Europe starts with small steps

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2008-03-07 Print this article Print

Small Steps in Europe 

Starting in November, foreigners from outside the European Union will have to fork over their personal data and biometric information-fingerprints are suggested, though biometric indicators can include such things as iris and facial scans-to the British government for a national ID.

In 2009 the program will extend to Britons working in areas vulnerable to terrorists attack and the following year will extend to include British students. By 2011 anyone applying for a UK passport will become part of the national identity register. People who apply for the biometric cards will have a choice as to whether they are issued a passport or an ID card, and all data will be stored in a national database.

The UK's National Identity Scheme was announced in the Queen's Speech in 2005 and the Identity Cards Act became law the following year. At the same time the Identity and Passport Service was established as an Executive Agency of the Home Office; the National Identity Scheme builds on the UK's plans to add RFID chips to its passports.

The U.S. likewise has begun adding RFID chips to its passports.

Both initiatives-a national identification card and chipped passports-have been roundly trounced by security and civil rights activists on both sides of the pond.

While Britain's Smith said in her speech that the goal of the Home Secretary's office is to have everyone covered under the new Scheme 2017, others are hoping by that time the whole thing will have been scrapped. Making the national identification system compulsory will come to a parliamentary vote after the next national election around 2010.

Britain's Conservative party has promised to ditch the whole Scheme if they take power in the next election. "The government may have removed the highly visible element but they have still left the dangerous core of this project," said David Davis, the shadow home secretary said in media reports March 6. "The National Identity Register, which will contain dozens of personal details of every adult in this country in one place, will be a severe threat to our security and a real target for criminals, hackers and terrorists. This is before you take the government's legendary inability to handle people's data securely into account."

In the United States there has been no less outspoken opposition to the Real ID Act. Nineteen states have passed legislation opposing Real ID in their states-however, the measures are non-binding resolutions, meaning any real non-compliance decisions will come down to each state's governor-and another 20 states have similar legislation pending. Three states, California, North Carolina and Michigan are actively supporting Real ID.


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