The British government is having second thoughts - serious second thoughts about plans to create a national database that would hold personal information and biometric data for British citizens, reports.

The National Identity Register (NIR) was to be the giant database at the heart of the project, holding personal identity information and biometric data for everyone enrolled in the scheme. But now three existing systems will share the NIR information instead. The government's action plan for the ID cards project revealed: "These sets of information - biometric, biographical and administrative - do not all need to be held in a single system. In fact, for security reasons, and to make best use of the strengths of existing systems, it makes sense to store them separately."

Since other government agencies already store the kinds of personal information that the NIR considered centralizing into a single database, and since centralization is actually a security risk, the UK will likely look to leverage existing collections.

James Hall, CEO of the Identity and Passport Service, told "One of the key things we've been looking at is the use of existing government assets wherever useful. The Department for Work and Pensions has a very large Customer Information System (CIS) and we believe there is a huge opportunity to reuse that technology to store the biographic component of the National Identity Registry."

While changes are planned in the NIR scheme, the system would still depend on biometric data stored on ID cards, although the technology is slated to change. Iris scan data is out; the cards will use fingerprints and facial biometrics.

The UK now plans to issue "significant volumes" of the cards in 2010.

Despite the tight deadline, Hall said: "The timetable we've laid out represents our best current estimates of what we can do. This is not a greenfield site - we are not dealing with technology that is unknown. We think we have a sensible, credible plan that we can deliver."