Plans for ID cards are too risky and lack the trust of the public, a London School of Economics report claims.
Cards would be introduced for all
The government's proposed system is so complex it could itself become a target of terrorists, the academics warned.
ID cards must truly benefit citizens rather than be a costly imposition, Professor Patrick Dunleavy said.
The government insists they are needed to fight terrorism and organised crime and peers are due to give the ID Cards Bill its second reading on Monday.
The authors of the report, The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications, say the success of the ID card scheme depends on a "sensitive, cautious and co-operative approach".
It should be regularly reviewed and subjected to a rolling risk assessment, they say.
They also claim the Bill would introduce a "new tier of technological and organisational infrastructure" that carries risks of failure.
"A fully integrated national system of this complexity and importance will be technologically precarious and could itself become a target for attacks by terrorists or others," they say.
The report also warns that the scheme could be of "potential danger to the public interest" and the legal rights of individuals.
It may even contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, the report's authors said.
The ID cards bill was backed by the Commons last month, despite Tory abstentions and Lib Dem opposition.
But it may have difficulty clearing the Lords, where the government does not have a majority.
Tony Blair says the proposals are "long overdue" and are the best way to fight terrorism, organised crime and immigration abuses.
'No big bang'
A Home Office spokesman said the cards would give a single, reliable record of identity while ensuring safeguards on how the information was used.
"We accept that the identity cards scheme has technological challenges and we have plans to ensure the technology we will deploy will be workable," he said.
"We are not alone in requiring the introduction of large-scale biometric systems as in the future most countries' passport systems will include biometric information."
The scheme would be rolled out gradually, so avoiding the risks of a "big bang" introduction of the plans, added the spokesman.
But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants wants a more detailed study of the cards' impact on people from ethnic minorities.
The council's Habib Rahman said he shared many of the LSE's fears.
"Above all, we are concerned by evidence from Europe that under identity card systems police and public officials are likely to subject people from black and ethnic minorities to disproportionate checks," he said.