In a press conference Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair commented on the needs for what he called a "secure identity system." Blair believes that the scheme is vital to the management of security in the modern world, and to securing UK borders.

"The world is more mobile than ever before. Capital moves freely across national boundaries. Information is transmitted digitally, in an instant," Blair said. "But the open world brings with it new problems too. Identity theft for financial gain, illegal immigration and illegal working have all increased ... Some terrorist suspects have as many as 50 assumed identities. Indeed this has been part of the training at Al Qaeda camps."

The Prime Minister also commented on the use of biometrics, claiming that with the biometrics "a national identity system has benefits that it has never before had" and "the advent of new biometric technology has completely changed the argument in how we combat" challenges.

Blair outlined four benefits of the biometric system:

  1. Secure borders -- reduction in illegal immigration and disruption of terrorist activities. "Terrorists and criminals currently use false and multiple identities to avoid detection and launder money.
  2. Protecting the most vulnerable -- checking the identities of potential employees such as nannies. "Their criminal record can be searched rapidly, easily."
  3. Criminal detection -- comparing crime scene fingerprints with those held in the central database. "With secure ID we can speed up those improvements."
  4. Fraud prevention -- decreasing the amount of identity thefts. "Less than 50 per cent of consumers feel their identity is safe."
Blair also commented on those who question the National Identity Registry, such as the out spoken No2ID. "We are, they say, simply trading too much of our liberty," Blair said. "The real issue here is not privacy or cost, it is modernity. We face some new problems. Biometric technology offers new solutions. But, in addition, we can already glimpse what else might be possible."

Number 10 Downing Street will be holding a live Web chat with James Hall, chief executive of the British Identity and Passport Service, next Tuesday, November 14.

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer