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Some celebrity opposition to ID cards

Just so you all know, and in case even Guy Herbert missed it, Joanna Lumley (who played the crazy blonde who lived on vodka in Ab Fab) has just said, on the Graham Norton show (BBC1 TV):

“Prepare my cell now, because I shall not have an ID card.”

She also took a swipe at surveillance cameras, and anti-smoking laws, and the fact that you cannot get within a mile of Number Ten to say boo. To quite enthusiastic applause. I would not imagine that this means very much, but it presumably means a little.


30 comments to Some celebrity opposition to ID cards

  • guy herbert

    I think it means a lot. This was a popular personality on a popular TV programme, not a segment of me droning away to three policy wonks and a guidedog on the morning Daily Politics…

  • It may mean quite alot, but it will not be enough, mores the shame.

  • Chris Harper

    I think it matters as well.

    We are drowning in a sea of PC control, like the fabled frog in warming water, but when the card becomes a reality I think the Powers That Be will be shocked by the hatred and resistance which will be exposed.

  • It may mean quite alot, but it will not be enough, mores the shame.

  • Considering how she drove on Top Gear and what she had to say this is hardly surprising. But I agree her thoughts against the ID cards are welcome.

  • ID cards, well I am not against an ID card per se, just a State-run monopolistic compulsory ID card!

    Better to have a “Swiss Health Service” version of the ID card. State standards, interoperabilty and multiple private, NFP and state providers competing. We all need to provide our ID at some stage in life and the laughable, scamable system in the UK of “utility bill and a bank statement”…please.

    If you have a system that sends you a list of each access to your ID each month just like a credit card statement, you can then know who is snooping, if your ID is being stolen etc. (spurious transactions). This will stop ID theft. it does NOT need a massive State engine. If a private provider is too matey with the State, people will shift ID provider.

  • Alex

    When ever i talk to people my age (26) about this they always just repeat the mantra ‘if you’ve not done anything what have you to worry about’.

    I find this very depressing, out of ten of my closet friends only 3 agree with my opposition to the ID cards. The others bleat how much easier it will be to open a bank A/C.

    Not when the home sec takes their ID card off them with no apeal it won’t be!

  • Midwesterner

    The government regulators are basing ID on the mandate of ‘no multiple identities’.

    The only reason we need government control of ID is to prevent multiple identities.

    The only reason we need to prevent multiple identities is government handouts are based on the mere existence of a person/voter.

    To use a private market analogy, on ebay you can sign up for multiple identities. Each identity has its own reputation. A new identity pays a penality of low trust and the lower bids that come with that. A long established identity earns trust and potential customers are willing to bid higher. The two identities could be the same person. So what?

    The government’s insistence on identity control is because without it, social welfarism breaks down. Without social welfarism, the government loses its ability to buy votes. Without being able to buy votes, it loses power. Expect the government to fight extremely hard for this ‘single identity’ in all forms. Especially government issued identity.

  • Jacob

    “The two identities could be the same person. So what?”

    So you favour the idea of multiple identities ?
    Such as in: one “identity” takes out a loan and fails to return the money, then disappears (the person having another identity)?

    I think the rule: an identity belongs to a pesron (or corporation) – and a person has one, and only one identity – is self evident. It’s a tautology.

  • Midwesterner

    No Jacob, it’s not even close to self evident.

    To start with the most obvious stupid. There is an old truism among gun owners, “if it’s criminal to own guns, only criminals will own guns.”

    I assume you will go around and explain to all of the criminals intent on fraud, that multiple identities are not allowed. Or perhaps you think this next system will be the one that is criminal proof.

    To address your example in particular, a person takes out a loan and disappears. You seem to be granting resonsibility for the issuance of loans to the government. I say it is the responsibility of the lender to establish the security of the loan.

    Also, I am somewhat surprised to learn of the failure of the loan industry to exist in the absence of being able to prevent multiple identities. One need only look in the US at the chronic and ongoing number of welfare cheats to realize that multiple identities are alive and well here. Perhaps they don’t have that problem in the UK.

    No Jacob, it’s not even remotely self evident. It’s just an errant assumption.

  • I agree with MW point about a major advantage of multiple IDs is to scam the Welfare system. If the Welfare System was not worth scaming (limited income) then such people would not bother with it.

