So this ID card ‘news’ then…

I think my friend Dave has put it best

As far as I can see there has been no substantive change in policy here. Originally, it was going to be compulsory to go on the ID database when you applied for or renewed a passport, but otherwise ‘voluntary’, at least at first, but you’d definitely get an ID card when you got your passport. Now, you’ll only get the card if you ask for it, but everything else is unchanged.

The card itself has never been the primary issue for No2ID and the other civil libertarian organisations that have opposed the ID card scheme. Which is not to say it’s a *good* thing, by any stretch of the imagination – as far as I’m concerned the idea of a compulsory ID card would effectively make everyone criminal by default for the ‘crime’ of not wanting to pay a regressive tax in order to have the ‘privilege’ of proving your identity to people who don’t have any business asking for such proof in the first place.

But the problem has always been the national ID register itself. The idea of storing what amounts to someone’s entire life history – biological data, health records, financial data, records of all dealings with any government department, records of any dealings with authorised private contractors, address, marital status, income and much more – on a single, central database accessible by anyone working in government – has some slight problems.

Firstly, of course, there’s the fact that it can’t possibly work, but that’s hardly a new thing with multi-billion-pound government IT contracts. Oh, they can store the data, it just won’t be useful for anything…

Then there’s the fact that you will be obliged – for the rest of your life – to keep this data up to date, or face £1000 in fines. They’re not even having the decency to employ spies to watch over us all – we’re meant to do it ourselves!

Then there’s the matter of access. Work in a company that has a government IT contract but don’t want your boss to know about your visit to the STD clinic? Have a stalkerish ex who works at the Job Centre who you’d rather not know your new address? Well, you’d better trust to their sense of duty and professional ethics, then, hadn’t you? Because nothing else will stop them having that information…

And of course it’s going to stop benefit fraud, because nothing makes identity theft harder than having every single piece of information about everyone in the country collected onto one centralised system to which millions of people will have access…

So the very slight scaling back (for now) (and all I can see that has actually changed is that Manchester airport workers won’t be forced to have a card yet) of the obligation to have the card means nothing if the obligation to be on the database is kept. So once again this month (having skipped last month to see old horror films in Bradford – I’m not a very good activist really), I’ll be out campaigning with OpenID – Saturday 11th July 2009, 2pm-4pm, St Ann’s Square, Manchester.

But remember – the fact that they’re trying to make it *look* like we’ve won means they know they’ve lost. We’ve just got to back them down all the way…

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