Friday, 15 January 2010

Post Office diversifies.

A FOI request has just revealed some interesting information about the government's struggle to ramp up 'biometric enrolment' of the general population. The plan is to enrol you on the scheme and take your fingerprints, facial photo and signature in Post Offices across the UK, if you apply for a passport from the end of 2011.

The UK Border Agency's 'Commercial Strategy On Future Biometric Enrolment Accommodation and Services' makes it quite clear the Home Office doesn't have the capacity to handle mass registration:

We have considered using IPS (which is part of the Home Office anyway) to provide these services... but they provide scant geographical coverage,and have limited space for processing the additional footfall of enrolment applications."

So much for the value of the interrogation centre network, expensively set up in the past few years, and now being quietly wound down again.

The official documents have been mysteriously - and inconsistently- blotted out in places. Most references to costs are excised; the planned timetables are shown, but what logically should be references to how much has been done, where, are all black. Confident? In different versions of the same documents the same bits are not redacted. Competent?

Will it actually work, if it is available on time? They don't seem to think so. One Post Office presentation refers bizarrely to people whom the system can't even record:

The system can allow up to three attempts, before offering to accept and forward the last photograph if the Customer agrees, on the basis that not all people are ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] conformant.

As David Blunkett put it in another context, "impossible, not nearly impossible, impossible".

Thanks to NO2ID newsletter 140.

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