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Paul Vigay on ID cards

Privacy expert Paul Vigay gives his Ten Reasons why you should Refuse and Boycott National ID Cards.

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.

ID cards/passport integration plan progresses

The Passport Service (UKPS) is working with the Home Office on the processes required for integrating the issuing of passports with the planned national identity card scheme.

The government’s ID Cards bill includes plans to set up a new independent government agency to administrate the central identity register at the heart of the scheme and to issue the cards. UKPS will be taken over by the new organisation.

According to the UKPS business plan 2005-10, published last week, a key task is establishing the business processes needed to issue passports and ID cards.

For the period 2007-10 there will be continued development of the passport processes, but also (potentially) full integration with the Identity Cards Scheme, as we move to start issuing British citizens with a passport book/identity card package and to establish the National Identity Register.

House of Commons passes biometric ID card Bill

The House of Commons has passed the controversial ID card Bill by a vote of 224 to 64. It hopes to see the introduction of biometric identity cards and a central database of all UK citizens by 2010.

However, its primary sponsor, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, admitted that he expected the Bill to face stiff opposition in the House of Lords.

The system is expected to cost up to £5.5 billion to implement, and calls for a standalone biometric ID card to be issued alongside a biometric passport. It would become compulsory for everyone living in the UK, including children, by 2012.

The vote came on the same day that the US House of Representatives approved its own version of electronic ID card legislation in a 261-161 vote. The US’ Real ID Act would require states to issue driver’s licenses and other ID cards with physical security features such as a digital photograph and other basic data, using what the bill describes as machine-readable technology. That could include a magnetic strip or RFID tag. Tony Blair said:

The reason why this measure is supported not only by the Government but by the police and the security services is that people believe that, particularly when we have biometric passports and the biometric technology available, we can construct an identity card that gives us the best possible protection against crime and terrorism. I do not think it is wrong or a breach of anyone’s civil liberties to say that we should have an identity card. Most people carry some form of identification anyway. I think it is long overdue, and we should get on and do it.

There remains a very active opposition to ID cards however and both the Conservative and LibDems have refused to support the Bill. Questions over biometrics reliability are also likely to be wide debate as the Bill progresses through the Parliamentary process.

Britain’s cities start to oppose ID cards

The cities of York, Oxford and Norwich have all recently passed protest motions against against identity cards. Councillor Andrew Aalders-Dunthorne, a Labour member of Norwich City Council said:

Finger printing ordinary people and making them feel like criminals, then charging them for the pleasure, has no place in a supposedly free and liberal society. New Labour is becoming alarmingly authoritarian, to the point where even their own Council Groups cannot support them.

ID cards are an expensive white elephant designed to pander to the Daily Mail. Once people realise what the scheme actually entails and the charge they will have to pay personally, opposition will grow.

Apparently, Norwich and York City Councils – which have also affiliated to the campaign group NO2ID – have stated that ID cards will not be required for access to council services, and that the cities will refuse to cooperate with the scheme as far as possible within the law.

(Alex Singleton blogs here.)

Woolly defence of tagging sheep

James Hammerton lays into Charles Clarke and his feeble argument for ID cards in the UK. He unearths some hillarious points, well would be hillarious if not for the topic, about the cost of the wretched scheme:

Take for example benefit fraud. He states:

Moreover, their help in tackling fraud will save tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Some £50 million a year is claimed illegally from the benefits systems using false identities. This money can be far better spent improving schools and hospitals and fighting crime and antisocial behaviour.

However according to the govt’s own regulatory impact assessment (see clause 19):

The current best estimate is that the additional running costs of the new Agency to issue ID cards on a wider basis will be £85m pa when averaged over a ten year period. A further £50m pa is the estimate for the average cost over ten years of the verification service but this would not fall on the individual card holder.

Thus the system is already projected at costing more than twice as much as could possibly be saved from benefit fraud on the govt’s own figures!

James concludes:

At any rate, I’d expect those wishing to fool the system to use the long roll out to study the system and the scanners intently for weaknesses. Given government incompetence, the technical limitations of biometrics and the sheer ambition of what the govt’s attempting, it seems to me quite clear that it’ll be lucky if it makes any positive impact on fighting identity fraud or any other problem the govt has cited at all.

Does this mean we have nothing to worry about? Not quite. Most law abiding people will cooperate with the system, and the system may well thus “work” for this section of the population. Thus law abiding people will find themselves subjected to a licence to live, intrusive surveillance and a bureacracy capable of meddling in just about every area their lives thanks to the card. The criminals and terrorists won’t.

Go and read the whole thing.

ID cards passed

The ID card bill has been passed

Government plans for national identity cards were approved by the Commons last night despite more than a quarter of MPs not voting.

Although Conservative and Labour rebels failed to derail the Identity Cards Bill, they provoked a highly embarrassing mass abstention.

