304. If e-government is to become a reality some
secure form of identification will be required. Currently banks
use PIN numbers to identify customers and Government uses photographs
on driving licences and passports. These methods are inadequate.
Banks, for example, are seeking to find more secure identification
procedures. New methods are required if identification for e-government
purposes is to be efficient and effective. First, there needs
to be single forms of identification. In other words citizens
should not have to use different methods for different Departments.
Nor should different methods be required for different purposes,
for example being sent a benefit cheque or renewing a passport.
Second, identification needs to be more secure than it is at present.
For example bank cards, passports and driving licences have all
been subject to forgery and fraud.
305. There is a serious risk that current problems
such as benefit fraud and tax evasion could be magnified with
the advent of e-government which would largely remove face-to-face
contact. There are also new opportunities for computer hackers
to distort these activities.
306. One solution to these problems is the adoption
of some form of identity card. Apart from issues of fraud there
would be clear benefits to citizens. For example, they would have
a single means of gaining access to all e-government services;
they would not need passports or driving licences; they would
be able to access benefits, such as medical benefits, quickly
and easily elsewhere in the EU; they could be used in the private
sector for example to access banking services.
307. We recommend that
the United Kingdom Government conduct an investigation
into the merits and demerits of an electronic identity system.