Knowing me, knowing you

Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004: [LINKS UNCHECKED]

Steven Mathieson’s article in the Guardian, Knowing me, knowing you, is another of his well-informed pieces on government IT policy. He quotes David Cameron (Conservative MP) who refers to the Govenment’s “excuse culture”: they’ve got a whole bunch of problems – such as illegal immigration, serious crime, terrorism – but no real answers, so they offer a National Identity Register-backed ID card scheme as a “cure-all”.

When a ‘new’ controversy arrives in the media (e.g. the Bichard report, regarding the intelligence failures that contributed to the Soham murders) you can bet your bottom dollar that the Home Secretary or Home Office will try to ‘work in’ a role for ID cards or the NIR – leading to massive ‘feature creep’ before the things are even implemented, and even more worrying erosions of personal privacy and the presumption of innocence. For example, it is now proposed that allegations be attached to people’s records (i.e. stuff that may not even have taken place, let alone been committed by the individual) and that ID cards should in some way be linked to the Criminal Records Bureau.

Are we all, therefore, to be tarred with the same brush as the paedophiles and serious criminals? And do you *really* think that little plastic cards are going to prove a serious impediment to these people?

One of the more worrying aspects of all this is the sheer number of current and upcoming public (and private) sector initiatives designed to track us and our behaviour. Thanks to Steven for the following list:

Citizen Information Project: National Statistics plans a population register of everyone in the UK, providing one place to update details and improving government statistics.National Identity Register: to be built from scratch for the ID card scheme. To include every UK adult, subject to parliamentary vote, it will include reference numbers for databases such as national insurance and NHS numbers, and biometric measurements.

NHS Care Records Service: the national project has started building a patient database to contain summary medical records for all in England.

Coordinated Online Register of Electors: plans are to merge or link the electoral rolls managed by all UK local authorities.

Local databases of all children in England are being trialled.

The Department for Transport will produce a feasibility study on installing tracking devices in all vehicles this summer, allowing road pricing.

Private sector databases include credit reference agencies, loyalty cards and bank databases of card data.

If they are so interested in knowing me and knowing you, why is it they are not so keen on us knowing what they are doing… and why?!

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