The Government's plans for an identity card scheme have been strongly criticised by Britain's Information watchdog.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has said that the scheme could result in the UK "sleepwalking into a surveillance society".
The Home Office said the scheme would help fight identity fraud. But Mr Thomas is concerned about the government's failure to spell out the exact purpose of the scheme.
He points to General Franco's Spain and Communist Eastern Europe to explain what can happen when a government gets too powerful and has too much information on its citizens.
Do you think a national ID card system will work? Do you agree with the Information Commissioner? Would you be happy to carry an ID card? Do you live in a country that already has ID cards? Do they work?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I pay for my driving licence and my passport because I choose to drive and to travel overseas. I have no objection to carrying an ID card with my personal details on, especially if it removes the need to carry both of the above, and I have no objection to showing it to access services. However, I will refuse point blank to pay for something which is made compulsory by the government.
Becky, Oxford, UK
During WWII, ID cards were issued (then scrapped a few years later). Imagine if the UK had been unsuccessful in repelling invasion - what a handy little system to have in place for the invader to have every British citizen logged, filed and accounted for. The naivety of the pro-ID lobby is beyond belief.
Gloria Hunter, Hants.
ID cards, biometric passports, CCTV, congestion charging cameras, internet logs and pay per mile insurance. We are fast approach in surveillance society where government, corporations, private detectives and even you boss will be able to find out everything about you. Your spending habits, your driving style, your social life, your sexual habits and your vices. To all those who say "I'm a law abiding citizen, I have nothing to fear", be warned. If someone steals your ID and commits a crime it will be easy for them to make all the evidence point at you, and with the emphasis on technical evidence rather than on physical evidence you may be left with no defence.
Singapore for all the time I have been living there had a great identity system. It reduces government costs (good for you), enhances efficiencies (great for you!) and you had one number for all - passport, driving license, Tax ID to name but a few. One card for all. Why is the UK so paranoid? Some of the comments here are bordering on hysteria.
Stephen, Bangkok, Thailand
For ID cards to work effectively then there need to be SEVERE mandatory penalties for forging or possession of fake cards. E.g. 10 years for forgery and 2 years for possession. No exceptions !
I recently worked in Germany and was obliged to get an ID card. Suffice to say that the form filling was a nightmare, the mandatory health check including X-ray and photograph was unpleasant, it cost me about £12 and I didn't once use it in a whole year. I remember thinking how sensible we were in Britain not to have ID cards - how things have changed for the worse in this once independent and liberal nation.
Matt, London, UK
As an immigrant in the UK, I constantly have to provide proof of my identity. It would make my life so much easier to have one single ID card that would be universally acceptable. On the other hand, as a black man I am weary of the police asking me to produce it every time I walk down the street. If there are safeguards to protect minorities from being targeted for frequent and needless checks then I'm all for it.
David, Nigerian in the UK
Sorry, but this is Big Brother by stealth. We have already lost the right to free speech to the PC minority.
Richard Dougherty, Barry
To all those who say 'if your not doing anything illegal what's the problem' connect a web cam in your bedroom to the internet. Privacy is important.
As a member of the armed forces I've carried an ID card for nearly 30 years. It has never been a cause of concerned and has, on occasion, proved very valuable to be able to prove my identity. I carry a driving licence, why not an ID card?
I am not a number, I am a free man! I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own...
Richard P, London, UK
I don't understand why the British are so afraid of ID cards. We don't have them in Australia, but if we did have them, I wouldn't be scared. The information stored on the card is information the police already have about you. Carrying it on a card will not allow the police to 'know' more about you. But I am surprised that your government believes it will somehow reduce terrorism. Surely the terrorists won't be on the British Police Database!
Mark, Brisbane, Australia
All these people sobbing and crying about the big brother state. I'm just going to buy you all a bottle of 'No More Tears' shampoo and a big box of tissues.
John, Southampton, UK
The cynical paranoia expressed by some on this page is amazing. You would think we were brought up in a socialist state like the old USSR. The majority of people in this country will understand the reasons for identity cards in dangerous times.
