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University research undermines case for ID cards

27 June, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality Caitríona Ruane has welcomed the publication of research today on the consequences of ID cards by researchers at the London School of Economics that suggest that ID cards will cost over £19 billion and that they may compromise Article 8 (privacy) and Article 14 (discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ms Ruane said:

"Sinn Féin are fundamentally opposed to the introduction of any voluntary or compulsory British ID card. The proposed Westminster legislation would involve creating a UK-wide database holding information on individuals such as names, addresses, and biometric information like fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans by 2008.

"Under the Good Friday Agreement people in the North have the right to Irish or British identity (or both). Far from being an effective tool for anything, these cards would undermine not just civil liberties but also the right of people living in the north to their Irish identity.

"This latest research I believe undermines the case for ID cards.

"Researchers at the London School of Economics estimate that the cost could be as much as £19 billion. To commit such resources to a scheme that undermines essential rights, at a times when our education system and health system require real and significant investment is not just foolhardy it is criminal.

"Research also suggests that ID cards will only make a negligible impact on fraud (identity fraud crimes estimated at £1.3 billion a year, but only £35 million of this can be addressed by an ID card). They also question whether the technology will work. No scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious schemes have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in a large-scale national system. The use of biometrics creates particular concerns, because this technology has never been used at such a scale.

"Sinn Féin are greatly concerned at the legal and human rights implications. This research has questioned legality of the Identity Cards Bill in its current form. A number of elements potentially compromise Article 8 (privacy) and Article 14 (discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The report also raises concerns about the creation of a Data Register with a very large data pool in one place that could mean an enhanced risk in case of unauthorized accesses, hacking or malfunctions. Within a divided and sectarian society the opportunity for authorities here to abuse a database of this nature and the ability of agencies such as the PSNI to use such information or ID cards to discriminate against nationalist is huge.

"This research estimates possible personal cost of £230 per person and business costs of a similar amount that would be unwelcome for struggling small businesses here. While LSE researchers suggest alternatives it is clear that there is no demand for ID cards, that the costs will be enormous, that there is a huge threat to civil liberties and no real quantifiable benefits." ENDS

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