ID cards labelled as human rights threat

Summary:The government's Joint Committee on Human Rights has criticised the current the national ID card plan, and the way that the issue has been handled up to now

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its report into the implications of the Identity Cards Bill -- and says the legislation "raise[s] a number of serious questions" on human rights.

The report considers how the Bill potentially infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, which is designed to safeguard citizens' right to a private life, and has found there are several areas where the legislation has been found wanting.

The Convention requires that measures: "interfere with privacy rights to the minimum degree necessary and that their aim could not be achieved by less intrusive means", which, according to the JCHR reports, isn't the case for the ID card Bill.

Among its concerns is that some of the information held by the government's registry for ID cards may not "serve a legitimate aim or be proportional to that aim". It also queries the possibility for information on UK citizens to be held without their knowledge or consent.

The Committee also believes that ID cards could become "effectively compulsory" for certain groups of people and the cards' introduction could see some government and private sector organisations withholding services unless ID cards are produced.

"Under a compulsory scheme, the extent of personal information which may be disclosed from the register to a services provider as a condition of access to public services" is a concern, the report says.

While the report does not consider that ID cards in themselves are against the Convention on Human Rights, it does find the government less than helpful on laying privacy concerns to rest.

Given that Home Secretary David Blunkett previously pronounced the Bill was compatible with the Convention, but without given any further explanation to justify the assumption, the report says: "We consider the absence of such explanation to be deeply unsatisfactory in a Bill which is concerned throughout with the issues of personal privacy."

The Committee has written to both the current Home Secretary and Secretary of State asking for clarification on some of its concerns.

Topics: Government : UK

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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