John Karran, Merseyside, UK
In response to John Karran - perhaps it is because we do not wish to live in such a repressive system as the old USSR that we are sceptical about the introduction of the biometric ID card.
My natural response to ID cards is to say no. However, it would be sensible for the government to explain why it wants to bring them in at such cost to the taxpayer. What are the benefits? We hear talk of fighting terrorism but isn't this the standard excuse for pushing through anything new at the moment? How will this affect terrorism? Why can't the government just openly discuss this issue so that people can make a sensible, unemotional judgement?
Richard Carr, UK
All this will do is lose the little privacy we have. It certainly won't stop people claiming benefits they are not entitled to, they already find ways around that. If it is lost or stolen then someone has access to your identity so how are you going to prove who you are? Microchipping is for pets.
Jo Hodgson, Swindon, UK
We are all aware that computers are under constant attack by hackers and we are also aware that most government systems are severely under funded - so do you honestly expect me to leave all of my information on one vulnerable computer? Keep your silly ID cards!
Lucy Caird, Southampton, Hampshire
As a former member of HM Forces, I found that having an ID card helped me in many ways. This ID card was accepted when applying for credit, loans, a mortgage etc. I will have no hesitation about being at the front of the queue when they are introduced. There is far too much paranoia about this issue!
Dennis, Reading Berkshire
I would be more than happy to carry an ID card, on the condition that only specific government departments or police are able to access the information and it is not sold on to other organisations like our electoral roll information is. With regard to the biometric data I think it is a fantastic achievement that should be welcomed. At the end of the day these measures have only been introduced to help rid this country of people that aren't supposed to be here or are ruining our quality of life by breaking the law.
Amy, Reading, Berks
In Singapore, we have our own ID. The ID gives all the important information about an individual. If we meet with an accident, the Doctors would immediately know our blood group. One ID is all we need to carry to identify our self. Fabulous! I am looking forward to carry a British ID.
Christina Spybey, London, UK
Can someone, anyone, please give me an example of anywhere in the world where the use of ID cards has demonstrably reduced terrorism and organised crime?
Denis, Cromer, UK
Oh you innocents. I work in IT and have years of experience of the misuse of databases. Do you really believe that if you have nothing to hide, an ID card won't stop you being caught for something you didn't do? Databases have led police to break down the door of 85 year-old ladies because a criminal once lived there. A criminal can use your identity and you will be extradited to face charges you were innocent of. The police national computer system has error rates of over 60% - so how many innocent people are at risk?
Peterg, London, UK
I already have a passport and driver's licence, both of which needed independent ID verification. Why cannot these be merged to form the new ID card, instead of a third bureaucratic process?
What a waste of time and money. No-one has given us any proof of the benefits. They can't even stop the millions of people who drive around without insurance and you have to provide loads of documentation for that already.
James , London, UK
I'm not so worried about having a single identity card, or about law enforcement agencies standardising the information they hold. I am worried that the government is trying to introduce them without being clear of their purpose, as this is opening the way for personal data (e.g. medical records) getting into the wrong hands (e.g. insurance companies). Until the government makes clear exactly what the cards are for, what data they will carry, who will have access to the data, and what remedies citizens will have if their data is used by unauthorised agencies, we should not contemplate their introduction.
Tim Watkins, Cardiff
The more centralised a society becomes the more prone it is to collapse. With all the data in one central database, what's going to happen when that system crashes?
The real issue behind the existence of an ID card is the hardening of people's attitudes and the possibility of abusive behaviour against those who fail to show a valid ID card. The card might end up replacing the card holder. This is exactly what happened during the military dictatorships in Latin America. We already have a British passport, do we need another form of identification? I am afraid it might be the forerunner of a police state.
Carlos Cortiglia, London, UK
Those naive people who cannot see what bad effects could result from ID cards should take a look at what has happened in the past with unpleasant governments. We may have 'nice guys' in power at present (though not everyone thinks so!) but in the future there could be people in power who are much, much worse. Do not take the chance - ID cards will have no chance of protecting us from competent terrorists.
