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]

Fisking ‘the anonymous email’

There has been a chain email doing the rounds. It seems to have caught the public imagination to the extent of being used as a source by at least three well-known national columnists to my knowledge.

There are some unwarranted speculations in it, however, and it is worth going through and picking out what’s not true, because what’s left is quite frightening enough. This is long, sorry.

You may have heard that legislation creating compulsory ID Cards passed a crucial stage in the House of Commons.

Actually it is now the Identity Cards Act 2006, and (after a strange and unprecedented delay in getting the final text published, and, unlike all other Acts at time of writing, only in pdf) is now available on the Cabinet Office website here (pdf).

You may feel that ID cards are not something to worry about, since we already have Photo ID for our Passport and Driving License and an ID Card will be no different to that. What you have not been told is the full scope of this proposed ID Card, and what it will mean to you personally.

The proposed ID Card will be different from any card you now hold. It will be connected to a database called the NIR, (National Identity Register)., where all of your personal details will be stored.

Not, quite, all. → Continue reading: Fisking ‘the anonymous email’

Black humour from John Lettice

Commenting in The Register on the Government’s defeats in the Lords on the Identity Cards Bill, John is looking ahead:

This potentially sets up a battle where disclosure of costs is seen as a constitutional matter, and both sides claim the constitutional high ground. Given that Ministers of this administration now claim commercial confidentiality as a matter of routine when withholding information, the Lords would have a good moral case for standing its ground here.

This would of course be likely to trigger a real constitutional crisis, but as this Government has done so much to destroy the constitution already, it seems only reasonable for other people to be allowed to join in.

It would be a lot funnier, if it weren’t so true.

A new kind of freedom

As the report stage of the Identity Cards Bill approaches in the Lords, a reminder of one highlight from the first day of the committee stage Hansard, 15 Nov 2005, Col.1012:

Lord Gould of Brookwood: Both the previous speakers—the latter with great emotion—were arguing for freedom. We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto. That is the crux of it: the people have supported this measure. That is what the noble Earl’s father fought for. But that is too trivial an answer. I know that. The fundamental argument is that the truth is that people believe that these identity cards will affirm their identity. The noble Lord opposite said that he likes to be in this House and how he is recognised in this House because it is a community that recognises him. That is how the people of this nation feel. They feel that they are part of communities, and they want recognition. For them, recognition comes in the form of this identity card. Noble Lords may think that that is strange, but it is what they feel. This is their kind of freedom. They want their good, hard work and determination to be recognised, rewarded and respected. That is what this does.

Of course it is right and honourable for noble Lords to have their views, but I say there is another view, and it is the view of the majority of this country. They want to have the respect, recognition and freedom that this card will give them. Times have changed. Politics have changed. What would not work 50 years ago, works now. It is not just me. I have the words of the leader of your party:

“I have listened to the police and security service chiefs. They have told me that ID cards can and will help their efforts to protect the lives of British citizens against terrorist acts. How can I disregard that?”.

This is not some silly idea of the phoney left. It is a mainstream idea of modern times. It is a new kind of identity and a new kind of freedom. I respect the noble Lords’ views, but it would help if they respected the fact that the Bill and the identity cards represent the future: a new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity.

This is the sort of rhetoric that makes my blood run cold. Here’s a prefiguring example:

In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the State. Isolated man is without defence.

– Benito Mussolini.

Terry Eagleton (from a review of Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism in the New Statesman) elucidates the connection:

Conservatives disdain the popular masses, while fascists mobilise and manipulate them. Some conservatives believe in ideas, but fascists have a marked preference for myths. If they think at all, they think through their blood, not their brain. Fascists regard themselves as a youthful, revolutionary avant-garde out to erase the botched past and create an unimaginably new future.

All supporters of the old-fashioned conception of individual liberty, whether they think of themselves as left or right, conservative or progressive, must do what can be done. Resist. We should not expect any quarter for outdated ideas under a new kind of freedom.

[cross-posted to Samizdata]

Microsoft exec: ID cards pose security risk

CNET News.com reports what we have knowns for some time…

Microsoft has warned that the U.K.’s national identity card plans pose a security risk that could increase the likelihood of confidential data falling into the hands of criminals.

It is frustrating that after months of debate, it is still news. I guess the real news is that it is Microsoft saying that. I particularly like this bit:

Jerry Fishenden, a top security and identity management expert at Microsoft, said that the British government’s current technology proposals are flawed. He also criticized other technology suppliers for failing to speak out publicly about their concerns for fear of damaging any future bids for part of the lucrative contract for ID cards.

So what are the 30 coins worth to a technology supplier, I wonder? But before we rejoice too much, Mr Fishenden is not on concerned about the issue of ID cards and biometrics in the first place, just about a more secure and efficient way of gathering and storing the data:

I have concerns with the current architecture and the way it looks at aggregating so much personal information and biometrics in a single place. There are better ways of doing this. Even the biometrics industry says it is better to have biometrics stored locally.

Literalmindedness and the redefinition of thought

Compare this:

By 2050 earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

Syme {no relation} in 1984

with this:

People’s names are already on a large number of databases.
Most of us have dozens of cards in our wallets with our identities on. We
already have a Big Brother society. ID cards mean identity fraud can be dealt with and stopped. ID cards are a means of controlling the Big Brother society rather than creating it. Big Brother society is already here.

Charles Clarke, quoted in the Eastern Daily Press today.

Controlling the Big Brother society might sound like preventing it, restraining it. But your expectations deceive you. Forget literary allusion. “Big Brother society” means whatever the establishment defines it to mean.

Now consider only the words, how they literally fit together. Big Brother society = our society. ID cards are a means of controlling society.

Friends of Dottie

I promise only mild amusement, but sometimes mild amusement is what one needs. And there’s a subtle mordancy underneath.

The latest splendid animation from Will Flash for Cash Productions in aid of the UK campaign against ID cards is here, and will explain the title of the post.

For those who missed it, their earlier biting attack on Mr Secretary Clarke and the glorious scheme using a cute musical puppy is here.

Welcome to a strange world. Sound, and familiarity with British political figures, most definitely an advantage.

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.