    Of course, knowing who someone is is useful for anyone and there needs to be not necessarily a State organ but a “clearing house” or interconnected clearing houses where individuals can verify someone’s credentials, otherwise modern commerce, liquidity and mobility clogs up as everyone is suspicious and so has to load every transaction with a risk premium and it would even prevent some kinds of transactions altogether.

    It is interesting that the new “chip and pin” world pushes the risk to the POS. I do believe that once the system is scammed enough times we will see the request from the retail sector for a new form of ID.

  • Midwesterner


    Why? To use the ebay example again, if someone has invested a lot into an identity, proving in with a long track record, how does this identity become less trustworthy if he has another unknown identity?

    I’m asking seriously. I also used to make the deeply flawed ‘single identity’ assumption until discussions here on Samizdata helped me realize that I was making a lot of assumptions that were completely inconsistent and without merit.

    It turns out there is little or nothing gained, and much to be lost, if we use the power of the state to prohibit multiple identities. It’s like many other laws, what little is gained is overwhelmed by what is lost. And that’s only the pragmatic reasons, not the moral/philosophical consistency ones.

  • nic

    And also, while multiple identities could be used to deceive people, they could also dramatically improve privacy and individual situations.

    Imagine an independent electronic ID market system along the lines of what people here are suggesting. The UK branch of the Bank of Pakistan brings out a voluntary customer ID system which it says can be used in many circumstances to prove your identity and is generally useful for getting around. One of the big “advantages” of it, is that it allows parents to keep track of their children’s movements as whenever the ID card is used, it logs it on the net somewhere.

    So when the daughter within one of the families that take up this scheme fancies going to a nightclub or maybe buying some alcohol to drink with her friends, she seems to be in trouble – because the parents are bound to see that logged in which is likely to create a certain amount of tension in their household. Not, however, if it is perfectly legal for her to have another alias (and another ID card) perhaps this time run by a chain of bars and clubs that just want to confirm your age to let you in.

  • Midwesterner: Why?

    I recognise this point. I think it is first important to a) ensure people are not having their ID stolen and b) to ensure an ID people present is indeed a valid ID, regardless of if they have multiple.

    Fake IDs are another matter – you would not want to trade with someone on eBay who actually was NOT registered with eBay but presenting a fake account and pretending to be, would you? That would undermine eBay and make the whole operation risky, and potentially weaken its efficiency.

    Do you see the need, then, for some form of ‘clearing’ so valid and invalid IDs can be determined?

    The world has always worked on trust and trust is necessary otherwise we depend on intermediaries who take the risk and we pay them for that. This does not need to be a single, nor a State organ.

    In a world with multiple “valid” IDs, we still have the issue of who are we dealing with. We could actually be dealing with the actual “cat with 9 lives” as a person rattles off a deck of IDs and as each gets discredited when found out, they move on to the next one.

    Again, if an ID cannot really prove who someone is, then the system is discredited. In the eBay example, you could gain alot from a short run scamming until your ID becomes discredited, but hey, just open a new account and get back to normal. A clever scammer would have a series of accounts doing regular, smal and trustworthy transactions ready for a switch to bigger and more lucrative scams at a later date.

    Again, if it undermines the system it reduces efficiency and we end up outsourcing our risk to intermediaries.

    This may not happen, but the infrastructure could be put in place to clamp down if need be.

    Ideally the market could do that. First, we need multiple, independent ID providers with central clearing to manage genuine ID “accounts”. The companies could offer multiple IDs and then let the market work out if they want to deal with that brand. People might want to shun a “multiple ID” private ID provider and have the kudos of the single ID brand on their card. Who knows?

    If arranged as above, the market might well give us the answer naturally.

    And one small thing for single ID – deport a criminal and you want to know who is coming back in.

  • You are all missing the important point: La Lumley’s declaration of independence suggests that there will be hotties and beasels manning the barricades along side the rest of us. This cannot be a bad thing.

    I don’t mean to lower the tone (well not much anyway), but as PJ O’Rourke pointed out, the best and most fashionable causes always have the best crumpet. If we can get Kiera Knightley and Darcy Bussell we might win this thing yet.

  • Midwesterner


    Validating ourselves to strangers is an important and necessary function. If you are saying this is something that the market is better able to handle, then we agree on that.

