Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:
OK, I didn’t start this blog with the intention of it becoming a rant – and I hope it doesn’t and won’t come across as one – but there’s something that’s been bugging me (professionally as well as personally) for some time and I see no point in holding off / avoiding posting on it, e.g. just because so many others are doing so. In fact I hope I can add something to the debate.
What I am referring to is the introduction of biometrically-enabled National ID cards in the UK, and the concomitant creation of a National Identity Register.
Of course I don’t object to having to identify myself where appropriate – I hold a current UK passport and driving licence, for example – but I do object to the creation of the single huge database that must, given current Gov’t and corporate thinking, sit at the ‘back end’ of any ID card system.
I believe that ID cards and a NIR are unlikely to deliver sufficient ‘benefits’ (and it has yet to be made explicit precisely what these are supposed to be) to justify the cost of implementation and maintenance, and that they will be sufficiently vulnerable to exploitation and abuse that they will, from the outset, seriously impinge on the civil liberties of some individuals and minority groups within society. In the long term I fear that the groundwork may be being laid for widespread (and possibly systemic) abuse of personal privacy and – in the worst case scenario – State persecution by a future, more oppressive Government than the one that currently holds power.
The risks and consequences of failure(s) are too high to brush aside or ‘shelve until later’ – later will, quite simply for some, be too late.
Just because the present Gov’t has been unable to legislate to its satisfaction for data sharing between its various arms and agencies (see the Department for Constitutional Affairs site on Data Sharing for more information) and is having technological difficulties or is finding progress too slow in aligning its various systems and databases (despite such sensible initiatives as the e-Government Interoperability Framework) does not give it carte blanche to rush / push through a solution with such far-reaching implications and effects. Especially when it has shown every sign of wishing to ignore or downplay significant public objections.
Enough for now, I’m sure I’ll have more to say later.