The National Identity Service
The National Identity Service is a new government body. Its full title is The National Identity and Passport Service. In addition to issuing passports it is also responsible for issuing new identity cards. Its aim is to provide identity related support of all kinds to both individuals and corporate users across the UK.
Identity CardsThe idea of an identity card is that users will need only one piece of identification rather than the several they may need currently. It will even be valid for travel in Europe for British citizens. Identity cards gather together a wide range of unique information and this is held on the National Identity Register. This information includes name, address, date of birth and biometric information such as fingerprints and a photograph of your face. For security purposes the basic biographical details are held separately from the biometric information. For further security other information such as religion or tax details are not held on the National Identity Register.
BiometricsA key step forward is the use of biometric information. It is hoped that this will greatly reduce the opportunities for identity theft and identity fraud. Only the genuine holder of an identity card will have the correct facial features and fingerprints and this cannot be replicated by potential fraudsters. Likewise, once someone has registered and has their face and fingerprints recorded these cannot then be used for any other identity. This represents a significant advance in the battle to reduce identity theft.
Identity Protection by Phone and OnlineThe Service is also currently working on ways to ensure greater protection when establishing your identity over the telephone or over the internet. It also has a priority to safeguard public services from the abuses of identity theft and similar abuses by criminals and opportunists.
Other priorities of the service are to support immigration controls to ensure that only those who are entitled to work in the UK are doing so. It is also hoped that by increasing controls on the use of identities and helping to reduce identity theft that the Service will have an impact on the work of potential terrorists and criminals.
National Identity RegisterYou can check your entry on the National Identity Register by submitting a request. This is called a ‘subject access request’ form. You can request the information by letter or email and there is a £10 charge for the service. In order to ensure that the information is only released to the correct person you will be asked to provide proof of your identity. It is your right to see any information which is held about with you with the exceptions of where such a release of information could jeopardise the apprehension of a crime and where it would interfere with the privacy of a third party.
There is an independent Identity Commissioner who monitors how the Service is working and ensures the best interests of the public.
Once you have an identity card it is your responsibility to ensure that the details on the National Identity Register are kept up to date – for example if you marry or move house. There is a fine of up to £1,000 for failing to keep the Service informed.
At present identity cards are only available to certain groups of people including people who live or work in North West England and 16-24 year olds resident in London.