SWEDEN AND GERMANY
23. In May 2004 we visited Sweden and Germany, in
connection with our inquiries into identity cards and rehabilitation
of prisoners. We held discussions with representatives of government,
NGOs and others to discuss each country's present or planned system
of identity cards.
24. For several centuries there has been a national
population register: everyone in Sweden is issued with a personal
number at birth, and this has to be cited in many official transactions.
There is completely open access to the population register: anyone
can look up a person's name, address and personal number. The
population register is the basis for identity documents carried
by 90% of Swedish citizens and residents. It is difficult to be
served in shops or banks without one: driving licences, passports,
or cards issued by banks or companies are used for this purpose.
25. There is, however, no national identity card
as yet. A new Swedish national identity card will include biometric
data, though the exact nature of this has not yet been decided
on. The purpose of the new card is as a travel document within
the Schengen area, rather than as a measure to tackle crime or
26. It will be designed to allow more information
to be added to it in future, e.g. electronic signatures. There
will be a charge for the card: this has not yet been fixed, but
is expected to be greater than the current charge for a passport
of 225 Kr (about £19). It will not be compulsory to carry
the card. The card will show date of issue and nationality, and
be valid for five years. Cards will be revocable, if the holder
has been found to assume a false identity or has allowed another
person to use their card.
27. We were told that the principle of the population
register and the personal number is universally accepted in Sweden,
because people have been familiar with it throughout their lives.
However, there has been opposition on grounds of individual rights
to a linkage between the new card and the population register.
Accordingly, the card will not be linked to the register. Information
will be stored in the chip on the card but not in a central database.
Anyone checking the card will be able to check that the person
presenting the card is the person whose details are stored in
the chip, but will not be able to use the card to access personal
information other than that contained in the card itself.
28. In Germany there is a national identity card
system. This has been in force for several generations. Compulsory
registration of individuals was introduced under the Reich Registration
Law of 1938, and identity cards were introduced in 1950. It is
not mandatory to carry the identity card or 'PA' (Personalausweis).
However, most people do because "you never know when you'll
need it". The police have powers to stop people in the street
and ask them to show their identity card. If they are unable to
produce this, the police have the right to 'accompany' them to
their residence or to arrest them for the purpose of establishing
identitybut they have to demonstrate "good reason"
why they are exercising this power.
29. Because of concerns about individual rights,
and the memory of abuses during the Nazi period, there is no central
database of identity card information, and the scheme is organised
at regional (Länder) level, rather than the federal
30. The identity card contains the address of the
holder. Every individual living in Germany is required to notify
the public authorities of a change of address within a week of
moving. Secondary places of residence also have to be registered.
Registration is necessary in order to claim social security benefits.
An individual's address is not regarded as private information,
and information about addresses will be supplied to inquirers;
there is a fee for this service.
31. Every German over the age of 16 years is required
to have an identity card. These are supplied on application to
a specialist office (Einwohnermeldeamt) in the area where
the applicant has their main residence. The only proof demanded
is a copy of the birth certificate or a previous identity card.
Applications are send to the official printers in Berlin, the
Bundesdruckerei, where the cards are manufactured. We visited
the Bundesdruckerei (which used to be state-run but was
privatised in 2000) and can attest to the technical sophistication
of the cardscomparable to that of German passports. According
to our interlocutors, these very high security standards make
the cards all but impossible to counterfeit. Data held for the
purpose of producing the identity card are deleted after completion
of the production process.
32. The current fee for German identity cards is
8 and for passports 26. Planning is in train for introducing
EU passports including biometrics as and when a political decision
to do so is taken at EU level. It has not yet been decided which
form of biometrics to use. New generation identity cards including
biometrics and digital signatures are likely to be introduced
within the next few years. The German authorities are more concerned
with the security of EU identity documents than with that of their
own, which they take largely for granted.
33. We were told that the German identity card is
a fully accepted and widely used document, carried by almost all
Germans and used in all kinds of transactions.
CANADA AND AUSTRALIA
34. Canada and Australia are frequently cited as
countries with similar political and social cultures to the United
35. In October 2003 the Committee on Citizenship
and Immigration of the Canadian House of Commons published an
interim report A National Identity Card for Canada?
This reached no formal conclusions, although it did identify a
number of questions that needed to be answered to reach a conclusion.
The Committee took the view that:
"It is clear that this is a very significant
policy issue that could have wide implications for privacy, security
and fiscal accountability. Indeed, it has been suggested that
it could affect fundamental values underlying Canadian society."
