U.K. government developing London Olympics ID card

Published 29 April 2008

The U.K. will host the 2012 Summer Olympic games, and the government is in the process of developing what it describes as a “pretty inclusive and far-reaching” Olympics accreditation card

The U.K. Border Agency is developing a “pretty inclusive and far-reaching” Olympics accreditation card for the 2012 games. The card will provide access both to the county and to the venues, chief executive Lin Homer told the Security Document World conference in London last week. When asked about the extent of the card’s use, Homer said the agency was “in the fairly early stages” of developing it. She added: “To the extent that we can develop a system that ticks as many boxes as we can, we will do that. My hope is that it will be a pretty inclusive and far-reaching offering, but we have still got a little bit of time and a lot of work,” describing the project as an opportunity to develop processes that can then be used permanently. Homer said Project Semaphore, the forerunner of the e-Borders scheme, which will eventually record extensive data on all international passenger movements, has led to 1,700 arrests. The agency will start procurement of e-Borders this summer. The agency claims to have no plans to verify the biometrics of everyone entering and leaving the United Kingdom. “I don’t think, as a key public service, we would want to oblige [the use of] biometrics,” Homer said. Homer hopes to expand voluntary use of biometrics at U.K. borders, such as use of the Iris scheme, which allows those enrolled to clear passport control more quickly by using an automated iris scanner. Homer, who said she is enrolled with Iris, described more voluntary schemes as “a fantastic opportunity” for the agency.

In another session at the event, Bob Carter of the Identity and Passport Service said that U.K. ID cards will use the strengthened Extended Access Control (EAC) protocol to protect data held on card chips. EAC will be used by European Schengen countries, within which national borders are not normally enforced, for new passports holding scans of at least two fingerprints. All Schengen countries are meant to introduce these by 28 June 2009. Carter said that EAC means that ID document chips will only provide data to readers with valid digital certificates, whereas documents using Basic Access Control — employed by most countries, including, at present, U.K. passports — will release data to any device with the correct software. “For the first time, it is the chip which decides if it wants to talk or not to talk,” he said. “The chip is in control.” Some security experts have expressed alarm at the standard of security on the current generation of passport chips. Carter said, however, that he could not discuss any implementation schedule of EAC for U.K. passports. Germany is already issuing passports using EAC.