A report by the London School of Economics says there are "ten key uncertainties" about the cost of the government's Identity Cards Bill project. They are:
1. How much will the scheme cost the UK?
Our 'best case' scenario is that it will cost around £10.6 billion (very roughly £170 per card and passport) though some of this cost may be absorbed into government budgets and passed on through tax. If the scheme is fully integrated into government IT systems this cost may increase considerably. Worst case: £19.2 billion, with a proportionately higher unit price per person.
2. How often will the cards or the biometrics on them need to be renewed?
Best case: once in 10 years for everyone. Worst case: once in five years for everyone. Median: some people (for instance, some elderly or ill people) will need to renew their biometrics every 5 years or more; some others will need to renew cards because of personal circumstance changes; but other people can go 10 years.
3. How often will ID cards be lost or damaged and need to be replaced?
Best case: Loss and damage will be the same as for passports. Worst case: More problems than with passports because ID cards are in use much more.
4. How difficult will it be to initially enrol people on the ID card scheme?
Best case: People flock to enrol speedily and there is no tail-end of resisters. Worst case: People need extensive chasing, some people resist cards to the end, and enrolment is slow.
5. How straightforward is it to verify people's identities and to enforce compliance with ID cards? How costly will it be to make corrections and re-enrol people in the ID card scheme?
Best case: No verification problems, few corrections, simple re-enrolment. Worst case: Significant problems with verifications, more corrections, difficulties checking other databases; enforcement is more costly because of citizen resistance, and re-enrolment is somewhat more complex.
6. To what extent will the public accept the government's proposals?
Best case: people come to embrace the government's scheme, seeing benefits in having an ID card backed by a Register. Worst case: a mass campaign of non-cooperation that creates unbearable pressures on the system with consequent financial cost.
7. To what extent will there be civil liberties and privacy implications in the scheme?
Best case: government is able to maintain strict protection of data on the register. Cards use secure technologies to limit the threat of data misuse. Worst case: the scheme suffers from "function creep" to the extent that a card becomes an internal passport without which a person cannot function.
8. Will disabled people suffer hardship and discrimination through the system's operation?
Best case: government recognizes the challenges that face many disabled people in relation to biometrics, and incorporates technology to meet and support these problems. Worst case: to rein in costs the government buys cheap technology that inherently disadvantages disabled people, resulting in severe day-to-day problems for them, for instance, possible denial of service and loss of dignity.
9. Are there any security concerns about the system?
Best case: the security of personal data remains much as it is in the current environment. Worst case: if intruders or hackers could compromise security, then large numbers of identity records are at risk.
10. Is there a risk that new kinds of ID fraud could arise from cards coming into pervasive use?
Best case: No new ID fraud. Worst case: Some new, high tech ID fraud develops, with greater costs for those citizens affected. Successful identity theft of a person's biometric data would mean that their fingerprints or iris scans are permanently in the hands of criminals, with little hope of revoking them.