Thursday, February 02, 2006


Home Office Minister Andy Burnham has been out and about with another conflationary attempt to sell the ID card and National Identity Database scheme. His Today programme appearance can be listened to here (till tomorrow anyway).

To be honest, it's sort of tedious to feel like you've got to keep on rebutting the same old tired arguments. Anyway, here's the Home Office Identity Theft website and here's (pdf) the breakdown of that estimated £1.7 billion identify fraud problem.

The largest identifiable part of that headline grabbing figure is credit card fraud at $504.8m.
This figure comprises:
(i) Counterfeit (skimmed/cloned) cards
(ii) Cards lost or stolen £114.4m
(iii) Card not present £150.8m
(iv) Mail non-receipt £72.9m
(v) Fraudulent applications £13.1m
(vi) Account takeover £23.8m
Well, how is the identity card scheme going to significantly reduce that? Card not present? Does the Home Office intend to fit an ID card reader to every phone and computer in the country so we can verify our identities when making such purchases? Fraudulent applications? Do you have to send in your ID card when you apply for a new credit card? Because that would itself be rather risky surely.

The next largest component is money laudering at £395m
The overall size of money laundered in the UK is not known currently but is believed to be substantial. This cannot be attributed to any single organisation. No figures are available currently on the proportion of money laundering that relies on identity fraud. It is not possible to determine if the scale of this problem has changed since 2002. The figure from the original study has been included for illustrative purposes to help estimate any comparative changes to the overall cost of identity fraud since 2002.
That £395m, according to the Home Office, doesn't actually seem to be a figure meaningfully related to identity fraud at all.

Next, telecommunications at £372m. This is the money shot.
Telecoms not included in 2002 study.

The cost of identity-related fraud is a substantial component of the total fraud/revenue loss in the telecoms sector.
Em? So, estimated identity fraud has increased from £1.3b in 2002 to £1.7b in 2006. This is basically because the Home Office has found another £0.4b of vague, highly dubious figures to add to that headline grabbing figure.

Does Burnham feel proud to be involved in this sort of thing? Does he sleep easily in his bed knowing he's using intentionally misleading figures to sell a highly flawed policy? I don't think I could do it for money, career advancement, or anything else for that matter. Burnham obviously doesn't feel the same way. Unfortunately.

Sign the pledges and stuff please. This national database is of so little value to us, the people of this country, that the government has to resort to this sort of thing to sell it. That tells you all you need to know.

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