However, debate continues as to how well a smart identity card containing a biometric will actually address the problems of terrorism, illegal immigration and working, benefit fraud, abuse of public services and identity theft. The terrorist attacks in London have stoked up the debate over the UK Government's identity card scheme, and highlighted the central issue of whether they would actually make such incidents less likely. Yet it is not just core privacy activists who continue to argue that any benefits will be outweighed by the growth of surveillance and snooping that would inevitably in their view occur once the scheme is up and running. A counter argument is that the cat is already out of the bag, and that we will live under a canopy of increasing surveillance and leakage of personal information whether or not identity cards come in. According to this argument, biometric passports, combined with growing databases of personal information relating to health, life style and identity, held by both government and private agencies, will ensure that privacy will be eroded come what may. The technologies, such as rapid and affordable DNA sequencing, proliferating and increasing cross-linked databases comprising personal information, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), as well as improved video cameras, are or will be out there anyway, all threatening to invade privacy in various ways. (M. Tistarelli, J. Bigun, A.K. Jain, 2002)
An extension of this argument is that we should not become over-obsessed with identity cards, but instead concentrate on constraining and regulating these current and emerging technologies within an overall privacy framework. On the other hand the identity card scheme as proposed by the government would, if implemented, make it harder to restrain some of these technologies and might in future encourage their deployment for surveillance and monitoring. Indeed for this reason the government has promised not to deploy some of these technologies, notably DNA fingerprinting. Unlike a straightforward biometric such as fingerprints, a DNA database could yield additional information about individuals that could be of use to third parties such as insurance companies, depending on the precise detail involved.
Identity cards - unproven
Yet to a large extend the public is being asked to embrace identity cards on trust, committing to the scheme before it has been proven to work. We are expected to trust that the technologies involved, notably biometric recognition, will work, before being shown to be even remotely robust enough. We are also expected to trust that the government will keep to its promise not to exploit the full potential identity cards would yield for snooping and information gathering. The government has not ruled out the use of RFID as a contactless and therefore faster alternative to swiping for reading identity cards. RFID works via small chips that can be embedded in a card, with minute antennae emitting a unique serial number over a short distance.
RFID is a very appealing card reading