We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The photo Panopticon

A public photo pool called The Panopticon: Pictures Of Surveillance Cameras has been set up…

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via Boing Boing

U.K. to issue biometric passports worldwide

Steve Ranger of Silicon.com reports that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is spending 5 million pounds (about $8.7 million) to equip its embassies and consulates around the world with the technology to issue biometric passports. Technology company 3M will install new passport issuance systems that can identify biometric information at 104 embassies, consulates and high commissions.

Great, who needs ID cards, when you get your fingerprints in the passport.

Stretching the swan metaphor

Flying swans are the logo of the UK’s presidency of the EU over the next six months. Apparently, the UK officials are proud to point out that it is the first time an EU presidency has had an animated logo. I mean, how amazing is that? Watch out Jacques!

The idea is a metaphor for leadership, teamwork and efficiency, which is particularly appropriate for the EU, given the system of rotating leadership. Migrating birds fly in a V formation. This is highly efficient, because all the birds in the formation, except for the leader, are in the slipstream of another bird. Periodically the leading bird drops back and another bird moves up to take its place.

What a load of bollocks! We are talking about a bunch of bureaucrats and appratchiks desparately (at least I can hope) trying to recover their footing which was temporarily disrupted by the recent referenda on the EU constitution. But not everyone thinks the logo is ridiculous, for example the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds likes it:

One of the concerns being tackled in the UK’s EU and G8 presidencies, was climate change, which could potentially prevent Whooper and Bewick’s swans wintering in this country.

I am having trouble keeping a straight face here. But seriously, how about streching the metaphor a bit and hope it might be the EU swan song…?

UK ID Card Battle Heats Up

Wired writes that Britain’s House of Commons this week moved forward with plans to create a new national ID card, but a sharp reversal in support for the controversial measure signals a rocky road ahead.

British lawmakers voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday by an unexpectedly thin margin of 314-283. At the last minute, some members of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party revolted against the cards, which would carry fingerprints and iris scans of cardholders and be backed by a national database containing extensive personal information.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it’s too early to comment on the bill’s future success.

We won’t speculate on the passage of a bill through parliament. It still has an awful lot of readings to go through. Anything can happen to it.

I wouldn’t hold my breath as Tony Blair indicated that he will use a Parliament Act to force the legistration through. The struggle continues…

LSE report on ID cards

The likely cost of rolling out the UK government’s current high-tech identity cards scheme will be £10.6 billion on the ‘low cost’ estimate of researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), without any cost over-runs or implementation problems. Key uncertainties over how citizens will behave and how the scheme will work out in practice mean that the ‘high cost’ estimate could go up to £19.2 billion. A median figure for this range is £14.5 billion.

The LSE report The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications is published today (27 June) after a six month study guided by a steering group of 14 professors and involving extensive consultations with nearly 100 industry representatives, experts and researchers from the UK and around the world. The project was co-ordinated by the Department of Information Systems at LSE.

The LSE report concludes that an ID card system could offer some basic public interest and commercial sector benefits. But it also identifies six other key areas of concern with the government’s existing plans:

  1. Multiple purposes

  2. Will the technology work?
  3. Is it legal?
  4. Security
  5. Citizens’ acceptance
  6. Will ID cards benefit businesses?

To read the full text visit here. Also, you can download the executive summary of the report here and a full text (300 pages) here.

Ideal Government blog is providing a discussion space for the LSE identity project as well as for the topic of Identity cards in the UK in general. Well worth a trip over there…

No re-think on ID cards

Rose Prince of Mirror.co.uk writes that Tony Blair yesterday hinted he would force ID cards on the public even if they were opposed by the House of Lords. A day after the controversial scheme narrowly survived a knife-edge vote in the Commons, the Prime Minister suggested he would take a tough line with peers who tried to block his pet project.

His warning came as the head of the UK Passport Service said international con artists would be able to duplicate the technology within a decade. Bernard Herdan fuelled fears over the cost of the scheme by claiming the proposed biometric ID would need to be regularly updated to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.

All we can do is to keep on changing the design.

Despite the growing opposition to ID cards, Mr Blair appeared to threaten the use of the Parliament Act – the device used by the House of Commons in a last resort to force legislation through the Lords.

