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More on ID cards

Fine and detailed article here over at The Register, a techie website, laying out many of the pitfalls associated with the British government’s wretched ID card measures. Some of the arguments are pretty familiar terrain to Samizdata regulars but in the current climate it pays to repeat an argument as loudly as possible.

I have already made it clear in the comments, but I’d like to repeat how much I like the look of Michael Taylor’s idea on naming and shaming the businesses, officials and politicians backing this proposal. The Freedom of Information Act can be a highly effective weapon in the hands of those skilled at digging out information and we should make use of it.

Having some experience of investigations, I’ll be hoping to post up more details of the sort Michael Taylor referred to in the next few days. Please keep the comments coming in and hopefully this blog can kick up a storm.

31 comments to More on ID cards

  • 1327

    One of the consultants for the ID cards project is the Sirius Consortium which comprises of Fujitsu , BT & PriceWaterhouseCoopers so I thought I would use Google to see what I could find on them. For starters it seems they already have their feet well under the table at the Home Office where they run the Sirus Programme . However it isn’t all sweetness and light with the HO since they had a project for a Asylum Seeker database scrapped. But I can’t find any details on why this happened.

    Anyway the Sirius Consortium were paid £78K back in 2002 to advise on feasibility and costs of ID cards. Now I can’t work out if I am being naive here or if the HO is but if you ask a consortium made up of 2 IT companies to advise you on the feasibility of an IT project what answer do you honestly expect ! If it were me I would advise the govt to use the most complex system of biometrics possible and then try and get a piece of the action.

    Of course I know this is nothing earth shattering and its what you would expect to happen when you have Dept that seems to have passed over its management to consultants. But I suppose it is why Whitehall exists in a little bubble unaware of possible problems or objections to its plans.

  • Whatever course of action you take, utilise the blogosphere. Ask all like-minded bloggers to post your findings on their blogs. So long as it’s kept legal there will be few problems with filling the net with anti-ID ideas and the personal details of those who want to own our personal details.

  • Verity

    1327 – please see my answer – and Guy Herbert’s answer – below to Bishops Hill under Practical Ways to Fight the ID. Right now, they are the last two comments on that topic.

    Gary Monro – The blogosphere has a background, but important, role to play in this. But this is by and large MSM.

    Jonathan, I think you are emerging as the leader!

  • John K

    Oh my God, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation are behind the ID card scheme. It all begins to make sense now. Even Douglas Adams could not have made that one up. Share and Enjoy!

  • Verity

    Let us not let the focus of this pragmatic scheme, which can work, be derailed by discussions about corporations.

    May I suggest that any of the people who have written about corporations involved on this topic write a piece and submit it to the editors of Samizdata; and let us keep this combatting of the ID card topic discrete. Otherwise, it will go dribbling off into cyberspace and everyone who cares about it will stop reading, or start sending links to the companies that funded the AT&TSF RR and we’ll lose it.

    No offence, and as Jonathan pointed out elsewhere, I am not a Samizdata editor. I am just trying to save the focus of this idea.

  • Keith

    Agree with Verity there–focus on the problem and the means to destroy it. All else may be fascinating, but it’s irrelevant and will only dilute the effort and make us sound like moonbat conspiracy nuts.
    Engage and destroy. :o)

  • Julian Taylor


    The ultimate test of any complex system such as the ID card will come about from when the ‘Tesco Checkout Girl’ factor is applied – i.e. when unskilled minimum wage staff have to use it in the course of their work. I think this [LINK] illustrates the problems we shall encounter with the ID cards perfectly,

    The Register arrived for press conference fashionably late and were further detained as reception by a Home Office security guard who demanded an NuJ card as identification. A passport, with a US-issued biometric visa inside, and a Register business card were not enough for our man.

    Might I suggest that possibly the first thing that should be done is to ascertain how many MP’s will, without the benefit of the 3-line whip used in the 28th June debate, vote either for or against the ID Card bill. People should be able to write to their own MP or attend one of their surgeries and ask very simply where he/she personally stands on this issue.

