On my most recent ID card post there is an interesting comment (reproduced below) from Nigel Sedgwick who appears to be knowledgable about the scheme. Herewith his comment:
My recollection of the Bill is that you will not be forced to carry the ID card. If you return to the UK to live, you will be forced to register (eventually) and to provide rather more details than perhaps really necessary, intrusive on your privacy, for registration. Furthermore, an audit trail will be kept of accesses to the register (in perpetuity, it seems), which somewhat track your private life.
I see you live in France. There, are you not required to register and be issued with an ID card. I believe you do not have to carry the ID card at all times. However, I understand many ordinary transactions, eg with some sorts of shopping, will be much more difficult if you cannot produce it. On these point, am I correct? [Please excuse me if I'm not.]
What is your view of the system in France?
Answering from the bottom to the top. The French ID card is an effectively pointless piece of lamminated plastic, it contains about as much information as is on your driving license other than whether you can drive. It can be used in some places where a passport may be used (e.g. presenting ID to board flights or writing a cheque) but has very little purpose other than that - I think it probably should examined by employers to verifiy that you are entitled to be employed and perhaps the welfare offices look at it to decide whether you are eligable for benefits but that is about it. I believe that, in theory, one is supposed to have it on one's person when outside one's residence but I have never ever had to show it to anyone or use it for anything, although I believe that one of the gripes of the banlieue rioters last year was that the French police tended to ask them for their ID and not anyone else. The French ID cars is not exactly protected with anti-forgery safeguards either. I'm sure that it would take more than a colour photocopier/laser printer to fake it but I doubt it would take much more effort. In other words while it might be beyond the capabilities of a single individual it would be pretty straightforward for a criminal gang (or similar) to get the necessary bits together to make as many fakes as they felt like. However, as I say, no one uses it so there is little incentive unless you live in some banlieue and have a criminal record.
The UK scheme is rather more involved. It is true that as a non UK resident, I seem to be spared the neccessity of having such a tag, as long as I remain a non UK resident and it has to be said though that this combines with the weather to make the UK an unattractive place to live. As Nigel writes during registration one be required "to provide rather more details than perhaps really necessary". A large part of my concern is with precisely this since, as I noted in my post at the end of last month, it seems like all of these details will in fact be stored in some register that can then be queried by appropriately authorized persons, including, as I understand it, the card owner as verified by his possession of the card. This, as I said then, is an invitation to identity theft and the fact that there is an audit trail really doesn't help except to identify how the stable door was left ajar.
Nigle in fact wrote a very good piece about some of the technical challenges, and that will be part of my anticipated next diatriabe against these damn things - effectively we are trying too many untested (or only slightly tested) things at once. As I say, I am not in principle against the idea of an ID card, I am however against the ID card as currently implemented because it seems to me they don't help. The French card (which I believe is similar to ID cards in must of the rest of Europe) is a pre-computer document and seems to provide very little benefit, albeit at fairly little cost. The UK card is intended to be a far more advanced product and it concerns me very greatly that this seems to be being rushed into implementation without thinking through its technical feasibility.