The Royal Mail, shops and private firms are today being invited to bid for multi-million pound contracts to fingerprint millions of Britons for ID cards.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is placing the private sector in charge of gathering the biometric details of anyone who applies for a passport or the controversial new cards.
People will have all ten fingerprints and their face scanned.
The hugely sensitive biometric data will then be passed on to the Government’s Identity and Passport Service for inclusion on the new National Identity Register.
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Separately, the applicant will fill in a form to request a passport or ID card. They will undergo full identity checks and will only be issued with their card or passport once this is complete.
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The card – being displayed by Miss Smith, right – will contain a microchip with an image of two fingerprints and the facial scan.
The Home Office said firms have to pass rigorous security checks to win a contract.
Fingerprints would be recorded using Government computers and would not be stored on memory sticks or sent in the post on CDs.
But it is unprecedented for members of the public to give all ten fingerprints to a private company. At present, the right to take fingerprints is largely restricted to the police.
The Home Office, which had planned to take fingerprints itself, says the move will cut costs by as much as £1billion.