24 October 2005

FACTS ABOUT ID CARDS.

Why are so many bloggers against ID cards?

Doing a quick blog search, I found hundreds of bloggers commenting on ID cards, not a single one was in favour. Talkpolitics, Chicken Yoghurt, Chris Applegate are just a few who have recently posted their total opposition.

This made me think of two scenarios, either I am totally deluded in supporting ID cards or there is something unrepresentative about bloggers (remember opinion polls find a majority of the population in favour of ID cards).

I know that political bloggers by their very nature are likely to be two things; firstly more affluent and middle class than the general population and also probably as a result of this, more highly educated.

Well it could be that this higher level of education has resulted in them considering the implications of ID cards in more depth and therefore coming to a justified negative conclusion about them (there are after all a number of justified concerns about ID cards, concerns I also share). However I think there is a more powerful force at work here, than just bloggers education levels.

The fact that I couldn't find a single blogger blogging in favour of ID cards tells me that this force is powerful enough to unite both conservative and liberal bloggers. It also presents me with an unexpected opportunity to be a pioneer blogger in outlining a detailed case in favour of ID cards (admittedly with a number of important reservations).

Generally it is the more conservative, authoritarian types who favour ID cards and the liberal ones who oppose. People who know this site shouldn't have much of a problem with my claim to be a libertarian (my score on political compass was -6.7 on the libertarian/authoritarian scale).

So what is this force uniting bloggers on this subject?

Well firstly and foremostly, conservatives who might otherwise have supported ID cards, have a Conservative party who have seen a populist issue to win votes on a subject that is no cost to them.

Whenever Labour or Conservatives have been in opposition they have used Europe and social issues as 'wedge' issues to score easy votes in the knowledge that when in government they would have carried out the said criticised policy themselves. ID cards is such an issue. Opponents are concentrating their main line of fire on the 'flawed technology' at the moment. Their real underlying objection, that of the principle of ID cards is hidden beneath this veneer because it is no so powerful an argument.

The overwhelming majority of the public are just concerned with the practical benefits. I predict that the controversy over the security and cost of biometrics will subside as the technology advances and the government refines its objectives. Although 3 biometrics have been proposed, just facial recognition followed by fingerprinting are likely to be initially used. Less reliable iris scanning might be a while into the future. As the system is proved to work both here and abroad, then the opponents will change tack, but it will be too late. Opponents know they have to win the argument early on or the facts will overtake them.

Those 11,000 who have pledged their opposition will have a much harder time than poll tax protestors-the measures are coming in over a long period starting in 2008, the costs are much lower, and withholding payment just means no passport and no overseas travel, no problem for the government. By the time compulsion comes in in 2013, nearly everyone will have got a biometric ID card and seen them in common use for years. The 11,000 will soon forget what the fuss was about and quietly drop their cause.

Anyway, back to the point. Because the Tories have popularised being anti-ID card from a right wing perspective, it has been very easy for the liberal bloggers to find voice and support for liberty issues that otherwise would be killed off by the right wing media. This combination in right/left motivation coupled with support from the centrist Lib Dems has led to an unstoppable orthodoxy amongst political bloggers. It also fits nicely with popular perception of the govt as being illiberal.

So what are the main criticisms of ID cards?

Before I start here's a link to the government's identity card page, which as well as containing outlines of their plans so far, (and details of trials-see below), and answers to the main criticisms, also contains a detailed rebuffal of the LSE study which a lot of opponents of ID cards use to criticise the government's current plans. (It has to be pointed out that the LSE saw many benefits in the introduction of biometric ID cards and presented its own alternative plans, this seems to have been overlooked by opponents).

Firstly it has to be said that a lot of the criticisms of ID cards are aimed at the foreseen failure of the technical aspects of biometrics and the lack of organisational capability of the govt rather than at the concept of ID cards themselves. This immediately makes me very suspicious of motives. If it is the restrictions on civil liberties that is the main reason, opponents should say so loud and clear, but also explain how this restriction outweighs the benefits of ID cards. So first, lets look at the civil liberty objections and their importance and then move on to the practicalities.

Loss of privacy.

Some of the claims of opponents of ID cards have included the following;

1. That the govt and potential hackers will be able to track your movement around the country, view your medical, criminal, social security, bank, credit, supermarket, ISP and mobile phone details.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with ID cards, the govt has categorically stated that none of these details will be included on the cards or the National Identity Register (NIR). If the govt wanted to access any of these details, they wouldn't need to set up an ID card to do it.