David J. Jones, Knutsford, England
ID cards are an excellent idea in principal. However if every detail about a person is going to be stored on it, the government has to guarantee a 100% clone and hacker proof scheme. Secondly the only people who have access to these details should be certain government departments, the military, the police and the courts.
Collin, Watford, UK
In my view, the real reason the government wants ID cards is related to European harmonisation. We are virtually the odd one out when it comes to requiring our citizens to produce their "papers" for the state and its agents. All the rhetoric about crime prevention, border control etc is just claptrap.
Colin, Twickenham, UK
Please, bring in a national ID card, containing as much biometric info as possible, urgently. As a nation we have so much more to fear by not having one than by the introduction of one.
The ID card scheme will track only the law abiding. The lawless will always find a way to beat the system, since by definition they do not mind breaking the law. "A bit of card fraud, no problem". Countries with ID cards have no less crime than us or are immune from terrorism so what's the advantage? ID cards will just bring us closer to a police state and create a new black market in stolen IDs.
The "what's the problem if you have nothing to hide" argument is really starting to wear thin now. I have absolutely nothing to hide from the police or anyone else and I carry 2 forms of photographic ID (my driving licence and university ID card) around with me everyday. What I, and I believe many others, object to is the holding of biometric data on the cards. Why should any police officer or petty civic official be able to demand a finger print scan or retinal scan from me to prove who I am?
Information is power. Those who think this power will not be abused are a little naïve - power is always abused. Blunkett scares the pants off me. People should attach more value to their privacy, before it is taken from them entirely.
Alan Chambers, UK
The information watchdog is correct to be concerned and alarmed. The government and the public sector will undoubtedly abuse this database in time. It gives them far too much power.
Edwin Thornber, UK and Bucharest, Romania
I have just had my debit card cloned and money withdrawn from my account. What mischief is going to be available when ID Cards are cloned and what safeguards are being put in place against this? None of this has been addressed.
Please, please introduce ID cards. That way anytime you want to open a bank account, video shop account etc you could just produce an ID card, conveniently located in your wallet, rather than having to go home and collect two proofs of address and a credit card. Also, if using credit and debit cards became dependent upon producing the matching ID card, a lot of fraud could be avoided. I'm not sure that this scheme would significantly increase the amount of information held on you by outside parties. It would, however, make life easier for most honest citizens.
What exactly is this debate all about? Our details are all over the place anyway, nobody has secrets regardless of whether we have ID cards or not, so why battle about something that won't make a difference?
Kaz, Manchester, UK
Expensive, pointless, likely to alienate the public. That just leaves the question, why?
Edwin Beggs, Swansea, Wales
Why should the government know who I am in the first place?
Hugh, York, England
Yet again, the old refrain of "only those with something to hide are against ID cards". What nonsense. Why not, if you "have nothing to hide", bar-code your forehead and install CCTV cameras in your bedroom?
Why don't the police just get on and do their job properly, then this debate would be redundant.
Jonny C, London
I don't understand the fuss over ID cards. Malaysia has had identity cards for decades and these have proven so useful that it is unthinkable not to have one. It is now implementing a smartcard ID which incorporates biometric data and driving licence, and in the future will hold health information. Malaysian passports have had chips incorporated since the late 1990s.
AB Mahmud, Malaysia
Why can we not have a formal public ballot on this important issue? Present us with the real facts and let us vote accordingly.
Les, Morpeth, England
I will be voting for the party that opposes ID Cards in the next general election.
Jason, Ipswich, Suffolk
Didn't the banks promise our PINs would be a failsafe guard against forgery? Relying on high technology only works for as long as it takes the terrorists to catch up and what better incentive for them than to fake an ID no one will question.
I'm not against the idea exactly but what I am against is paying for them. Everyone who thinks it's a great idea can go buy one. I on the other hand will resist and if they require me to have one they can give me it for free.
Lorna, Glasgow, Scotland
The whole point about these cards is that they can't be forged. Only those with something to hide are against them.
