Thinktank: Debate ID cards or drop them

Thinktank: Debate ID cards or drop them

Summary: Influential thinktank Demos says serious engagement with the public on how ID cards will work must be a priority if the scheme is to go ahead

TOPICS: Security

There needs to be serious debate about the government's ID cards scheme or else it should be scrapped, according to an influential thinktank.

A report from Demos stated that meaningful engagement with the public about how the technology should work must be a priority if the ID cards scheme is to go ahead.

"There needs to be a serious, renewed debate about the identity cards scheme, with the kind of engagement that should have happened at the start of the process. Otherwise, the scheme should be dropped," the Demos report FYI: The new politics of personal information stated.

The report claimed that there needs to be more open consideration of what kind of information the cards would hold, why, and in what circumstances they will be used.

The report from Demos noted that personal information has become central to how we live — from online banking to social networking — and this is creating a trend towards personal, tailored services and a society "dominated by different forms of information gathering".

Demos argued that there is a need for better debate about the boundaries, rights and responsibilities that regulate the use of this personal information.


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The government should develop a more coherent strategy around the use of personal information, clarifying the links between how it will use such information and the potential benefits or costs to individuals, the report argued.

Each government department using personal information should say how they are accessing it, while the powers of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) should be strengthened, for example to include the ability to audit organisations' use of personal information without needing their consent, the report argued.

Topic: Security

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  • It is not the cards but the central database which is the issue

    Surely the statement that 'there needs to be more open consideration of what kind of information the cards would hold' is missing the whole point.

    We need to quetion why there should be a central database at all containing all the personal information held on ID cards.

    With Chip & Pin, for example, there is a perfectly good model for storing secure personal information (pin number) on the card, and not centrally. ID cards can work the same way.

    What objective does having a central database with information to be stolen in bulk give, which cannot be achieved purely from having personal data on the cards?
  • ID Cards are used to control people

    Who benefits? Follow the money. ID cards are as they always have been used to control the population. If you think it will prevent terrorist attacks you only need to check out history, and many de-classified documents to debunk that idea. google endgame or terrorstorm
  • The inevitable future?

    Soon it will be known who we are (individual identity and all social/ physical network relationships therein), where we are, where we go, who we're with, who we meet and all that we watch, read, eat, buy, touch and do.,1000001161,39290141-39001108c-20089176o,00.htm
  • BTW

    As information creators we really only have oursleves to blame. I.e. Myspace/ Facebook et al. The only way to avoid the inevitable future is to just stop producing personal information of any kind whatsoever. Though it's probably a bit difficult to do now that we've become totally reliant upon using electronic and digital devices to communicate. But hey - stop and think about it? Who exactly is building this pervasive super massive all digital communications storage and retrieval system?

  • Good point

    The smartest thing that Facebook does is not in fact asking you for information about yourself. It asks other people (your friends) for information about - such as when and how you met etc. This is arguably more valuable in the long run that our browsing habits, and possibly as valuable in some respects as the content of our emails, for purposes of targetting ads.

    We've been distilling the dynamics of these mechanisms lately as we develop ZDNet's nascient community/social networking features. Privacy is always foremost in our minds - particularly how to give users control over the information they do supply. From what I have seen, I believe that the likes of Facebook also spend a lot of time considering privacy - not least because any breach or gaffe tends to be immediately picked up by the community, and the site has to have a satisfactory response, which usually entails bending to the will of the community. After all, if people are not satisfied, they can always go elsewhere.

    Unfortunately the (or indeed any) proposed ID card scheme has such automatic, natural checks and balances built in

    Thanks Matt,

    Where I'm going with this angle is that what you or I create here - as words in this post or what information we provide as individuals whether created by us or by third parties, should actually be considered as 'an extension of our total identity'.

    Your and my writing here, is an extension of our thoughts, observations, considerations, interpretations, possible values and perhaps even feelings and attitudes and even when freely published
    should remain the property of the individual who created them (the 'creator'). Writing is in all respects an origination of thoughts transferred to words/ text and quite often presented in an original
    contextual sequence or order as constructed by the creator. The words I write here, are in fact, of my design by my will to write them. I alone, am choosing them and creating the sequence in which they are delivered. Would you not agree that means that I 'own the sequence?' And if I do, then as originator i.e. 'sequence generator', they are in effect extensions of my identity.

    Your site is in essence an 'open online journal' which publishes information created by those employed/ writing for the site and by people like me who add content to the overall 'product offering' -

    As site owners you probably no doubt have the right to re-publish. However, my 'creators rights' should mean that my name accompanies each and every re-publishing and that I can, if I so choose to do so, request that the writings by me, be removed.

    What I am getting at is why is information created by an individual any different from say their personal information? It came from them. Why isn't it theirs?

    Creating information that is either particular to us, to our identity, or even our way of thinking provides a means to extract a 'thoughts profile'.

    Once personal information has been published here or on social networks such as FB and MyS it's not that easy to remove. This makes me wonder (if anyone actually knows) just how long such data is remains stored in servers around the world? More importantly, just how much replication is taking place and if so, how long will the data be retained? Years? A lifetime?

    Finally, I'm not quite sure what exactly you meant by 'arguably more valuable' in your opening comments - 'The smartest thing that Facebook does is not in fact asking you for information about yourself. It asks other people (your friends) for information about -
    such as when and how you met etc. This is arguably more valuable in the long run that [sic] our browsing habits, and possibly as valuable in some respects as the content of our emails, for purposes of targetting ads.' More valuable to whom? And for what reason?

  • arguing while rome burns

    Your discusssion (matt & thinkfeeldo) about what constitutes personal information, who owns it, and how much of a risk to privacy social information sites represent, is undoubtedly an important one, and of course you can discuss it to your heart's content since freedom of speech is one of our rights.

    But... you'll notice you've successfully distracted the discussion which was about the UK government's ID cards scheme and turned it into a more general discussion about personal information and privacy.

    I think this is one way that governments are able and allowed to get on with whatever they want. People are provoked into complaint about the government's action, but the debate rapidly moves into the more general realm. Meanwhile, with the intellectuals and activists nicely distracted by the problem of defining the issue, the government get on with their plan anyway.

    Theory and more general issues are all very well, but it's also important to remain focused on the areas of concern.

    In this case, I think most people are concerned about
    - the fact that the government want significant numbers of items of personal information about each UK resident which they don't already have
    - the fact that all the information is to be stored centrally
    - the fact that past history shows they are hopelessly behind good practice on data security, and that even good practice is probably not sufficient for such a goldmine of personal information
    - the fact that this provision of information is to be mandatory
    - the fact that this is costing a huge amount of taxpayers money for doubtful benefit, except perhaps jobs for IT consultants

    I don't think people are terribly concerned that they are placing personal information on social networking sites. Perhaps they should be. But, surely the key point here is:

    It is optional to place information about yourself on social networking sites. If you are concerned about how your personal information on social networking sites might be used, you can choose not to post anything of importance. You have no such choice with the ID cards scheme.


    Ok. Point taken. Even so, what are your recommemdations for dealing with a governments proposal to collect and centrally store personal information on citizens and more importantly, exactly what do you think is the purpose for wanting to know so much about each and every person?