Government will track ID card useAlan Travis, home affairs editor Tuesday March 23, 2004
The pattern of everyday use we make of our identity cards, known as the audit trail, will be logged and kept on a central computer to allow abuses to be investigated once the scheme is introduced, a senior Home Office official indicated yesterday. Stephen Harrison, the head of the Home Office's identity card policy unit, said yesterday there were also plans to introduce mobile electronic fingerprint and eyescan units to allow elderly and infirm people in rural areas to register for identity cards without travelling long distances.
Mr Harrison also outlined the latest Home Office thinking on on whether or not the one million Irish nationals living in Britain will have to carry UK identity cards.
The further details of the government's proposed national identity card scheme emerged in advance of the publication of the draft legislation setting out how the scheme will operate in detail.
Mr Harrison told a Law Society conference yesterday that ministers had started with the assumption that information on the pattern of everyday transactions involving each card would not be kept on the central computer database.
But following representations from the information commissioner they were now minded to keep information "about the audit of transactions" to allow the authorities to investigate abuses of the scheme. Although no final decision had been taken he said there would need to be safeguards to prevent abuse of such information.
Mr Harrison confirmed that individuals will be able to check that the data held on them under the identity card scheme was accurate and to put it right if there is an error. He said they were looking at ways in which this information could be accessed using the identity card rather than the traditional data protection method of writing a letter and paying £10. However, it would not allow each individual to check on all the government data held on them or on the "audit trail" of checks that others make on their identity.
The senior Home Office official also revealed the current thinking on how to deal with the Irish problem. The 1949 Ireland Act specifies that Irish citizens living in Britain enjoy total freedom of movement between the two countries and the same benefits as British citizens and decrees that they should not be treated as foreign nationals. But for some Irish nationals, particularly those living in parts of Northern Ireland, asking them to carry British identity cards is a highly sensitive question.
Mr Harrison said the plan now was to allow Irish nationals in Britain to choose whether to be treated on an equivalent basis to a British national or as an EU foreign national. He said there would be a separate document which Irish nationals could obtain which would not be a foreign national's resident's permit to reflect their special status.