Gary Gatter, London, UK
To Gary Gatter: Not true. Everything and anything can be forged. Sure, it might take time to do so but it will happen. And do you know what the biggest crime surrounding ID cards has been in all other countries at all periods of history? Forging them! This will be another huge business opportunity for organised criminals whilst at the same time offering us scant protection and eroding yet a few more of our tattered civil liberties.
I don't think by having ID cards it will make any big difference to the amount of knowledge that is around on us individuals. The insurance companies share information on all sorts of things about their clients. The NHS and Social Services has loads of detailed information on us. Companies you work for have loads of information on us. Even shops where you have extended warranties on products have information on us, and so do Credit Card Companies, so I don't real think an ID card is so threatening.
The ID cards will only ever be reliable in identifying 'honest' members of society, those who would identify themselves to authorities such as the police anyway. Criminals will simply find a way to use stolen cards, and/or forge them. The organised criminals that Mr Blunkett wants to tackle will soon make a business out of faking cards. Then the card will be useless because anyone will be able to buy a fake. The same has happened with passports and driving licences, which were once accepted forms of identification. The scheme will cost the taxpayer millions and, I suspect, do nothing to cut crime. The money would be better spent putting more police officers on the streets instead.
Andrew Blakey, Reigate
As someone who works in the IT sector I am worried about keeping our personal data on an electronic system. All such systems are susceptible to failure, misuse, and hacking. Remember the recent air traffic chaos caused by a computer failure? I am convinced that this is not a price worth paying just to catch a handful of criminals.
Nick, Cardiff, UK
We cannot have ID Cards soon enough in my opinion. There are too many people in this country who should not be here - our government has completely lost control of the situation. We need to get back to a position where an ordinary member of the public can rely on the fact that a person is who he/she says they are.
Ivan McLay Komiski, Girvan, S.Ayrshire
It is a deeply paranoid government that feels the need to keep an ever growing database of information on each and every one of its citizens. We aren't all criminals, and there is no reason why we should be scanned, fingerprinted and recorded like criminals. It is only 15 years since the world was horrified by revelations of surveillance of everyone in East Germany. Do we really have such short memories that we will welcome the same level of surveillance in this country? There is absolutely no justification for the proposed scheme.
Duncan Drury, London, UK
Whenever the issue of ID cards surfaces I am surprised about the amount of support they receive. Like the war against Iraq the government has had to find acceptable excuses to sell the public the idea, preventing terrorism, stemming illegal immigration etc, that generally means that real motive is more sinister and publicly unacceptable. The real purpose of these cards is to obtain DNA, understand patterns of behaviour, exclude and control, not just for government agencies but also large corporations. As for the excuses given I really don't think ID cards will make a jot of difference to the number of illegal immigrants or the amount of terrorist attacks.
Paul Browne, UK
I do wish people would grow up about this issue. How on earth can it be violating your civil liberties to give you a single piece of ID that can be used to prove you are who you say you are? The cost to forge this document will make illegal immigrants and bogus claims of benefits much rarer. What exactly do you believe your civil rights allow you to do that this document will prevent? Lying to the police about who you are? Fraudulently claiming benefits you aren't entitled to?
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands
It's not so much the ID card itself I fear, more the people behind it.
Stop being so paranoid. We do not live under a dictatorship and have plenty of data protection legislation. It can only be a good thing if life is made more difficult for those with something to hide.
David Smith, Horndean, Hants
I really feel it isn't necessary. We have passports, driving licences and other forms of proving your identity already. Why waste millions of pounds on yet another pointless scheme?
Jim, Bournemouth, UK
I am completely in favour of ID cards and if I had the chance to volunteer to get one of the UK trial ones I would have done so. As far as I am concerned any information it may contain is already available pretty much if the government wants it, something as small as a supermarket loyalty card already tracks a lot more information than people may think. To think we are not already being spied on is naive, at least this way it can be done in a way which benefits us too. The curbing of benefit fraud alone would get my vote.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK
It is idealistic to imagine a future without ID cards. What we are lacking is a clear definition of the rules and safeguards governing the security and usage of the databases behind them. With clear rules and a secure implementation, honest people have nothing to fear and everything to gain.
