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6 March, 2008

Red herring

NØ2IDSo the Government is changing its plans for the introduction of ID cards (details here), and it's possible that EU citizens will never need to obtain cards (apart from those in jobs with security implications), instead being able to use biometric passports as proof of identity.
Big deal.

It's not about having to obtain cards, and never was. It's about the underlying National Identity Register (NIR) – who cares about pieces of plastic if the data are readily available by computer?

Let's consider the need for those in jobs with security implications to carry National ID cards.
Firstly, 'security implications' is open to interpretation. At present it's 'air-side' airport staff and airline crew, but it wouldn't take a conceptual leap to extend that to, say, childminders.
Secondly, there may well be an argument for airport staff to undergo rigorous security checks and have to carry ID cards – so implement a standalone scheme for airport security, entirely unrelated to the National ID cards and NIR. There's absolutely no reason to link them, other than as a spurious attempt to justify the Government's plans.

The one good point is these revisions push the implementation date further and further away – hopefully we'll have a different Government by the time anything actually happens.

Incidentally, a related BBC article, published two months ago and perhaps superceded, repeats two more irrelevances:

Are the details stored centrally too?
No. Plans for a single database holding the personal information of all those issued with a card have been scrapped. Instead, information will be held on three existing, separate government databases.
It's a trivial matter to interlink databases – separate storage is no practical obstruction to abuse. Anyone reassured by the idea that there won't be one 'Big Brother' database is fooling him/herself. I'd want assurances, backed by legal penalties, that users of one database cannot, under any circumstances, access either of the others.
What won't be stored?
The government has sought to allay some fears about ID cards by saying they will not store details about someone's race, religion, sexuality, health, criminal record or political beliefs.
Again, that's meaningless. Is anyone seriously suggesting that someone able to access a NIR entry will be unable to access the same individual's criminal record, irrespective of whether it's in a different database? That the two databases will be (deliberately) incompatible?

The state should not have these data arrays. Period. Whether they're on a card, in a database or in a network of databases is utterly irrelevant.

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