    Once we have a clearer picture of whether the bill will die or not then perhaps we can move on to the next stage of linking the politicians up to their non-executive directorships of certain government-favoured IT contractors. If required I have some small knowledge of PHP/MySQL plus I have a number of MySQL databases available off one of my servers – that is of course should anyone not balk at the irony of using a database to help combat the ‘database state’.

  • Johnathan

    Julian, as you know, I have already been assured by Mark Field, MP for Westminster (Conservative) that he opposes the measure but I am going to write again anyway for an update.

    I still reckons Capita is going to be a key firm here to keep an eye on.

  • David

    There must be a place for Ghandi-like, public resistance – information dumped as often and as frequently as possible is surely a method that remains open to us all – if anyone has information, download and disseminate it as often as possible, tack some on the end of every email you send, no matter how much it annoys or distresses – resistance may be futile but it MUST be (hey, I’m an unreconstructed Mac user, Bill = Tony, at least in my book, which does not use html…)

  • And Crapita has such a good record at administering things.

    This issue is one that bloggers need to get together on and forget prejudices &/or old rivalries. We put together a coalition to keep tabs on this and let people know where things are going. I spoke at length about blogs to someone at NO2ID (who has since left to go make a living again) and he said they needed all the blogging help they can get. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on MPs who are wavering about this issue.

  • Julian Taylor,

    One way to influence the (literal) Tesco Checkout Girl on ID cards and the National Identity Register might be to ask her how her job is affected when something goes wrong with the IT systems in Tesco. Tesco, like all other modern supermarkets, use an electronic barcode-based stock-tracking system which staff probably most often come into contact with when stocking shelves or repricing some products, which requires the use of a handheld stock-tracking computer which, I believe, is wirelessly linked to the store’s central stock database. If the wireless link goes down or something goes wrong with the database the individual Tesco Checkout Girl‘s job becomes more difficult. Ask her to imagine what life would be like if her ability to use public transport, visit a hospital or enjoy a night out were governed by a similar, albeit more fallible, central database – with barcodes replaced by her fingerprints and iris scans. Then ask her what she thinks of the government reducing her to an item of stock that they want to tag and track.

    Might I suggest that possibly the first thing that should be done is to ascertain how many MP’s will, without the benefit of the 3-line whip used in the 28th June debate, vote either for or against the ID Card bill. People should be able to write to their own MP or attend one of their surgeries and ask very simply where he/she personally stands on this issue.

    I’ve spoken to two MPs (I’m constituents of both depending on the time of year) but sadly they’re both hardline Blairites (although both saw their majorities massively reduced on 5 May) – no amount of rational argument could persuade either of these MPs to even contemplate treacherous Unblairite views. Of course, neither of these MPs has even the first clue about the technology involved in producing the proposed ID cards and National Identity Register scheme – but that does nothing to deter them from making assertions about the supposed benefits. Laughably, one of my MPs’ favourite arguments in favour of the ID/NIR scheme is that it will stop underage drinking! How could anyone possibly think it worth spending £20bn (probably more), barcoding citizens and tracking them from cradle to grave to ‘stop underage drinking’ – not that the ID/NIR system would have that effect anyway!

    Thank goodness David Davis is the top contender for leader of the Conservative Party – I understand the gentleman to have always been opposed to ID cards in principle. He changed his line as Shadow Home Secretary under Howard last year in the run up to the original ID Cards Bill being put before the Commons but now that Howard’s on his way out and Conservative MPs have found a reasonable excuse to change tack (‘the Home Secretary hasn’t provided the assurances we demanded’), Davis is doing a good job of raising awareness of this despicable scheme in both the Commons and the mainstream media. It is disgraceful to think that until just a few weeks ago we had to rely on Lib Dem spokesmen opposing the scheme in the Commons and raising media attention of the dangers presented by Blair’s latest tool of totalitarian rule.

