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26 May, 2005

Do you know what you're accepting?

NØ2IDSorry to be ranting on about ID cards, but since the Bill is currently in the process of going through Parliament, there's more than usual to comment upon.

In a generally one-sided (pro-card) article, the Guardian mentions that the existing network of 'chip-and-PIN' credit/debit card readers could be upgraded to become ID card readers in future. Why? If I want to buy a bag of potatoes, the shopkeeper shouldn't even have the opportunity to access my personal details. Even if that isn't the intent, it's an opportunity for the unscrupulous and tech-literate to increase ID theft.

Secondly, the same article grossly understates the nature of the data to be stored:

The ID card scheme is more than about just issuing a piece of plastic. The key element is the central database holding basic personal information on every citizen over 16, including name, date of birth and address. This data is linked to biometric information such as facial image, iris scan and electronic fingerprint to ensure security.
I've covered this before. It's not just 'basic' information – the legislation allows for over fifty categories of parameters (that's categories; each can contain multiple parameters), many arguably intrusive, even serial numbers of documents issued by foreign nations (no business of the UK authorities), in addition to open-ended categories which amount to 'whatever the authorities want to know'. The precise details aren't in the legislation – that's left to the discretion of the Home Office.

The lack of public understanding of this point is worrying. It seems a proportion of the population would be happy to hold an ID card which merely proves their identities (perhaps name, address, and some means of proving that the holder is who he/she claims to be). I'd object to that too, but just for the sake of argument, I'll acknowledge that an ID card of that type would be acceptable to a majority. However, whatever Government soundbites and partial mass-media 'news' reports say, that's not what's on offer. Please don't be deceived!

Oh, and the article repeats that fallacy about ID theft costing the UK £1.3 billion p.a., not quite juxtaposed with an estimate that card implementation will cost up to £3.1bn over 10 years plus £584 million every year in running costs.

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