This is insane… I wonder why?

ID card rebels offer compromise

Daily Mail reports that Labour rebels have offered an olive branch to Home Secretary Charles Clarke over his controversial plans for identity cards, inviting him to meet them to talk through their concerns.

The chairman of the Campaign Group of left-wing MPs John McDonnell, who wrote to Mr Clarke, made clear that the rebels were ready to seek compromise over his Identity Cards Bill rather than trying to wreck the legislation altogether.

ID cards bill passes second Commons reading

The second reading of the ID cards bill was passed by 314 votes to 283, giving the government a majority of 31. In the end just 20 Labour MPs joined forces with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to oppose the ID card scheme, meaning a few abstentions swung the vote in the government’s favour.

ID card pledge

I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge.
– Phil Booth, NO2ID National Coordinator at PledgeBank

Deadline is 9th October 2005, 2,934 people have signed up, 7066 more are needed. Those in the UK, please sign up.

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Patron privacy

Tom Morris has taken matters into his hands and is asking British Library about its patron privacy policy… The conclusions are not favourable.

My opinion on this is pretty simple: it’s evil and needs rethinking. Patron privacy is one of the biggest issues for me. This won’t affect my use of the library (but I will not be requesting certain books from the BL – rather, I’ll be buying anything controversial or reading it at another library), though I will be making my opinion clear to them in the form of a formal letter. I will also try and get hold of this records management policy. Ideally, they should hold borrowing records only as long as is required for the books to be retrieved from the store, then delete them after the books are returned to the counter. Or, perhaps, a system where patrons can submit a form either online or in person asking that their records be wiped clean. Again, like all privacy concerns, this is simply about ensuring that what should remain private does remain private.

I am sure that the ‘if-you-have-nothing-to-hide-you have-nothing-to-be-afraid-of’ bridage would completely miss the point on this one too…

ID card plans are back and ‘more popular’

Silicon.com reports that government wants them and the public too seems to be warming to the idea… The UK government is preparing to reintroduce legislation paving the way for its controversial biometric identity cards. The proposed legislation was dropped in the run up to the election but the controversial bill is set to be reintroduced by Home Secretary Charles Clarke on 25th May.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, junior Home Office minister Andy Burnham said ID cards will give the public a “highly secure” way of protecting against identity theft which costs the UK economy £1.3bn a year and that support for identity cards was running at around 80 per cent. This was due to growing awareness of identity fraud.

Early analysis of the scheme that is being developed has indicated that the benefits – including to the public sector in terms of cutting fraud and the improper use of services, and to the private sector in terms of cutting identity fraud – will, when the scheme is fully operational, outweigh its cost.

Research released earlier this week reveals 57 per cent of adults aged between 16 and 64 said the controversial ID card is either their first or second preference for protecting their identity. David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, says the problem of electoral fraud is one issue which “throws the spotlight back onto ID cards” – most notably the problem of people voting in person with no required proof of identity.

So in order to stop identity theft that has very little to do with the ability to identify people correctly and more to do with the stupidity of people guarding their details, we are going to change the balance of power between the state and the individual. No prizes for guessing which way… And the central identity database is going to make it identity theft simpler, if you ask me as you’ll only have to fool one system.

Putting the pan into Panopticon

Rob Fisher blogs about Monday’s USA Today front page a story about a new X-Ray machine for use in airports that can see through clothing. The machine apparently generates images that, “paint a revealing picture of a person’s nude body”.

He points out that the article does not even touch on the need for such machines.

Are not current metal detectors adequate for preventing people from getting on an aeroplane with firearms?

If an airline says it wants me to walk through this machine as a condition of getting on one of their planes, that is one thing: it’s a private company deciding that this is a necessary measure to protect its customers or keep down its insurance costs. It’s their aircraft, they can quite rightly refuse to allow on anyone they feel like for whatever reason.

But if the government mandates the use of these machines, then that’s the government forcing airlines and airports into doing something they and their passengers likely don’t want to do. It’s governments yet again abusing their power to achieve nothing of value to anyone except politicians who want to look like they’re doing something useful.