36. On 31 December 2003 the Canadian Government introduced
an identity card for foreign nationals who are legal permanent
residents in Canada.
The Permanent Resident Card (PR Card), also known as the Maple
Leaf Card, is the proof of status document required by permanent
residents seeking to re-enter Canada on a commercial carrier.
Only non-secure information is printed on the card: personal information
is encoded and accessible only to authorized officials. Security
features include laser-engraved photograph and signature, micro-text
printing, tactile lettering and ultra-violet images. Richard Haddock,
of LaserCard, pointed to the Canadian experience as a model:
"we have some experience now in five different
countries starting from scratch through the planning process to
the point where they have all issued cards. The most impressive
one was the Canadian Government, where, shortly after 9/11, they
decided they wanted to upgrade their permanent resident card to
an optical memory card, and within nine months of making that
decision they were issuing cards to their citizens. They said
by June 28th 2002 they must be issued, and we thought it was very
aggressive but we agreed to it and on June 28th they issued cards.
It was on time, on budget, so it can be done, [...]"
"What is currently on the Canadian card
is a facial photograph of the person, (which is actually in black
and white because they laser-engrave the card), and it has a digitised
signature of the person (where again it is a scan of the signature),
and they have allocated a space in the secure partition of the
optical memory for a fingerprint, but currently they are not putting
the fingerprint in it because they are still considering the privacy
implications. So in that case they built the flexibility to upgrade
in the future into their system."
Mr Haddock also remarked on the way the Canadian
card was introduced:
"The Canadian Government put out a PR campaign
about their new permanent resident card and actually the card
is a very beautifully designed card. They did a good job in designing
it and it makes you want to own one, so there is some pride of
ownership associated with it in the newspapers. It is called the
Maple Leaf Card and it was splashed all over the press there.
They actually won three international awards within three months
of it being issued for both technical and aesthetic qualities.
They then put out technology fliers on the benefits of it and
got a high rate of acceptance. Of course they also had the advantage
of having a pre-existing paper document which they could force
to expire and oblige people, if they wanted to continue to have
the privileges associated with that document, to upgrade to the
37. Like the United Kingdom, Australia had an identity
card system during the Second World War; this was withdrawn shortly
after the end of hostilities. In July 1985 the Australian Government
brought forward a proposal for the "Australia Card",
largely on the grounds that it would reduce tax evasion. The scheme
was to include a register, operated as a hub-system whereby participating
agencies could share specified data about individuals. The entire
population was to be recorded on the register, and every person
was to have an obligation to acquire a code, and a card carrying
the code, and to present that card in a wide variety of circumstances.
Although the Bill introducing the card was twice defeated
in the Senate, in December 1986 and April 1987, the card was not
an issue in the July 1987 elections, which were won by the incumbent
Labor Government. Nonetheless a vigorous campaign of opposition
led to the proposal being withdrawn in September 1987.
38. We consider in detail later in this report
the concerns raised in the United Kingdom over the Government's
proposals. The international experience clearly indicates that
identity cards and population registers operate with public support
and without significant problems in many liberal, democratic countries.
In a number of these, the holding and even carrying of the card
is compulsory and appears to be widely accepted. However, each
country has its own social, political and legal culture and history:
the nature of each identity scheme and population register reflects
those unique elements. We cannot assume that any particular approach
can be applied successfully in the UK. Nor can we yet draw on
any significant international experience of the use of biometrics
on the scale that is proposed in the UK.
1 Lord Goddard [Willcock v. Muckle] 26 June 1951 Back
The EU countries plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Back
Home Office, Identity Cards: a consultation document, CM
2879, May 1995 Back
Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 1995-96, HC172-I,
para 11 Back
Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 1995-96, HC172-I,
para 52 Back
HC172-I, para 56 Back
HC172-I, para 67 Back
HC172-I, para 78 Back
HC172-I, para 112 Back
HC172-I, para 116 Back
HC172-I, para 117 Back
HC172-I, para 126 Back
Home Office, The Government Reply to the Fourth Report from
the Home Affairs Committee, Session 1995-96, Cm 3362, August
Q 131; The incompatibilities arise not only from differences in
format, but also because of the different purposes for which the
data is required. Back
Q 434 Back
Q 471 Back
Q 477 Back
Roger Clarke, The resistible rise of the national personal data
system, Software Law Journal, 5.1 (January 1992) Back