    An ID would and will (even government IDs) be only as good as its issuer. Ebay works very hard to protect their system. That is as it should be.

    Credit Card companies are always contacting me to protect their own identity from frauds pretending to be credit card companies. They are protecting both my ID and theirs. Further, if my ID is stolen, they assume substantial liability. These things also are is as they should be.

    I buy on ebay. I can tell you positively that the ID and its associated percent/number of satisfied customers has a serious cash value. Occasionally I have gambled on a very brief history ID. But I’ve done it because of the huge discount associated with that added to my own intuition. I knowingly and voluntarily gambled.

    Again, if an ID cannot really prove who someone is, then the system is discredited.

    Change this a little bit and it’s fine. “if an ID cannot prove someone is the owner of that identity, then the system is discredited.” And the issuing company pays a heavy price and does a better job or goes out of business, I might add.

    Case in point, presumably to save resources Ebay has apparently stopped showing very much transaction history. I can tell a customer placed a satisfied comment, but I cannot identify the relevant item or its cost. I’m convinced that this penny pinching by Ebay will hurt them soon. I know I bid lower and less often when I cannot compare the items in the satisfaction survey with the item I am purchasing. But to suggest a law, no way! This is Ebay’s and Ebay’s users problem.

    to shun a “multiple ID” private ID provider

    But without mandating a single issuer system, this wouldn’t work.

    the market might well give us the answer naturally.

    That is the generally accepted m.o. around here.

    To my knowledge, foreigners not possessing US citizenship are fingerprinted when arriving. Presumably anyone expelled would be fingerprinted and then detected on return. Perhaps frequent travellers can clarify that point for me.

    There is no doubt this way of thinking will require us to challange our assumptions. Particularly the one that we are currently under a single ID system. This is the intent and desire of the government redistribution system. But it is not at all necessary to the legitimate and historical functions of government.

  • Midwesterner, I think we are in agreement on most things here and I agree that eBay is shooting itself in the foot if they limit history and allow more scope for a “cat with 9 lives”. Outside of eBay, we are less able to see the “history” when we check up on people, thus it is important that an ID is not a newly created blank/fake or a sleeper that is now being used by someone recently “outed” on their last ex-Mr Someone ID.

    But without mandating a single issuer system, this wouldn’t work.

    I disagree. If you recall I mentioned the “clearing house”. By this I mean a number of places where IDs are “cleared” like banking or trading transactions are cleared. An ID from ID provider would then be cleared via this system much like a VISA card is cleared via the VISA system even though the issuer is, say, Nat West.

    The clearing house can also be used on ID formation as well as ID checking during transactions.

    When new IDs are formed this new ID is checked to see if it is a clone of another ID-person using the clearing house and links to the other clearing houses and if it is, the other ID needs to give consent (i.e. the person then becomes a multiple ID individual).

    If another ID holding company detects a clone being created and the ID held is a “single ID” status, i.e. holders of that brand of ID are not living as multiples, then the ID holder (the person) must either downgrade or has to give up the “single ID” status.

    IDs are thus a bit like credit cards, each with their own features and issuer. We have VISA and MASTERCARD operators and these already have interoperability to some extent and share information on credit checks at card issue time, but not afterwards.

    I hope I make myself clearer this time.

  • TimC I shouldn’t bet on it. I tried once when debating MW. It was like banging my head ahead a foam brick wall.

  • Midwesterner

    A comment on Ebay. While they are showing mountains of feedback, they are showing very few accompanying transactions. I have on many occasions looked at a 10,000 dollar item being sold by someone with, say thirty feedbacks. But I’ll look at the 6 of 8 feedbacks for which transactions are available and find that they are for petty cash items under 5 or 10 dollars. Based on that info I assume the risk of fraud to be very high. Ebay needs to keep transaction information available for the feedback to be meaningful.

    On to the topic. You say we are not able to see much history when we check up on people. Yet we could always see enough. If I submit someone’s credit card to pay their bill, I know in real time everything I need to know. All I need to know is that I have been or will be paid. (How responsive will or can any government program ever be? But I think we already agree on that.)

    I should clarify. We all put a lot of work into our reputations. We talk about losing our reputations. When somebody invests a lot of effort into building a good reputation they are generally at least as trustworthy as the effort it took to build that reputation.

