Kudos to the British government for spending the equivalent of $US6.6 billion US on a biometric National Identity Card program without budgeting for a single card reader. Truly, they operate like a finely-tuned machine.
Basically, they are set to roll out these cards to government officials and then on to private citizens as a way for the authorities to to protect identities and safeguard borders—but not a single police station, border entry point, or job centre has a reader capable of extracting information from the card’s biometric chip.
It took a Cambridge University security expert to explain the obvious:
“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 government reaction to the situation was swift and decisive:
“We have always said that we would roll out the scheme incrementally. The card will not be as useful as it could be until we have got the volumes out there. There’s no prospect in the immediate future for the government directing anybody that you have to buy those things [readers]because we would be placing a burden on these organisations. The manufacturers of the machines have also got to decide whether it is worth their while to produce them. I think that organisations will decide in time that it is better, quicker and cheaper to have them.”