Chris, Southampton, England
I fail to understand how carrying an ID card would infringe on your "right to personal privacy"? It won't mean you'll have to take your net curtains down and tell everyone what you get up to at the weekends! It's just a card - it won't tell any authorities anything they don't already know about you. When will the British population stop being so irrationally resistant to change?
Dean, Bristol, UK
I have carried an ID card with me since I was 10, it has my photo, signature and fingerprints. Why the worry in the UK? It's easier and cheaper to replace than a passport.
Carla, London, formerly Portugal
I would refuse an ID Card on the principal that we already have several methods of identification. It won't stop identity fraud because people will duplicate the ID cards. They can't offer a 100% secure method of ID. By accepting ID Cards we are taking the next step to all being chipped like our pets!
Andrew Burton, UK
If this ridiculous system ever comes into force, I will resist it with every fibre of my being. I have nothing whatsoever to hide, but I refuse to have my privacy compromised. This system will be open to abuse from day one and will prove to be a huge mistake!
Helen, Cornwall, UK
I can't see what the fuss is about. ID cards are used in several other countries with success. At the end of the day, the key thing is that the ID card will help the police in its tough struggle against crime and terrorism; that's all that really matters. Sometimes it is perfectly right to sacrifice some freedoms in exchange for greater public safety and security.
Mark La Vardera, London, UK
Wake up! ID cards will not make this country any safer. People who are a threat to our way of life will find a way around them. They will either not have them or have a fake one. Every piece of ID on the planet has been forged and this will be too.
An ID card is an excellent idea. Let's get on with it.
I'm an honest person who doesn't plan to commit crimes, so I have nothing to fear from an identity card.
Matt, Maidstone, UK
The Labour Party want to stay in power and holding information about people is having power! Think 1984!
Susan Rush, England
I think a national ID card system would work if it were not to become yet another "cause" for idiots to rally round. No sensible person could object to being able to prove who they are, and that they are entitled to services, unless they had something to hide. It could save time filling in the seemingly never ending forms that government departments need, cut down on underage drinking etc. Why not merge the card with driving licences, NI cards etc?
John, Norfolk, UK
I would not be happy carrying an ID card since I think it would undermine my democratic right to be a free citizen. Democratic societies are not surveillance societies. People should be free to move about and go about their daily business without the feeling that they are being watched, their details catalogued as if they are under suspicion for something. Plus ID cards would only increase fraud, since as we all know; once new technology is introduced somebody finds a way around it. I would not trust this government with handling my biometric details.
I would be more than happy to carry an ID card with me. As a law abiding British citizen I have nothing to fear from ID cards or a national register. The people who don't wish to have an ID card obviously have something to hide.
At last! A sensible tool to fight the steady flow of illegal immigrants and a good means to tackle terrorism. You have nothing to fear if you are law abiding - don't let the vocal minority spoil the Government's attempt to make this a safer country.
I wouldn't mind if it entirely replaced my passport, driving licence, NI number card and the 101 other pieces of identification we have. If it's additional to these I'm just not interested. Why not just make it mandatory to have and carry a passport? Wouldn't that do the same and be significantly cheaper?
To all those who say you should only be worried if you have something to hide. I do have something to hide from you nosey lot, and the government - my personal privacy , a basic human right! You will never take that from me and I will never carry an ID card - so jail me!
Tony, Prestatyn, UK
Why do people get so hot under the collar about ID cards? Everyone carried them during the war, most of us who work carry them (and wear them for all to see) and if you live within the law what do you have to hide? Most of your life facts are in computers somewhere and much of it is in the public domain. If it makes us safer and reduces illegal activity lets get on with it.
Here in Bahrain we already have ID cards. I think they are a good idea, it certainly saves you carrying around other ID stuff such as passports. We need it to open bank accounts, attend a hospital, connect a telephone, in fact for any public service. It's a way of life here. I would say those against it may be the ones who have something to hide otherwise why not have a card that cuts out fraud?
Lisa, Manama, Bahrain
I'm sure this is the start of a 'surveillance society', but I wonder, in these times of high crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, is there any other choice? We have to respond to the world we live in.