2. It is unsafe to keep biometric and name/address data on cards and on a central database rather than on a number of secure databases.

There is no need to put the actual biometric data on the cards or have someone's NIR number on the database. Technology is available to distort biometric data on cards, rendering it useless for anyone else to read. The central database will be high security. This is the safest and cheapest method, its the same principle as banks keeping money in a safe rather than leaving it in the till. Everyone will be able to view their own data. It has been argued that some people that need to remain anonymous, e.g. battered wives, would be put in jeopardy. But the system would be no less secure than at present where work details and electoral registers could be hacked into.

3. We won't know who is checking our identity and for what reason.

Under the Data Protection Act, you would be able to ask for these details. It is understood that (apart from the fight against terrorism and benefit/tax fraud), anyone accessing your data would need your consent.

Harrassment.

There will be no compulsion to carry the ID card. The police will have no new powers to ask you to prove your identity. It has been suggested that the police will use ID cards as an excuse to harass ethnic minorities. This is not the fault of ID cards, this is the fault of police attitudes. The solution is to tackle the police attitudes not the ID cards.

I have a black friend who is constantly stopped by the police because he drives a nice car. The solution is not for him to get rid of his nice car but for him to complain to the police and the media and hope something is done about their racist attitude, that is the REAL problem.

Function creep

Ah, opponents say, it is all very well the government giving all these guarantees now, but how do we stop future govts adding all these extra details to the cards gradually and without our consent.

The govt have stated that the cards and NIR will carry only the information your passport does. It would need primary legislation through parliament to add to this. Then would be the time to object.

Biometrics are too costly and impractical

The govt are still devising the system and no decision has been taken on which or how many biometrics will be used. Trials are being carried out and the most recent have shown near 100% enrolment and verification rates (excluding iris scans). Face recognition biometrics are the most reliable and likely to be used followed by fingerprinting. Iris scanning is the least reliable at the moment. However, the technology is advancing all the time.

The EU has passed standards on biometric travel documents that include face recognition and fingerprinting, the deadline is in 2006. Because of these standards and similar US requirements on travel documents to come into effect next year, the costs of incorporating biometrics are already being incurred.

Nearly every country in the EU has ID cards (21 out of 25 countries, only the UK, Eire, Denmark and Latvia do not). Face recognition and fingerprinting biometrics will be used by the majority of countries in the EU in the next few years. Some already have them. The costs of ID cards in these countries are in line with the £30 prediction of the home office. From wikipedia on ID cards;

"Argumentation about identity cards is largely limited to anglosaxon countries. In most countries where an ID system is present, it is seen as a commonplace item that nobody argues about."

Benefits of ID cards overstated?

ID cards are claimed to have a positive impact in the following areas;

Preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. Tackling Identity theft, benefit fraud and abuse of public services. And finally aiding anti-terrorism measures and enhancing a sense of community.

Both ID card opponents and enthusiasts largely agree that there will be a positive impact in all these areas with the introduction of ID cards. Where they disagree is over the degree of improvement and whether the costs both monetary and liberty wise are worth these benefits. There might be only one way to find out. For a detailed appraisal of benefits, rebuffal of the LSE report, details of trials and a FAQ on ID cards visit the govt ID card site.

Conclusion

The government,(for whatever reason) have been very timid in selling ID cards, and this vacuum has been filled by the anti-card propaganda. The govt may have felt complacent as levels of support were so high, but this could quickly turn around if the government do not properly sell the case for ID cards, which they have so far failed to do.

Hopefully as the costs and practicalities become more clear, and as the cards are gradually introduced, public support will strengthen and the anti-brigade will fade. This gradual introduction and lower cost is why ID cards should not become the Labour poll tax. Once people see the benefits and efficiencies ID cards bring both here and abroad, opposition should quickly fade.

All this is not to say that the govt will get this right. The biggest problem for them could be the operating of the NIR. Hopefully the gradual introduction of the cards will make this a much easier project. The principle of ID cards is right and the biometrics are practical, lets hope the govt don't make a mess of it by trying to be all things to all sides.

54 comments:

  1. Remittance Man24/10/05 9:27 am

    Sorry Neil,

    I've got to take issue with you on this one. ID cards are an intrusion of the state into the lives of the private citizen.

