London, 3 November 2006
Identity card technologies: scientific advice, risk and evidence the Government reply to the sixth report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
Cm 6942. HC 1032 session 2005-06
20 October 2006
Conclusions and Recommendations
The report makes several general observations and recommendations (paragraphs 142-145 of the report). These will be discussed and then the 43 specific conclusions and recommendations drawn from the body of the report will be addressed.
The report's conclusions begin by noting several areas where the committee recognise that the programme is following good practice in the treatment of scientific advice and evidence, including:
i. The establishment of committees of experts
ii. The use of OGC (Office of Government Commerce) Gateway Reviews
iii. Holding discussions with international experts
iv. Committing to the trialling of technology
v. Taking a cautious approach to the scheme and implementing it gradually
The Government welcomes the Committee's recognition of IPS's good practice in these areas.
The report said that the programme's science agenda had "concentrated on biometrics" which appeared to have "detracted attention from other technological and scientific aspects of the programme" and that the assurance processes and governance of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) were less well developed than for biometrics and that the programme's thinking on ICT was not being developed in consultation with other departments.
A relatively higher level of effort in the development and assurance of the biometric requirements for Identity Cards than for other areas of technology is justified. Biometrics is an area of technology which is less mature than the bulk of the technology which the scheme is likely to use such as databases and communications networks. For this reason our risk management processes have identified more risks to do with biometrics than for some other areas of technology and the treatment and mitigation of these risks requires more effort.
For similar reasons the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee singled out biometrics for scrutiny in their 2004 report on Identity Cards.
The report also argued that the biometric solution is being prescribed to the supplier market in some detail whereas for the bulk of the ICT needs the requirements being put to the market are more 'output-based'.
Both the ICT and the biometric technology will be constrained by legislation, government policy and the international standards and conventions adopted by the scheme. In the area of ICT, these standards and policy choices are defined in part in documents such as the e-GIF. However, in the case of biometrics there are fewer agreed standards, so the procurement will have to be more prescriptive in order to be sure of getting proposals from suppliers which meet the requirements.
The areas of biometric technology in which IPS is being prescriptive are chiefly around the data storage and exchange standards (as opposed to how the matching is done, for example). This is driven by the programme's interoperability requirements and the need to adhere to international standards. For example, compliance with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) recommendations6 for MRTDs (Machine-Readable Travel Documents) require the Identity Card to store certain biometric data in a certain format and thus make it necessary to set these requirements on the scheme's suppliers.