  • Verity

    Focussing on companies or the little people who will have to use the card is not practical. People don’t care about companies; they expect companies to try to make money any way they can; they do not think they can do anything against companies or the government and they live with it.

    We’ve got to spoon feed them to get them interested, and that is by supplying IDcard-type very personal details of those who wish to impose it. This – gossip in a world of reality TV and people being famous for no other reason than having had a boob operation – is what will capture the popular imagination and this is the brilliance of Michael Taylor’s idea. Who seems unable to meet his mortgage payments? Who has loans from three or four banks? Whose credit card details visits to Madam Cynthia’s House of Discipline? Who has a direct debit for a porno channel? Who was picked up and cautioned for loitering near a boys’ school?

    This is all we have to focus on: ID card details of the people who are arrogantly going to impose these cards on the British. The medical details, the financial – surely many of them inexplicable – details, private details of their everyday lives put on a plastic card for anyone in officialdom to have access to. Once the high and mighty are aware that they will be thus exposed, I think the ID card will die a quiet death.

    This is a 21st Century fight and we have to use the weapons of today. Not the weapons of the last century. Blair and the Gestapo want a programme of intrusion into the lives of citizens? Well, we’ll give them intrusion!! And how!!


  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – surely the sort of personal details you mentioned are confidential and not covered by the FOI act? I think there is only so much one could unearth legally. I’m almost certain you can rule out accessing credit card history, medical records, that kind of thing. And to discover details worthy of publication in The Sun like boob jobs and S&M jaunts, you’d have to use The Sun’s grubby methods. FOI doesn’t come into it.

    Sorry to spoil the party…

  • Verity

    Don’t be so literal. We are brushing in broad strokes right now. It’ll be refined.

    There is no party to spoil. We do not think this is going to be a party.

  • Tim

    ID cards. One simple action is to Sign The Pledge at http://www.pledgebank.com/refuse

  • John K

    This is all we have to focus on: ID card details of the people who are arrogantly going to impose these cards on the British.

    I quite agree. Where did this brutish plan come from? I know that the Home Office has had a hard on for ID cards virtually since the glorious day they were abolished. But where did this scheme, with its biometric identifiers and total surveillance database come from? There has to have been some sort of Wannsee Conference where it was decided to impose a final solution to the identity problem. Who was there? Who are these faceless drones who have the temerity to impose this slave card database on us? They must have names surely? Do they work for the government, or for Sirius, Oracle, or any other modern day IG Farben? Who are they? Where do they live? What is in it for them? Let’s have it all out in the open. The innocent have nothing to fear.

  • btwg156

    1. Well, there is an issue of ID cards in UK, and in an issue of credit cards and Sen. Biden and the Presidency in USA

    2. Here is a funny funny post about another leftist US Senator Biden.

    Mysoginist UnderSenator Joseph Biden (Democrat from the State of MBNA credit card) Is Running for President of Behalf of All Women who wear underwear

    here is the site http://satire.myblogsite.com/blog

  • Verity

    Here is a piece by the excellent Peter Oborne on the identity card scam. If the link doesn’t work, it’s in this week’s Speccie and it’s called Have The English Lost Their Love of Liberty? (Link)Peter Oborne

  • What is needed is a good old fashioned scare,there is nothing like irrationality to harden peoples attitudes.
    May i reccommend something like the “pig fat on the cartridges” rumour used in the Indian Mutiny”.
    Fight th Blair way,make shit up!

  • guy herbert

    What is needed is a good old fashioned scare,there is nothing like irrationality to harden peoples attitudes

    Well, the Government is pretty expert at that. Witness today’s “500,000 illegal immigrants in UK” scare, calculated to bring back “immigration”, i.e. foreigners, as a bugbear to be fought with ID cards.

    Myself, I think immigrants are a good thing, but I recognise that there’s no point in arguing that. The appeal to populist fear is too strong. If you want a fear to associate with the ID system, remind people that whatever bad people they don’t like may get access to the database and use its power.