    About clearing houses, without a government mandate for a single clearing system, there will always be issuers outside the system. No ‘single identity’ ID issuer could ever state more than ‘this person has no other IDs in the Acme® Identity Clearing Network.

    When I am dealing with someone, I don’t care how many identities he has. I only care how much he has invested in the one I am dealing with. Multiple identities can be understood by thinking of the stranger riding into town in the old west. Wise people withhold their trust until he earns it.

    Your point about cloning is good. But look at it like this. Your identity with all of its good credit etc, is not just in the name of “John Smith from BigCity, USA”. Your underwriter is sharing your identity and you are now “John Smith 192 from Identity Underwriters Mutual®”. It is now incumbent on them to assure that only the owner of John Smith 192 can operate that identity. That is their sole purpose. They are responsible to not issue more than one Identity Underwriters Mutual® – John Smith 192.

    We have this strange subconscious idea that we own our names and other features, yet clearly this isn’t so. Just search a few names on the internet. Currently, the US financial institutions are counting on the Social Security Administration to guard social security numbers, and this is our identity.

    It doesn’t need to be this way. Its only socialized property redistribution that requires it.

  • Midwesterner

    Edward Lud, the feeling was mutual, I’m sure.

  • Kim du Toit

    I think Miss Lumley’s statement would have been more effective if she’d accompanied it with a brief, tasteful glimpse of her vag.

    [/Derek & Clive]

  • In Hong Kong, there still is, I believe, three banks that can issue legal tender – Standard Chartered, HSBC and Bank of China. All are interchangeable and equal in value. If Morgan Stanley decides to issue notes, well, good luck.

    It is not difficult to ensure that ID issuers are connected and clearing via a recognised community for the serious business of ID, and with that, the cloning argument is dealt with.

    But lets say that some nubnut organisation decides to be apart. Lets call that organisation Microsoft. If Microsoft came out with a credit card it would be a new shape (trianglualr, probably), heavy, thick, fragile and not fit any exsiting swipe machines. Their swipe machines would emit EMF to interfere with the machines of other providers and also snoop on the communications. They would have an incomplete, inferior service but it would be free until the opposition is bled dry. Then the charging will start.

    Thus, the duty of the State would be to define or approve compatability specs and demand it be used when dealing with them.

    Of course you can have parallel, unofficial ID services, but then again have you managed to hire a car using your Gym Membership?

  • Midwesterner



    Issuing banknotes. Interesting, but irrelevent to identity verification.

    Cloning. You completely ignored my point. There is no such thing as a clone of John Smith 192 @ Identity Underwriters Mutual®. At least not without the complicity of Identity Underwriters Mutual.

    Then you invent a preposterous strawman case attempting to discredit a serious statement.

    And then tell us that it’s “the duty of the State … to define or approve compatability specs and demand it be used when dealing with them.”

    Then you make another Strawman argument and equate identity verification with using a gym club membership to rent a car.

    If your not going to discuss this in good faith, don’t waste my time.

  • Midwesterner: The banknotes parallel is VERY relevant in the environment I envisage. The point is about approved issuance, consesnus on what is valid, multiple issuance, interchangeability, endorsement. Of course it is not the whole issue, but I am offering your proposition up against what I see as necessary/workable and finding it incomplete.

    It is putting forward the fact that I see ID issuance as too important to allow groups to operate outside of the system, as you suggest is inevitable. To recognise those operators would render the entire system invalid, just as it would be if Morgan Stanley HKD were somehow allowed to exist and be used as currency.

    Your “Identity Underwriters Mutual” needs to be totally plugged in and endorsed by all other ID providers for their IDs to make any sense whatsoever. They need to be an accepted issuer of IDs for your ID with them to be able to transact with the ID of another underwriter. I see this as a natural necessity and as a useful way to prevent cloning.

    As to the “preposterous strawman” – it is in relation to the following statement I make that you dismiss next without getting the point. Sorry if I was not clear. It is not an attack on your proposal directly but the problem of competing standards or dominance by certain entities operating in isolation (The Microsoft). If you think that what I propose is “preposterous” you then know appear to nothing of the antics of the real Microsoft in regards to things like HTML, Java, Browsers, DNS, XML, registry or media playback. These things happen and I for one do not want to end up having to use a parallel ID system that is flakey, unreliable and of poor quality and isolationist just because some massive organisation has deep pockets and limitless arrogance.

