another holding passport data, and a third linking the two, she said.

Only 100 "highly vetted" people have access to the data, Hillier claimed, although policing agencies can ask for it in the case of serious terror incidents and local councils can ask for anonymised data for census forecasts.

She also said there would be high street enrollment facilities in the future, which would take fingerprints.

Hillier said 13,000 people have enrolled in the programme, with about half receiving cards so far. The cards have already been rolled out to some airports, young people in London and the Northwest. The scheme will later this year roll out to the Northeast and the Midlands.

Read on for our interview with ID card commissioner Sir John Pilling.