Horrible news indeed and Bill Cash had the right idea:

At one stage Bill Cash (C, Stone) brandished a copy of George Orwell’s novel 1984 at the Home Secretary, challenging him to repudiate claims that the measure would effect a “sea change” in the relationship between state and individual.

If you value your freedom, reject this sinister ID card

The Guardian issues a rallying cry:

To be anonymous, to go privately, to move residence without telling the authorities is a fundamental liberty which is about to be taken from us. People may not choose to exercise this entitlement to privacy, or see the point of it, but once it’s gone and a vast database is built, eventually to be accessed by every tentacle of the government machine, we will never be able to claw it back. We are about to surrender a right which is precious, rare even in western democracies, and profoundly emblematic of our culture and civilisation. And what for? The government advances arguments of necessity, raising the threats of terrorism, organised crime, benefit fraud and illegal immigration.

We must not imagine that respect for individual liberty is innate to the British establishment. With this bill, the government is attempting to change for ever the relationship between the individual and the state in the state’s favour. Those who treasure liberty must not let it pass.

Hear, hear.

You are required to attend the summit of Mt Snowdon at 0300h tomorrow.

In a detailed post about about the Identity Cards Bill Chris Lightfoot makes this point:

…Hilariously, they haven’t even fixed s.12(4) in which

The things that an individual may be required to do under subsection (3) are–

(a) to attend at a specified place and time; […]

— this is the same as in the draft, and they haven’t even bothered to add `reasonable’ as many responses to the consultation suggested. Presumably if some bored Crapita employee does send out a notice of the form,

You are required to attend the summit of Mt. Snowdon at 0300h tomorrow morning so that we can take your fingerprints; failure to attend will be punished by a civil penalty of £1,000. Do not pass `go’.

the courts will eventually tell him to go fuck himself, but we have to wait to find out.

Ask to see my ID card and I’ll eat it

In his Telegraph column, Boris Johnson comes out strongly, and in his inimitable way, against ID cards in Britain. He goes for the proposal’s jugular, which has nothing to do with anti-terrorism and security and all to do with control and commmand.

I say all this in the knowledge that so many good, gentle, kindly readers will think I have taken leave of my senses, and to all of you I can only apologise and add, in the words of Barry Goldwater, that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and that I really don’t know what I dislike most about these cards.

Worse than the cost and the bother, however, there is the sheer dishonesty of the arguments in favour. If I understood Her Majesty correctly, her Government conceives of these cards as essential weapons in the “war” on terror.

Perhaps it’s the latest ‘release’ from Tory constraints, so to speak, that allows Boris to heave a sigh:

All these points I have made these past few years, up and down the country, and the most frustrating thing is that these objections cut absolutely no ice (unlike, as I say, the cards themselves) with good, solid, kindly, gentle Conservative audiences.

My audience were all gluttons for freedom, if by that you meant the freedom to hunt, or the freedom to eat roast beef without the fat trimmed off. But they were perfectly happy to see their own liberties curtailed, if that gave the authorities a chance to crack down on scroungers and bogus asylum-seekers.

Indeed. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear! Now, where have I heard this before…?

And the final exhortation:

And there, I fear, the debate has come to rest. To all those who yearn for ID cards, and who would extinguish the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic, I make this final appeal. Read this week’s Spectator, with its terrifying account by a man arrested and jailed for having a penknife and an anti-burglar baton locked in the boot of his car, and then imagine what use the cops could make of the further powers they are acquiring to inspect and control.

Yes, we have, Boris and ’tis a very scary read.

An urgent call to action!


The No2ID campaign has established an e-petition aimed at 10 Downing Street demanding the end to plans for imposing mandatory ID cards and pervasive state databases recording a vast range of what you do in your life.

The No2ID campaigners have taken the line of principled objection, given that the government seem to have decided that there is no longer any room for public debate and refuses to engage with serious – and growing – civil liberty and privacy concerns with the scheme. The Home Office have not met once with civil liberties organisations yet say their concerns have been addressed whilst at the same time avoiding public meetings but at the same time having private briefing with technology partners for introducing the schemes.

Take a stand and make your voice heard while you still can at www.no2id-petition.net. Time is fast running out.

The state is not your friend.

Blunkett presses on with compulsory ID card plans

Silicon.com reports that despite government figures showing growing opposition the government will now issue standalone compulsory biometric ID cards as part of changes to the draft ID card bill issued by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The cards will be issued with passports but will not be incorporated into either the existing passport or driving licence as previously proposed, with a standardised online verification service used to check card details against those held on the National Identity Register (NIR). Blunkett said:

I will now bring forward legislation to bring in a compulsory, national ID card scheme.

A new executive agency incorporating the UK Passport Service and working with the Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate will now be set up to deliver and run the ID card scheme.

The Government would not agree with the use of the word ‘sensitive’ to describe most of the data to be collected and stored. Most of the data which will be held by the scheme is already public and is used routinely in everyday transactions, like opening a bank account or joining a library.

The ID card consultation summary can be found here and the Home Office’s response to the select committee report can be found here.