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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
ID trials: What is involved?
Mock-up ID card
Trials will assess how best to use biometric data

The Home Office is looking for 10,000 volunteers to take part in trials for identity cards. BBC News Online looks at what information they will have to give and why.

The pilot will be run from the Passport Office in London and three other centres around Britain, starting on Monday.

All the volunteers, which the Home Office says will be from a nationwide cross-section of UK society, must be British citizens and over 18.

The new ID cards will hold biometric details - facial dimensions, an iris scan or fingerprints.

A spokesman for the Home Office said the purpose of the trial will be to establish which of the three options works best.

This is the best technology available so we need to make sure we are recording information in the right way
HO spokesman

It will also show whether all three need to be included as part of the identification data.

"The trial is about testing the effectiveness of the technology," he said.

"We will want to know if we need to have the three biometric details.

"For example someone may have an eye problem so the iris scan may not work properly.

"Another person may have a disability which prevents us taking fingerprints.

"We are just trying to establish the practical aspects of incorporating the information into the biometric database.

"We will use the exceptional cases to test the robustness of the system."

Facial scanning: A camera with appropriate software records face contours and converts them into code. A computer processes the data and checks against stored record.
Iris imaging: Software scans a digital image of the iris to compare its unique pattern with all those stored.
Fingerprinting: A scanner reads the ridge patterns and compares the converted code with those on a database.

Identity fraud

Identity fraud costs Britain an estimated 1.3bn each year and the trial plans to establish the accuracy of the biometric data.

The spokesman stressed that the trial is to test the use of hi-tec biometric technology.

None of the volunteers will actually be issued with identity cards.

"We are confident that we are using cutting edge technology and we also need to be aware of the risks of fraud," the spokesman said.

"This is the best technology available so we need to make sure we are recording information in the right way."

Attracting volunteers

The Home Office spokesman was confident they would be able to attract the 10,000 volunteers which are needed for the trial.

2008: 80% of economically active population will carry some form of biometric identity document
Estimated cost of 3.1bn
Consortium of companies in UKPS trials led by SchlumbergerSema include NEC, Identix, Iridian
Source: Home Office

The government has enlisted the help of the leading research agency MORI to help encourage enough volunteers.

News of the pilot follows an opinion poll suggesting 80% of people backed a national ID card scheme.

But most of the 1,000 people questioned by MORI expressed doubts the cards could be introduced without problems.

Home Secretary David Blunkett says he wants a Bill paving the way for the scheme to be passed before the next general election.

He said the biometric system proposed would end multiple identities and give a boost to the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"Proving the proposed cards can't be faked is an important stage in winning over doubters"

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