    That’s what persuaded the DUP. They are orderly and normally considered authoritarian by nature, but they understand that if the government knows where everybody lives, then the IRA will too.

  • What is needed is a good old fashioned scare,there is nothing like irrationality to harden peoples attitudes.

    I heard the electronic fingerprint capture machines cause cancer.


  • Julian Taylor

    Stephen wrote,

    Ask her to imagine what life would be like if her ability to use public transport, visit a hospital or enjoy a night out were governed by a similar, albeit more fallible, central database – with barcodes replaced by her fingerprints and iris scans.

    Absolutely spot on. One major screwup Londoners hear of every day is the, “if you have an Oyster Pre Pay card, please remember to touch in and out at the start and end of your journey, in order that you will pay the correct fare for your journey”. This is a rather good example of the Tesco Checkout Girl factor in action, where London Underground staff have to constantly remind customers that Capita’s Oyster Card system does not quite do the advertised job …

    As an addendum to my earlier comment, it also might be worth keeping an eye on any large increase in IT corporate Labour Party donations … EDS and Capita are obviously two to watch.

  • Verity

    Stephen Hodgson – I heard the light in the biometric eye camera can damage some of the fine nerves in back of the eye if the technician is not very experienced. You don’t feel anything at the time and you only begin to notice your vision going a bit blurry around six months later.

  • Verity,
    But of course,I was thinking how long it would take for the first case to be brought for contravention of the ECHR.Class actions for damaged eyesight,compelling people,like me ,who have a a fear of anything near their eyes to have a scan.Those against whose religion it is to have parts of their bodies scanned.
    Those who believe eye scans can steal ones soul,don’t laugh there will be someone.
    How long before this bunch of shysters realise that the will never be out of the European Courts?
    But the best is,it discriminates against immigrants.

  • Verity

    Isn’t it about time we started thinking of a name?

  • Given the whole HHGG “reference” with Sirius, “Megadodo Publications” might be a suitable name. After all, there’ll be publication of the details of those involved in what is a mega-database scheme, and we want it to go the way of the dodo…..

  • Added bonus from the Wikipedia article:

    “Famously secretive (or destructive) about their financial and historical records, the entire company was later bought out by Infinidim Enterprises.”

    So as long as it doesn’t get bought out by that Vogon Clarke, we’ll be alright 🙂

  • guy herbert

    Andrew Dodge: “someone at NO2ID […] and he said they needed all the blogging help they can get.”

    Or indeed any other sort of help. Financial and administrative most, however.

  • Verity

    Well, well. The moon is blue. The Grauniad has a sensible, libertarian article against identity cards. By (Link)Muriel Gray, in case the link doesn’t work.

  • John K

    A very good article, and she is right to make the point that the innocent fequently do have something to fear. Battered wives, or Asian girls fleeing arranged marriages, have a real need to hide their true identities. It has nothing to do with criminality. The fungus faced control freak Clark seems unable to comprehend that without privacy life becomes intolerable. I presume that even he chooses to defecate in private, although I will concede that at the moment he seems content to shit upon all our traditional rights and liberties. I think I shall have to buy a replica gun soon just so as to spite the bastard.

  • Verity

    There are all kinds of reasons a normal British person – without playing the Pakistani immigrant card – may wish to be in hiding or check into a hotel under a false name, or rent a flat in a phoney name. Sometimes it may be fear of someone or something, and sometimes it may just suit that person’s convenience, which is his right in a free society. In fact, that Muriel Gray’s article addressed this adds to the nightmareish quality of what is being proposed. As it has been for centuries, as long as it is not done with intent to defraud, you are perfectly free to walk around calling yourself the Duke of Belgravia if that is your pleasure. And to rent a flat under that name. Such secrecy and such foibles and fantasies will be lopped off under this loathesome, fascist, levelling out scheme. It absolutely must be stopped. And by that I mean, no modified version of it as “a compromise”. No identity cards for Britons.