    In some ways the ID argument is not going to be the REAL battle – it will be the right to pay in cash.

  • Midwesterner

    Banknotes are bearer bonds. There are only three parties involved in the situation you describe and they no doubt have substantial legal agreements between the three of them.

    Endorsing the credibility of bearer bonds has no correlation with endorsing a million or billion individual’s credibility.

    just as it would be if Morgan Stanley HKD were somehow allowed to exist and be used as currency

    You do realize that single issuer currency is a very recent situation, don’t you?. The Fed was created in 1913 under Woodrow Wilson. If you wish to defend that system, there are people here on Samizdata far more patient than me who could walk you carefully through the history of currency. I encourage you to search up some threads here on Samizdata about the topic.

    Your “Identity Underwriters Mutual” needs to be totally plugged in

    No. It does not. I will simply choose an issuer like the fictional I.U.M. because it meets the needs I want it for. If they have not established credibility with some person or agency I want to do business with, I buy or establish another identity at my own expense. Who recognizes them is a major factor in my original choice. If a merchant doesn’t honor my Amex card, I offer them a Visa card.

    Your entire assumption of need for a compulsory government controlled network appears to be that each person must only have one identity.

    Your entire validation for the single identity requirement appears to be so that a criminal cannot abandon an ID and live on under another one.

    But the only way mandating a single identity per person will assist in catching these criminals is if all of the acts necessary to live daily life are restricted to people holding government approved IDs. Considering that my drivers license hasn’t been validated by anyone since last time it was renewed, I don’t think you understand how deeply intrusive it will need to become before a single identity system forces criminals to be captured.

    To your comments re MicroSoft, I am very aware of their antics. The last thing I want is to bring government control into the situation. You seem to be implying that the solution to Microsofts shenigans is more government involvement.

    Between your call for a system in which it is impossible to carry out the daily acts of life without being validated by a government mandated ID, and your apparent belief that more government is the solution to Microsoft’s conduct, I think you may want to reconsider if your principles are compatable with the liberty and individual rights espoused on this site. Or perhaps you are just not seeing where your ‘solutions’ ultimately lead.

    Thank you for your reply, though. If you want to explain anything I’ve misunderstood of your ideas, I’m listening. But I don’t have the time or patience to review the history of currency with you. It’s out there on Samizdata archives and has been quite well discussed.

  • I am aware, though far from expert, about multi-issuer currency and, indeed, of the original scrip used by private individuals then to bank notes and finally nationalised by the Bank of England at the end of C18th. I am also aware of the formation of the Fed and how it came about even though WW campaigned AGAINST it. I am also of the opinion that it was instrumental in the 1929 crash (permitting retail margin finance, amongst other things).

    I would say, though, that the move from personal scrip (endorsable cheques) to fully interchangeable banknotes led to more efficiency, liquidity, less risk and so less cost.

    I wish to clarify that I do not wish to see a mandatory single ID system nor one that must be State mandated, just some body involved specs, openness and interoperability (non proprietary or walled gardens). Maybe I should have said that the State should not entertain a closed system.

    I for one would not want to see proprietary, closed systems “owning” my ID, but an open system that allows me to easily move provider when I want to. If the private companies can get their act together then fine, but if not, some body must step in. I should have the liberty to go about my business unmolested and unhindered by some private ID company just as it shoudl be from a State ID monopoly. If the market cannot do it, the State in its prime directive (as far as I am concerned) of enabling me to go about my lawful business unhindered should step in and not allow me to be held hostage.

    It sometimes does take state mandates to step in and protect peoples’ freedoms. The nonsense of mobile phone tarriffs did NOT get sorted out by the market alone, at least in the UK. In places like Thailand and Hong Kong the state regulator enforced the need for no cross network penalties, freedom to move number etc. early on and the market there raced ahead and prices were held down. Would the private companies do that alone? I sincerely doubt it unless put under great pressure for a long time.

    Many people would be happy to have a confirmed single ID if it brought them a more efficient, cheaper transaction mechanism and that is a good thing. If everyone has to suffer the cost of the risk associated with those who desire multiple IDs that is not ideal, surely.

