One last chance for ID card sanity

One last chance for ID card sanity

Summary: They don't work, they cost a fortune and they curtail our liberties. But enough of the politicians: ID cards must go

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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As the deputy under-secretary at the Home Office surreptitiously brushes the dog hairs from the welcome mat, we have one final and unexpected chance to call for sanity over national ID cards. The new incumbent, Charles Clarke, is known to have harboured many reservations in the past. While he is undoubtedly under orders not to rock the boat in the run-up to the election, that goes both ways. He has a great deal of political leverage in exchange for sparing any further blushes.

The arguments against ID cards are threefold: they are expensive, intrusive and ineffective.

Expensive: The cost per card, which we will have to individually bear, is being set at around £80. That's before the traditional doubling or quadrupling of costs that large projects enjoy. An enormous secure infrastructure will have to be created and maintained to issue and track the cards, and it will only grow.

Intrusive: They will be a constant burden. A £1,000 fine is proposed if you forget to tell the agency that you've moved -- doubtless there'll be expensive and legalistic bureaucracy when the things are lost, stolen or stop working. The database that holds all our details will be an irresistible honey pot for hackers and other criminals, not to mention any state or quasi-state organisation that feels it has a right to dip into our lives. The biometric systems at the heart of the idea do not work at an acceptable level of accuracy. There's no evidence that they ever will. Yet when officials are confronted with a person, an ID card and a system that refuses to match the two, there can be little doubt who'll be in trouble 'just until we sort things out, sir. Or is it madam?' And heaven help you if you need to prove yourself to the doctor, bank or police for the duration.

Ineffective: What will these things do for us? Even the government has accepted that they won't do much against terrorism, despite this being a major excuse for their introduction. Lawful citizens already have an array of ID options, while criminals large and small will go about their business much as before. The chances of making the issuing system perfect against fraud and corruption are the same as for any bureaucracy that relies on large numbers of underpaid workers. Those who can afford to buy themselves a spare identity will.

Blunkett, we must remember, has blamed his demise on the Home Office 'system' that sent an email nobody knew existed. If things are that unmanageable at the heart of power, what will it be like writ large? The government is incapable of understanding the realities of high technology compared to the PowerPoint fantasies of its trusted advisors and suppliers. We can only hope that with its chief demagogue gone it can recover some of its common sense and start to see freedom as something to be enjoyed, not centrally managed.

Topic: IT Employment

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5 comments
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  • Nice talk buddy, but please, stop the melodrama! just provide the facts. I live in the U.S., and we don't have ID cards, but the only reason not to institute them is their intrusiveness. As for cost and inefficiency, whatever - that may be solved with time, i'm sure.
    anonymous
  • Thank you to ZDNet for coming out against this insane, inefficient and undemocratic waste of money. The more IT professionals who stand up and state the obvious failings of this muddled policy the better. But will the politicians listen to us in preference to the slick, suited salesmen of the biometric technology lobby? At least, for now, we have the hope.
    anonymous
  • Very nicely put. I have so many reasons to be against ID cards, but this article puts a good bunch of them together and spices it with humour. Sadly I'm not sure why anyone thinks they are a *good idea, so can't do a very good job of this debate myself. I'll be pointing people towards this article instead.
    anonymous
  • The Home Office has been slowly preparing a proof of concept for over a year (I've seen it), with the help (at wasting money) of Siemens and Fijutsu.
    When the full cost of it is known and gone over budget by more than double. The tax payers will have paid for it to be developed and again to put it in your pocket. And again when the Home Office fails to update your information or the index become corrupt. The information will of cause be as safe and the Criminal Records Office
    anonymous
  • Too much tax payers money being spent on the wrong things, rather than where they should be spent.

    Instead of priority being spent on health services, instead it gets spent on the iraq war, a war for greed and oil.

    Why spend ridiculous money on an ineffective, compulsory national id card scheme which has no effective means of combatting crime, or terrorism. Look at the Madrid bombings last year, where compulsory national id cards are the norm.. Did not exactly stop the bombins last year.

    Where is it going to end. Just wish more people were wise to them.

    What about asking the general populace, instead of arrogantly falsing them. Even when the majority of politicians from all sides seem opposed to them.

    If someone really wants to get around them, they will. Like mistaken identity theft.

    Just in the so called name of protecting so called freedoms.

    More like a police state.
    anonymous