    To date there has been no convincing arguement put forward that ID cards and the proposed database will do anything to assist the fight angainst crime, benefit fraud terrorism or illegal immigration. Even the government has had to admit that these arguments are fallacious.

    As for the cost, bitter experience has shown that every government underestimates the cost of projects, usually by a wide margin.

    As for "function creep" getting primary legislation to amend the use to which centrally held data is used is actually very simple. I happen to live in a country where ID cards are compulsory and have been for many years. Because the card offers such a valuable means of identifying individuals one needs to produce one to open a bank account, store credit account, get a library card, in fact almost every facet of daily life. One also has to put one's identity number on one's tax return.

    Just recently the state has issued an edict. All banks must now verify the residential address of every account holder (on pain of having one's bank account closed should one refuse to comply). In the interests of preventing money laundering all acount information must now be available to the government anti-laundering office. Strangely this office is part of the revenue collection service.

    Now, I may be a paranoid cynic, but I happen to beleive that giving information to governments (of any pursuasion) is just as dangerous as giving them the right to levy taxes. Time and again they have proved themselves incapable of restraint, the temptation "to do good" is just too great. Maybe the current lot in power will show restraint, but can we honestly beleive that the next lot or the lot after that will show the same self-discipline? Quite frankly I'd rather not take the risk.

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. Tackling Identity theft, benefit fraud and abuse of public services. And finally aiding anti-terrorism measures and enhancing a sense of community.

    Both ID card opponents and enthusiasts largely agree that there will be a positive impact in all these areas with the introduction of ID cards."

    Really? I thought that Clarke had admitted that there was no case to be made for ID cards aiding anti-terrorism and the case against fraud is paper thin (costs exceed benefits).
    I like the idea that it enhances a sense of community. So did the poll tax. We all hated it.
    As this is a Labour party site I can tell you that after a lifetime of support for Labour I did not - and will not - vote for any party that supports ID cards. And I will vote for any party that opposes them.

    I post this anonymously - I am not giving you my identity

    ReplyDelete
  3. Car: where would you like to go. 'Enter destination'

    Driver: 'Bournemouth'

    Car: 'Business or Pleasure'

    Driver: 'Business'

    Car: The best time to travel will be 6 pm, stopping for one hour at Channock Richard service station. and refuelling at Oxford after the Blue Ford reg YFI 654 BINGO. Cost of road access EUR 23. Press 'Y' to accept 'N'' for decline.

    Driver: presses 'Y'

    Car: Please insert your National ID card

    Driver: inserts ID card

    Car: According to your NHS Records you are currently taking cough medicine, your last scheduled dosage was 1 hour ago. Journey Authorisation Declined. Would you like us to recalculate. Press 'Y' yes, 'N' no

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: Based on your Medication, the best time to make the journey is 3 AM, Stopping for 1 hr at Knutsford Service area, Refuelling at Oxford after the Pink Honda reg YFI 123 LOTTERY (note 10 mins refuel time only) cost of road access EUR 43. Y' to accept 'N'' for decline.

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: According to your Bank Account Records your spouse has just purchased a pair of shoes. You have insufficient funds to make this journey. Journey Authorisation Declined. would you like us to arrange a bank loan. Press 'Y" yes, 'N' no.

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: According to our Records, this is not possible at this time, you have reached your loan on disposable income limit, Would you like us to sell your Laptop on EBay. Press 'Y' yes, 'N' no

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: We are about to list your Laptop s/no 23456543, would you like us to format the disk before the sale (+ EUR 10) Press 'Y" yes, 'N' no.

    Driver: 'N'

    Car: Can we remind you that you have one authorised pornography picture of you and your spouse and a letter to your authorised mistress on the PC, are you sure you don't want us to erase this information. Press 'Y' yes, 'N' no

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: We have deleted those files and your PC is now listed (+ EUR 10)

    Car: The sale was successful, your PC sold for EUR 100, you can now proceed. Press 'Y" yes, 'N' no

    Driver: 'Y'

    Car: The sale of your laptop has increased your gross annual personal income, you now have to pay 60% tax on future income.

    Car: Have a nice day


    I could go on and on and on and on............

    ReplyDelete
  4. "This made me think of two scenarios, either I am totally deluded in supporting ID cards or there is something unrepresentative about bloggers (remember opinion polls find a majority of the population in favour of ID cards)."

    This is a very interesting little idea. I tend to think that it is true.

