ID opponents have all the cards

ID opponents have all the cards

Summary: A sober, detailed critique of ID cards is dismissed out of hand by the Government. This isn't merely irresponsible, it is abdication

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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Despite widespread and deeply-held worries about the purposes, practicalities, usefulness and cost of the Government's proposed ID card scheme, there are no signs that the project is being reconsidered. Instead, it is being pushed through at speed.

Such an enormously expensive scheme with such long-term repercussions for the nation needs more openness, care and sober discussion, not less, than other legislation. It needs a detailed cost-benefit risk-based analysis - and this isn't just jargon. We need to know exactly what the investment will bring us, how it will work, and what the risks are to us of it going wrong. Are there cheaper, less intrusive ways of achieving the same thing? Will we be properly protected?

Needless to say, there is very little of this coming from the Government. The LSE's detailed 300 page report is by far the closest we'll see - it covers all of the above and comes to a damning conclusion - and that has been summarily dismissed as "completely wrong" and "mad" by Home Secretary Charles Clarke. How do the Government's figures stack up? We can't tell. We haven't been allowed to see them. That, Mr Clarke, is a better definition of completely wrong.

One figure that the Home Office is delighted that we see is the 80 percent of the UK in favour of ID cards, according to an independent study from last year - a study commissioned by Detica, a security and IT consultancy that gets £46m a year from government consultancy now and will undoubtedly get much more if ID cards kick off. The Home Office hasn't mentioned that the same study also showed half unwilling to pay anything and a further 31 percent unprepared to pay more than £25. And 60 percent had little or no confidence in the Government's ability to introduce the system without hitches.

At least we're firmly behind that 60 percent. On its record, the Government has an addiction to consultant-led daftness that it pushes through at great expense and with little attention paid to ideas from outside the consultocracy. You might like to ask the Treasury how well that works as it considers taking its major supplier EDS to court over the tax credit fiasco. EDS, of course, is massively in favour of ID cards and is pitching for a large share of the business.

The Government also has a record of ignoring or declawing protective measures built into legislation -- for example, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in 2000 was supposed to control the use of electronic surveillance and database access by official bodies. Yet there are still no specific statutory penalties for officials who abuse the powers that RIPA gives them, unlike the ever increasing punishments doled out to the rest of us for transgressing data laws. Reform here would be a very good step in convincing us that the Government is serious about protecting our rights, rather than abusing them for its convenience.

If none of the above concerns are addressed, then the ID card system will reveal at least one true identity - that of the people who claim to work for us, but whose real motivation lies elsewhere.

Topic: IT Employment

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4 comments
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  • What is there to say... it doesn't look like we have a choice.
    anonymous
  • Ultimate power....?

    And what is power nowedays? Control over information and control over access to information.

    If I can control what others can, could and will know about you how (certainly not excluding filtered or even edited information) then I can control you. And without build-in safe guards and unavoidable serious punishment for those that misuse or abuse (intended or not) such amounts of information ultimate corruption is the oh so humanly logical next step. All with the best of intentions I'm sure is what the front men will state. But what about the people hiding behind the screens and pulling the cords?

    Some form of realistic risk assessment seems to be in order. What are the definitions of misuse and abuse? Who's at risk? What could go wrong? How to identify misuse and abuse? How to reverse wrong doing? How to prevent a mistake from happening again? Or are we to go along with this as with plane crashes? Only after the fact we're maybe going to find out how to prevent it from happening again. In other words: no prevention, cure later if there are no commercial or political objections.

    Sure, there are benefits of having a national spanning electronic ID system in place but there are also risks. Do's and dont's. Practical and inpractical. Justifyable or not. At risk of wrong human interpretation or not. At risk of ending up in the wrong hands or not. That all needs to be realisticly inventoried and dealth with. Whatever the outcome, it won't be perfect but making it perfect and keeping it perfect should be the goal if the conclusion is to go ahead.
    anonymous
  • Politicians have nothing to do. Ever notice how the country runs just fine during their summer recess? This is yet another scheme to keep them all occupied, paid for by you and me.
    anonymous
  • Without wishing to sound cynical, some people at least have the very real choice of emigrating (ex-pat Brits don't have to register).
    anonymous