Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:
Simon Davies’ paper about Campaigns of Opposition to ID Card Schemes on the Privacy International site offers several insights and a superb in-depth analysis of the Australian anti-ID card campaign in the mid-80s:
This movement, the largest in recent Australian history, forced a dissolution of the parliament, a general election, and unprecedented divisions within the Labour government.
Sounds like a good idea! Unfortunately, I somehow can’t see that happening over here in the near future. One phrase in the closing paragraphs stands out for me, and cuts right to the heart of the matter:
Trust within society would be replaced by the demand for formal identification.
In the current climate notions of trusting the government (and elements of the media) seem almost ridiculous. The arrogance and lack of principles demonstrated before, during and after the invasion of Iraq show a level of contempt for the citizenry – 1,000,000+ of whom marched to oppose the war – from a government that, despite holding a large majority in Parliament, fails to realise / acknowledge its crumbling mandate.
Tony Blair reckons he will be judged by history – I can tell him now that it’ll happen a lot quicker than that!
[For crying out loud, the government are so desperate to get kids ‘interested in politics’ – i.e. actually voting – that they’ve even resorted to teaching ‘citizenship’ in schools. Fine, even admirable, in a healthy democracy – but a bit pathetic as a response when (young) people are turning off party politics in droves…]
But back to trust. Not only have a significant number of our leaders shown themselves to be untrustworthy (WMD anyone?), with ID cards / NIR they are demonstrating that they simply don’t trust US (not the U.S. – if only!). It is terrifying that they seem to trust (a) the technology companies that stand to make untold millions out of an ID card scheme, and (b) technology itself more than the citizens that they are supposed to be serving.
In moving towards universal formal identification, the government will be further dismantling the ‘human infrastructure’ of society. ID cards won’t ever help you get to know someone and yet, if implemented, will almost inevitably end up being used as some sort of transactional stand-in for trust – the irony being that, because they are based on technology (and therefore fallible), they are probably less trustworthy in the long run than actually getting to know a person. You know, build a relationship… have a conversation…