Australian ID card costly, won't stop terrorism

The federal government is moving ahead with an identity card inquiry

Introduction of a national ID card in Australia could cost the economy up to A$15 billion (NZ$16.5 billion), according to the latest estimates from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

This cost, the ACCI says, would be largely borne by the business sector, over and above the estimated A$750 per person it would cost to introduce the system.

While experts admit the introduction of such a card will do little to stop terrorism, the federal government is moving ahead with an identity card inquiry.

Smartcards, as they are generally known, are currently in use in Hong Kong and plans for a national ID card in the UK has led to widespread debate.

Microsoft's national technology officer in the UK, Jerry Fishenden, says a centralised national ID card could lead to "huge potential breaches" and leaks of personal information.

Fishenden, in an interview with Silicon.com, says he is worried about both the current architecture and the biometrics used.

"I have concerns with the current architecture and the way it looks at aggregating so much personal information and biometrics in a single place," Fishenden says.

"There are better ways of doing this. Even the biometrics industry says it is better to have biometrics [electronic fingerprints] stored locally."

Ben Shephard, smartcard business development manager with Keycorp, says the smartcards themselves are the best method to retain and store individual biometric information. Keycorp has just finished implementing a smartcard project across the Turkish military.

Ed Elliff, enterprise executive manager for Verisign, says most smartcard applications have used digital credentials to authenticate the user and then open up a backend application - where the security should be well and truly failsafe.

"In that instance if someone manages to crack what is on the smartcard it is extremely unlikely they will get at the data itself," Elliff says.

"The security focus should be on the database and the back end system."

Grant Allan, spokesperson for security implementation firm Interface Pacific, says smartcards are 1000 times more secure than a magnetic stripe card.

(With additional reporting from Sandra Rossi.)

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