Watchdog wanted for £4.7bn national ID cards scheme

The government has advertised for an independent commissioner to oversee its controversial £4.7 billion national identity cards scheme.

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The government has advertised for an independent commissioner to oversee its controversial £4.7 billion national identity cards scheme.

The post has been advertised in the Sunday Times, and states the requirements that the candidate has “extensive experience” of working in the public and private sector, with a strong leadership record and “breadth of vision”.

Since its inception, the identity cards scheme has been met with some vehement opposition, as people questioned the necessity of creating such a large database of people’s sensitive information. Downing Street has always argued the scheme would help protect the country against terrorists as well as limiting illegal immigration.

By creating a watchdog post, the Home Office hopes to reassure the public that their data is safe and that their human rights are not being infringed. The commissioner, who will take home a six-figure annual salary, will act to oversee how the Identity and Passport Service stores and uses data. The initial term is for three years and will begin this summer.

Jacqui Smith, home secretary said: "I understand that people want strong oversight of the National Identity Scheme, and I agree that the security or integrity of the scheme should never be taken for granted.”

Nevertheless the appointment comes some way into the scheme - the government has been planning it for several years, and began issuing the cards to foreign nationals last November, and during this year they will be issued to airport workers. The ID cards will be issued on a voluntary basis to young people next year, and by 2011 the scheme will “enrol people at high volumes”.

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