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]

Blunkett’s ID Card Statement

Anyone who thought recent events meant that the campaign against ID Cards had been won should think again. Big Blunkett has just made a statement in the House and made it quite clear that he still intends to force compulsory National Identity Cards on innocent British citizens.

Blunkett discussed a timetable for introducing compulsory ID Cards. He left no doubt about compulsion, beginning his speech with the words:

The Government has decided to begin the process of building a base for a national compulsory identity card scheme.

His plan is to proceed in two phases. The first phase will be the introduction of biometrics through renewal of passports and driving licence. As soon as the database is available foreigners wishing to stay in the country would be issued with an ID Card and there would be a ‘voluntary’ scheme for British those few citizens without a driving license or passport.

The second phase will be compulsion.

Blunkett mentioned civil liberties only once, blithely stating that they would be safeguarded without addressing the issues. As usual, when answering questions he descended into personal abuse to cover his lack of intellectual rigour. Big Blunkett remains as much a threat as ever and must be stopped.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

ID Cards: Yes and No

Tony Blair’s official spokesman has made an announcement about Big Blunkett’s plans to introduce compulsory national Identity Cards for innocent British citizens. The statement is confusing and seems to be an attempt to patch over the splits in Cabinet.

According to the statement, Ministers have agreed in principle that there would be major benefits to such a scheme. However they have also agreed that the practical issues are immense. Of perhaps most interest is this sentence:

We will legislate to enable the scheme to be introduced and plan on the basis that all the practical problems can be overcome but we will reserve the final decision on a move to compulsion until later this decade.

That could be seen as a victory for either side.

So long as this enabling legislation is in place the threat of compulsory National Identity Cards will remain. We must make it clear to the government that proceeding any further down this road will lose them the next election.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

ID Card Meeting a “Bloodbath”

The Cabinet domestic affairs sub-committee met yesterday to consider Big Blunkett’s plans to introduce compulsory national Identity Cards for innocent British citizens.

The plan has split the Cabinet with Gordon Brown, Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt said to be amongst those opposing Blunkett.

According to reports in today’s media, the meeting was “acrimonious”, “savage” and a “bloodbath”.

Incidentally, the BBC have launched a new website iCan for campaigners. If it takes off, it could generate a lot of exposure. I’ve started a campaign against ID cards.

Partially cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Draft ID Card Bill to be in Queen’s Speech

The Cabinet is increasingly split over the issue of introducing compulsory national Identity Cards for innocent British citizens. Despite this the Sunday Times reports that the Queen’s Speech is likely to contain reference to them in the form of a draft Bill.

The Sunday Times suggests that this is just a “fig leaf” to cover Big Blunkett‘s embarrassment and that ID Cards will not actually be introduced before the next general election if at all.

They might be right, but that’s not a risk we can afford to take. We need to redouble our efforts to oppose this dangerous idea.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe – now with mailing list

Bush Bans Bad News

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has banned news organisations from reporting the dead bodies arriving home from Iraq.

The policy has in fact been in place for several years but was never enforced. Bush has now decided that the US public should not be allowed to see the realities of war.

Putting aside the rights and wrongs of the war, there can be no security implication of showing such footage. It might be distasteful, but that is a judgement for the broadcasters to make. This ban on media coverage appears to be for simple political purposes.

Once again the First Amendment is being quietly eroded.

Beverley Hughes Pushes for UK ID Cards

Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes has become the latest recruit to Big Blunkett’s cause. The BBC Reports that Hughes has supported introducing compulsory National Identity Cards for innocent British citizens. She told the Home Affairs Committee that ID Cards would be a good thing because they are “the only way” to prevent illegal immigrants from working.

She is wrong for three simple reasons:

  1. Lack of ID Card would not stop most of the illegal immigrants who work for cash, no questions asked and no records kept.
  2. ID Cards would not prevent illegal immigrants – or others – supporting themselves though crime.
  3. Even if the Cards did work, describing them as the “only way” is pure hyperbole. There are always options.

Hughes also talked about an on-going cost benefit analysis of ID Cards. It would be interesting to know how the privacy and civil liberties issues of ID Cards are being costed. In all probability they are being ignored, making the entire analysis worthless.

I’ve emailed Ms Hughes asking that question. In the unlikely event that she replies I’ll pass it on.

Cross posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Tory Peers Vow to Defeat Criminal “Justice” Bill

The Guardian reports that the Conservatives have drawn up detailed plans to defeat some of the worst parts of Big Blunkett’s discredited Criminal “Justice” Bill.

In particular the Tory peers plan to prevent Blunkett from removing the right to trial by jury in certain cases and allowing gossip to be accepted as evidence.

Since the government doesn’t have an automatic majority in the Lords they will have to compromise, risk losing the entire Bill or invoke the rarely used Parliament Act.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

M&S to Trial RFID Spy Chips

Internet.com reports that UK retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) is to begin trials of RFID tagging at item level.

Clothes in M&S stores will be tagged with RFID chips. These each contain a unique ID and can be read by a nearby scanner without the consumer being aware of it. Thus your underwear might be broadcasting your location.

To be fair to M&S they did show an unusual degree of social responsibility concerning these trials. They consulted with CASPIAN and as a result the tags will be obvious and will not be scanned at checkouts.

Welcome as these factors are, this trial is still another step on the dangerous road towards making RFID ubiquitous. Not all companies will share M&S’s ethical stance, therefore RFID tagging at item level must be opposed outright.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe. Thanks to shanti941 for the pointer.

Observer: “Ministers to dump ‘useless’ identity card”

The Observer reports that it is now “highly unlikely” that Big Blunkett’s plan to introduce compulsory National Identity Cards for innocent British citizens will be included in the next Queen’s speech.

Apparently the decision follows new evidence that ID Cards would be “close to useless” in fighting terrorism – something those of us opposed to the idea have been saying for ages.

Another problem is the “foundation documents” required to gain an ID card. If ID Cards are issued on the basis of (for example) birth certificates and birth certificates are easily forged then ID Cards are worthless.

If this report is accurate then it is good news for UK civil liberties. However it doesn’t mean the threat is over, we need to remain vigilant. There is every likelihood that Big Blunkett will try to resurrect his pet project.

Cross posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

A Small Victory

Nowadays we need to celebrate every victory, however small.

Management at the Trelleborg chemical company in Leicester have agreed to stop tagging their employees.

Under the recently imposed scheme workers had to request and wear a red tag whenever they took a break. Not surprisingly they complained that this was demeaning. Following ACAS intervention the company agreed to scrap the system.

The fact that such a repulsive scheme has been scrapped is encouraging. The fact that the company thought they could get away with it in the first place is worrying.

BBC report here

The Spy in Your Bra

Speaking of medical privacy, time for a little light relief. The BBC reports that Philips has invented underwear that can monitor your vital signs and dial 999 in the event of a problem.

Apparently the hi-tech spy underwear can be washed and ironed as normal. Just be sure to take it off first.

UK Identity Cards to Double as Credit Cards

We’ve warned before about the dangers of functionality creep with Identity Cards. Now it appears that Big Blunkett is actively seeking such extended functionality in order to force compulsory National Identity Cards on innocent UK citizens.

The Evening Standard reports:

David Blunkett is poised to strike a multi-billion-pound deal with the major banks which would see compulsory ID cards double as credit cards.

People could choose to use the ultra-secure identity cards to pay for shopping, reducing the amount of plastic clutter in their purses while dramatically cutting fraud at the tills.

How long before that “choice” ceases to become a choice and is instead mandatory?

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe. Why not join the mailing list?