    The Register shows here that there isn't actually any support for an ID card:

    "Amusingly, the researchers tell us that the 75 per cent "demand" produced by this 'base case concept' "holds up well compared to today's 77 per cent of passport penetration." So when (not if, when) the price of a passport goes up from £42 to £93, almost all people who currently have passports will still feel they need passports."

    The research (unless you can provide a link to show otherwise) says absolutely nothing about public support for an ID card - it merely shows that when you are required to have an ID card to get a passport, most people will just have to accept it.

    So.....

    Given this, it would appear that your assertion that bloggers are unrepresentative is not true, and we are forced to conclude (by your own axiom) that you are totally deluded.

    Who'da thunk it?

    ReplyDelete
  5. New Labour is percieved as being illiberal because New Labour is illiberal, it is the most illiberal government that this country has had to endure for decades. It has got rid of the right to trialand the presumption of innocence if you do actually get a trial. New Labour now even allows gossip as evidence from your accusors. It has constantly tried to reduce the role of juries. It banned a minority pastime simply as a bargaining chip to help it avoid an embarsing debate over Iraq. It's ministers have lied to parliment, repeatedly. It has banned all protest in parliment square, simply to try and silence one man. It considers any form of desent to be terrorism with 600 arrested during it's recent conference for 'terrorist' offenses such as heckling a minister.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You are not the first :)
    http://blog.monjo.com/post/2005/05/31/defending_id_cards

    ReplyDelete
  7. Neil, I'm disappointed. In this post you said "I'm going to give it my all tomorrow to put all the arguments in favour I can muster". Where are they?! How are they beneficial? How do you back up your assertion that "both ID card opponents and enthusiasts largely agree that there will be a positive impact... with the introduction of ID cards"?

    ReplyDelete
  8. RM, Like I say in the post, all the things you are objecting to wouldn't need the govt to introduce ID cards, they could do them anyway. ID cards is a separate issue. Most countries in the EU have them and are introducing biometrics without many problems.

    Anon, the govt said ID cards wouldn't have prevented the july 7th attacks, but are still useful. It is estimated 35% of criminals/terrorists make use of false identities. Biometric ID cards would make it much more difficult for them.

    Anoneumouse, very humorous, but like I've said, none of what you say would require an ID card. It could be done anyway.

    Pedant General in Ordinary, A MORI poll in April found 80% in favour of ID cards, admittedly a YouGov poll in July found only 45% in favour, but this still suggests that the 99% of bloggers in opposition to ID cards are unrepresentative.

    Chris, I simply don't accept that this govt has been illiberal. It has not abolished jury trial, it has proposed its abolition in minor criminal cases (that is all).

    Compared to the last Tory administrations, this govt has been very consensual. It has devolved power to Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland and London. It has introduced PR to these and the Euro elections. It is going to devolve more power down to the regions and neighbourhoods. It has introduced elected Mayors.

    The Tory government in contrast emasculated local govt, abolished the metropolitan councils like the GLC etc.

    As for 600 arrested on terrorist charges at the recent conference. That is simply not true. Nobody was arrested on terrorist charges. All that happened to Walter Wolfgang was a policeman wouldn't initially let him in without a card and cited the terrorism act as a reason. In no circumstances was he arrested. You shouldn't believe everything you read in the media.

    51 people were arrested before the conference. The first 43 arrests were for a variety of offences including wanted on warrant, burglary, driving whilst disqualified, drunk and disorderly, drugs, drunk in charge and theft of petrol. The remaining 8 include arrests made for carrying an offensive weapon (a knife), assault and theft.

    Monjo, thanks for proving I am not alone.

    Paul, until biometric ID cards are up and running, it is obviously going to be impossible to give specific data on their effect on lowering all the sorts of crime mentioned. However where cards are used abroad, they have proved invaluable tools in the fight against crime. That is why EU countries are so fond of them.

    It is true to say that even ardent opponents of ID cards accept that some identity theft, benefit fraud etc will be stopped by ID cards. But they consider these benefits as small and too minor to compensate for the cost in both money and liberty. Those in favour of course, disagree. I have admittedly concentrated on rebuffing ID card myths far more than coming up with detailed examples in favour. I apologise for disappointing you. I believe the benefits of ID cards in principle are obvious. Making it more difficult for people to steal identity will obviously reduce crime that depends on this. I think it is undeniable that biometric ID cards will make it more difficult to have a false identity.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Remittance Man25/10/05 7:30 am

    Neil,

    I seem to remember that back when I was a moody, spotty teenager every time I wanted to do something stupid just because my mates were doing it my Dad's usual response was: "So you'd jump under a bus because everyone else is?"