    ID is more than just guarantee of payment. You need to ensure you are not being spoofed or someone is spoofing you. You want to seamlessly shift provider and retain your ID history. To do that, interconnectedness, openness and some regulation is required at some level and that is what I propose.

    I hope I have clarified further and appreciate your willingness to continue to read.

  • Midwesterner

    The Fed was big government’s response to a series of bank panics.

    It’s interesting to note that the bank panics that led to the Fed came after the National Banking Act in which the new national government began to manipulate money. (Those people on other threads saying the civil war was about slavery are wrong. I wish it had been, but …) Prior to that was an extended (1837 to 1862) period of essentially unregulated banking and multitudes of issuers.

    To your second paragraph all I can say is “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” especially applies when control of money is concerned.

    Credit cards really are a good example of a voluntary multiple identity system that more or less works. These issuers share information voluntarily and are accountable for how they verify and use it. Yes, they are defrauded occasionally, but it is within the realm of accuarial tolerance. If one company started putting out false information in an effort to deceive other issuers, they would seriously suffer negative consequences. Government has done little to help the integrity of the credit industry and much to make it worse.

    It sometimes does take state mandates to step in and protect peoples’ freedoms.

    I can’t speak to the UK in particular, but in the US all of the phone systems problems come from the extent to which it is a protected monopoly. There is a limited supply of radio spectrum and the government is issuing it in a way that allows companies to control markets. This is changing as more and more companies are allowed into the market.

    My email addresses are not spoofed. It certainly is not for want of trying. I’m sure there is a perpetual blizzard of hackers trying to compromise the email system. It works not because the government is protecting it, but because the market is. Portability is a problem, but not because of the issuers but because of the system design. If portability becomes a big enough concern, the market will solve that problem also.

    Government cannot grant freedoms, it can only take them away. Government has one job in the marketplace. That is to read and enforce contested contracts. Don’t join an ID service that doesn’t offer portability of your ID and its history. If they breach contract, you have recourse.

    Many people would be happy to have a confirmed single ID if it brought them a more efficient, cheaper transaction mechanism and that is a good thing. If everyone has to suffer the cost of the risk associated with those who desire multiple IDs that is not ideal, surely.

    I guess I’m not understanding what the risk is that warrants such extreme government intrusion into my life. It seems obvious, but other peoples ‘happiness’ is not suffient grounds for me to give such overarching power to government.

    This comment kind of skips around. I answered points individually without paying much attention to order. I hope it makes sense.

  • How are you. By the time I’d grown up, I naturally supposed that I’d be grown up. Help me! I can not find sites on the: Merrilatt bathroom cabinets. I found only this – cherry wood bathroom cabinets. Please don’t let me be misunderstood. Call the rental stores and see what they are using. Waiting for a reply :eek:, Starr from Arabia.

  • What when organized crime = dangerous porn/real estate/inheritance/life savings interests use illegal surveillance to glean people’s whole lives and personalities and the use their identities and even inhabit their homes (more single people living alone in G.B. than anywhere else) for gain?
    What when criminal impostors similarly glean all there is to know about oneself and use one’s identity to commit crime, or push one into prison for such crimes, and steal all of one’s younger life’s human contacts to perpetrate para. one above?
    What when such dangerous crooks succeed to the extent that one cannot have any friends or even visit a shop or use one’s mobile or home phone without their surveilling it all up until they get one gone completely?
    Such innocuous seeming bad people cover my own and my poorly elderly mother’s every waking and sleeping moment ‘cos we have not died soon enough for their crimes to say hidden – we hope that is- cos if they aren’t arrested we are just two more dead at their hands? They bribe every locksmith and so have keys to use my home every single day when I am out.
    What when crime generates doubles of visiting carers or friends or whoever they choose to see off elderly people and falsify their paperwork to steal their assets? or to lure a person into a place of danger by trying to be believed by one to be their long lost friend or relative etc.etc.etc. – the criminal “etc.’s” facilitated by criminal impostoring (our assailants all use alibi impostors of themselves to cover their crimes!!!) in conjunction with limitless illegal surveillance could not possibly be a nightmare worse than mine and my Mum’s who lives in a nursing home where such victims are directed ‘cos have crime answering her nurse call bell all around the clock so she cannot ever inform!!!