What is the fuss about identity cards?

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about Identity Cards. Liberty who campaign for human-rights have an active campaign against them. The primary reason is that they are an erosion of civil liberty, but also:

  • They cost too much: they're set to cost hundreds of millions, as much as £18billion. They argue the money would be better spent invested in the police.
  • Choice: people aren't being given a choice. Although the govenment is dancing round the issue, saying that there is an option. But hindering those who don't take up the card.
  • Privacy: it is an invasion into people's private lives. The system requires biometric data on everyone in the country. Fingerprints and other biometric data will be held on law abiding citizens, as well as criminals--- indiscriminately.
  • It helps fight terrorism: claim that the cards will help tackle illegal immigrants and terrorism. Will it? Spain has had an Id card system and they've suffered terrorist attacks for many years. They also have comparable street crime.
  • They'll help with identity theft and fraud: identity crimes such as VAT fraud and money laundering use fake identities. How is this going to be less of a problem in the new scheme? The most common fraud by far is benefit fraud. Legitimate identity cards could be used for this.

Another view is, that an open society is an ideal. If the government want's an open society perhaps it should put it's own house in order, it hasn't exactly been open on occasion in the past. There is a change of emphasis here; the government serve the people. Something that might easily be forgotton.

Given all of this you might think that the arguement is overwhelming. But society has changed, more than ever transactions and buisness is done in virtual worlds. Anonymously. People are required to remember password after password, pin after pin. they increasingly trust more and more organisations with personal details, credit card numbers and intimate information. How is this different? How do you ideanify anyone on the internet?

I can see the need for biometric data in this on the internet. But this sort of data has so many misuses. With central databases full of this information who has access. If individuals had control over their own information in some sort of cryptographic way, wouldn't that be acceptible? The data protection act certainly shows it's age and does little to control anyone's personal details. The ability to demand an organisation show you the data they have on you is the most useful part of the act. The government should not forget the spirit of the act however. The citizen owns his identity.

If the information isn't useable or readbale without the individual's permission. He holds the key to the identity information is held by it's owner, then doesn't this become a useful system for protecting rights?


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