Widespread criticism of Met chief’s ID card comments

Speaking about Sir Ian Blair’s recent comments about ID cards, Conservative chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority Richard Barnes told the BBC:

I am aware that he issued a press statement yesterday to explain that he was only restating a position that he had earlier, but I think it is highly inappropriate during a general election that a senior police officer should make a political comment.

Others concur:

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, also said it had been inappropriate for Sir Ian to talk on an election proposal and found the comments “strangely timed”.

“Ironically, for once I actually agree with Richard Barnes,” she said.

The deputy leader of newly-launched party Veritas, Damian Hockney, said ID cards were an “expensive, cumbersome, unnecessary system”.

“It will place unnecessary controls on personal freedom without giving any security,” he said.

“If Sir Ian thinks it is a good idea, he has to justify it.”

There are even more critical opinions about Sir Ian’s comments in editorial pieces in The Times and The Guardian.

Fighting criminal tactics rather than crime

From an article by security expert, Bruce Schneier :

By concentrating on authenticating the individual rather than authenticating the transaction, banks are forced to defend against criminal tactics rather than the crime itself.

Credit cards are a perfect example. Notice how little attention is paid to cardholder authentication. Clerks barely check signatures. People use their cards over the phone and on the Internet, where the card’s existence isn’t even verified. The credit card companies spend their security dollar authenticating the transaction, not the cardholder.

Two-factor authentication is a long-overdue solution to the problem of passwords. I welcome its increasing popularity, but identity theft and bank fraud are not results of password problems; they stem from poorly authenticated transactions. The sooner people realize that, the sooner they’ll stop advocating stronger authentication measures and the sooner security will actually improve.

Using Identity Cards and the National Identity Register creates exactly the same problem – the police don’t actually get any closer to solving any crimes. It just creates an expensive bureaucracy based around pieces of plastic and a huge database.

The cynical among us may suspect that this is all the Home Office wants anyway.

State-Sponsored Identity Theft

For those of who have wondered how under-cover policing will work, when “anyone entering a false identity on the database would be stuck with it”, Bruce Schneier picks up an interesting story from US law enforcement. Ohio Agents Use Woman’s Identity in Strip-Bar Sting

The original Associated Press story is here.

Supporters of Ohio’s identity theft law are livid that state liquor control agents gave a college student the driver’s license and Social Security number of another woman so she could pose as a stripper for a sting.

One supposes a Home Secretary might authorise such things under the powers he would have under the failed Bill to alter any individual record by order. But that still leaves other legitimate under-cover activities with problems. For example.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Not-so-smart cards

The BBC reports Trial ID card scheme is withdrawn.

This isn’t the Passport Service’s famous vanishing biometric trial, but a Cornish experiment using smart cards for access to local services.

Cornish Key is operated by a partnership of local district and county councils.

North Cornwall District Council is one of the partners and spokesman Paul Masters believes the card was far from practical.

He says the failure of the smart technology in Cornwall needs to be addressed if a future government were to use it for national identity cards.

A recent review of the project concluded that the card used in the pilot was not affordable in the longer term.

We hope someone lets erstwhile Battersea MP Martin Linton know. Mr Linton is an enthusiast for “smart” identity cards that would double as library cards.