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ID cards: the debate begins

Critics say single form of identity makes counterfeit easier

Home secretary David Blunkett is today due to publish his controversial proposals for the introduction of ID cards.

The microchipped cards, which it is thought would not be compulsory to carry — something which critics say would render the scheme worthless — would hold personal information such as name and address, a photograph and perhaps even fingerprints.

The government launched its consultation document back in February, but seems to have done little since then. It is expected Blunkett will now announce a six-month discussion period to gain public feedback.

But civil liberties campaigners and many MPs have hit out at the proposals.

"The technology gap between governments and organised crime has now narrowed to such an extent that even the most highly secure cards are available as blanks weeks after their introduction," said global privacy watchdog, Privacy International's director, Simon Davies.

"Criminals and terrorists can in reality move more freely and more safely with several fake 'official' identities than they ever could in a country using multiple forms of 'low-value' ID such as a birth certificate," added Davies.

Privacy International fears identity theft will become a serious problem for the government if it goes ahead with the proposals.

"Whenever governments attempt to introduce ID cards, it is always based on the aim of eliminating false identity," said Davies. "The higher the stated integrity of the card, the greater its value to illegal immigrants and criminals."

But a Home Office spokeswoman said it is "too soon" to criticise a card, which is not even yet in "consultation stages".

Back in February, Blunkett assured the public that such a card would not be introduced "without consulting widely and considering the views expressed carefully."

This reassurance isn't enough for Davies. "The equation's simple," he said, "higher value ID cards equal greater criminal activity."

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