Hacks report the HAC Report

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

[Apologies to any journalists, but I couldn’t resist the pun]

It’s been an interesting few days, kicked off by a fine evening spent selling NO2ID T-shirts and signing up supporters at the Big Brother Awards. ‘Hi’ to everyone (new) I met & remembered to tell about this blog.

And then, at about 1am on the 29th, a text arrived to tell me that someone had leaked the Home Affairs Committee report on ID cards to the Guardian…

Patrick Wintour’s front page article, MPs attack Blunkett ID card plan, later that morning revealed the news that:

David Blunkett’s plan for compulsory identity cards [would] be condemned by MPs… as improperly costed, poorly thought out, secretive and “lacking in clarity both over the scheme’s scope and practical operation”.

Of course – after the report had been officially released on the 30th – their Special Report, MPs say the case is made, but call for proper scrutiny, highlighted “the secrecy surrounding the costs of the scheme – put at anywhere between £1.3bn and £3.7bn” and gave a comprehensive summary of the concerns expressed by the Committee.

Today’s Leader, Big brother database reports “the ever vigilant information commissioner Richard Thomas gave the most apposite warning about the government’s draft identification cards bill yesterday. Forget the cards and concentrate on the national database that lies behind them and the people who will have access to it.”


Meanwhile back to Thursday, and an honourable mention for NO2ID on The Register’s write-up of the Big Brother Awards 2004 – uncannily timed to coincide with the launch of online sales of our campaign T-shirt on Cash’n’Carrion 😉

You can now read the HAC report itself here, or download the BBC’s (advance) copy.

Mark Simpkins at consultationprocess has MoveableTyped the Summary, with the Report itself in the pipeline. Blogalicious!

David Blunkett’s response is one of the most nauseating pieces of turd polishing I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. It reveals the next bunch of partial truths and outright lies that he’s hoping to foist on the nation, and clearly identifies what he thinks people’s concerns are or will be. No sign of any real evidence to back up his condescending reassurances and outrageous assertions, of course!

David Davies, the Shadow Home Secretary, is reported by 4NI as saying, “There are a whole series of problems, loopholes and weaknesses and the committee is absolutely right to highlight them. And this proposal may well lead to a very large database containing all the data about all citizens in one place, and that has serious civil liberties considerations too.”

But while the the Tories have described the government’s approach as “incoherent” and weak on detail, they have yet to come out as firmly against them. Hardly surprising given the fact that Michael Howard himself tried to introduce ID cards in the mid 90s, when he was Home Secretary – only giving up when he found them impossible to justify.

More from 4NI:

The Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary, Mark Oaten, said that the David Blunkett’s proposals were a “mish-mash of ideas” created to placate the Cabinet.“Mr Blunkett has failed to demonstrate to the Committee, the public, and to many of his Cabinet colleagues that his plans would prevent terrorism or cut crime,” he said.

Maybe because the Guardian got the jump on them, the other broadsheets didn’t make such a massive noise about the report – but still covered it:

David Barrett of The Independent noted Blunkett’s refusal to publish details of the financing of the scheme in, Public facing ‘clear risks’ from ID cards scheme.

And John Steele in the Telegraph wrote, MPs scathing over plans for national ID cards.

The tabloids barely batted an eyelid, but some of them did at least write something:

The Mirror’s, ID CARD PLAN IS ‘FLAWED’, called the scheme “poorly thought out and over-secretive”, but unfortunately propagated John Denham’s assertions that “ID cards would help in the war against terror, fight crime and and reduce illegal immigration.” The latter being so patently untrue as to call into question whether either Denham or the Mirror journo need their heads examined (probably both)!

The Daily Record meanwhile managed just three sentences.

The local papers, or at least the Evening Times with MPs claim cost of identity card plan could soar and icNetwork’s MPs criticise ID cards plan chipped in before being used to wrap some.

The technology press (especially online) have been pretty good at covering the many and varied flaws of the scheme and the thinking behind it, and this proved no exception:

ZDNet UK’s MPs slam UK ID card proposal quotes several industry experts who question the government’s “lack of technical assessment”, doubt the validity of the card if identity verification is a “subsidiary issue”, and the director of security strategy at Computer Associates wonders “exactly why a scheme is necessary at all”.

Lucy Sheriff in El Reg seems pretty resigned to the fact that the government thinks ID cards: a bad idea, but we’ll do it anyway. I’m sure a certain Mr. Lettice will have more to say on the matter when he returns…

Silicon.com labels ID cards “an expensive and dangerous folly”.

And PublicTechnology.net’s, ID Cards: MP committee backs them but criticises implementation & laws, is a pretty straightforward summary of the report that draws attention to current ‘joined-up government’ thinking: “MPs believe that there should not be a central database holding all individual information, but the identity card should enable access to all Government databases.”

[Though strictly speaking it’s not about the HAC report, Sarah Arnott in Computing asks some of The questions we want answered in the Data Debate. Watch this space!]

And the HAC report even got some coverage abroad, in Europe, New Zealand (via Reuters) and Bahrain! I couldn’t find the Reuters feed, but Bloomberg’s was pretty good.

Of course, the Beeb chipped in on the 29th with a piece about the “lack of openness” and use of the scheme as “a cover” to introduce a national fingerprinting system within five years. Well, doh! Their more in-depth coverage on the 30th,
ID card plans ‘badly thought out’, was much better – and not just because it quoted our (NO2ID’s) very own Owen Blacker 🙂

A final couple from the political & legal angle:

ePolitix’, Committee seeks clarity on ID cards, steers clear of being controversial but picks up on the main concerns. However, they report Blunkett as saying:

“ID cards will bring enormous benefits to us as individuals and as a society,” he said.”The government is acting now to prepare the UK for 21st Century challenges such as crime, security, the speed and nature of communication and international travel, and the number of sophisticated and complex transactions that we as individuals need to do effectively and securely.”

Utter bullshit.

If he were genuinely interested in the latter, they’d have been incorporating Digital Certificates, not biometrics, into the smartcards. I am reminded of the question someone once told me to ask myself every time a politician opens his (or her) mouth: “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”.

Meanwhile, the good folk from Masons go into some detail in an out-law.com article that concludes with a pretty extensive list of the Information Commissioner’s “major concerns”.

We’ll see what effect this all has when the dust has settled a bit – but, given this government’s track record on listening to the British public, I don’t expect that much will change. Maybe a name, maybe the price. They think it’s all about managing public perception, but the fact is they could even drop the cards and I would still fight this outrageous piece of legislation tooth and nail.

Repeat after me: it’s not (just) the cards, it’s the database…

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