    Just because nearly every other government in Europe forces its people to carry state identity documents is hardly a convincing arguement for the British government to follow suit. Unless of course there is a hidden agenda to unify state intrusion in our lives so that implementation of a pan-european state is simpler.

    We could take the "teenager arguement" to a really dumb extreme and say that seventy years ago police states and politicians in silly uniforms were quite popular across the Channel. Should we have made Mosley PM just because half of Europe was doing something similar?

    Nope, sorry, you'll have to come up with a better arguement than you have so far to convince me that ID cards are a good idea.

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  10. Neil: Given your oft-professed and bigoted hatred of all things right-wing, the most compelling case against ID cards I can make for you is this:

    How would you feel about ID cards if I were running the country?

    ReplyDelete
  11. RM, The fact that so many other countries have ID cards is NOT the reason for having them.

    The fact that so many other countries have them, acrue benefits and don't have any civil liberty objections, is the reason to have them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Open democracy makes a better argument than me by looking at the Swedish example.

    Andrew, I have nothing to fear from ID cards, even if you were running them. That is not an argument against ID cards, it is argument against authoritarian govts. Look at Sweden, one of the most libertarian countries in Europe with a compulsory ID card system and National ID register that has brought then many benefits and that Swedes see as a right, not an intrusion.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Neil, I am not sure if your opinion can be influenced, but you at least, do seem to
    be willing to discuss some of the issues around ID Cards and databases, whilst the NuLabour politicians
    patently dare not debate any of these issues in detail, only to spin.

    The title of your blog posting uses the word "facts". Unfortunately, there are some
    errors in your arguments.

    Please do not confuse the general concept of identity, with the many possible modern smart card schemes, or the smart card biometric identity schemes, or
    ID card schemes in other countries, or the International Civil Aviation Organisation standard Machine Readable Travel Document Biometric Passports.

    They are all very different from UK Government scheme for a centralised biometric database National Identity Register
    as proposed in the Identity Cards Bill.

    "Opponents know they have to win the argument early on or the facts will overtake them."

    The same can be said of the proponents this particular ID Cards database scheme, who have failed to spell out the scope
    and cost of the project in sufficient detail for any accurate costs to be guessed at, even to the nearest billion pounds or so.

    "Those 11,000 who have pledged their opposition will have a much harder time than poll tax protestors-the measures are coming in over a long period starting in 2008, the costs are much lower, and withholding payment just means no passport and no overseas travel, no problem for the government."

    Witholding payment means "civil penalty" fines of up to £2500, and, just as with the Council Tax increases above the
    rate of pension increase, the inevitable cases of old age pensioners and retired vicars being sent to prison.

    "By the time compulsion comes in in 2013, nearly everyone will have got a biometric ID card and seen them in common use for years."

    Over 20% of the adult population i.e. over 10 million people do not have a Passport, so why will they have got a biometric ID card during the so called "voluntary" phase ?

    "The 11,000 will soon forget what the fuss was about and quietly drop their cause."

    No we will not !

    "It also fits nicely with popular perception of the govt as being illiberal."

    Not just illiberal but actually repressive.

    What happened to habeas corpus, not jut for foreigners, but for British citizens
    with the evil Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 "Control Orders" ? This joins the Terrorism Act 2000, The Regulation of investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004,
    the Serious Organised Crime, and Police Act 2005 and no doubt the forthcoming Terrorim Bill 2005, all of which have been or will be used, not just against real terrorists or serious criminals, but
    against innocent members of the public and against peaceful political demonstrators who oppose some of Labour's policies.

    "Trials are being carried out and the most recent have shown near 100% enrolment and verification rates (excluding iris scans). Face recognition biometrics are the most reliable and likely to be used followed by fingerprinting. Iris scanning is the least reliable at the moment."

    Errr... no it isn't, and to be fair to the Government's ID Card website, which you appear to rely on for your information, even they do not make this claim.

    The "best" biometric indicator of the three is iris scanning of two eyes, followed by 10 fingerprints, followed by a couple of fingerprints, with facial recognition in last place.
    None of the individual biometrics come close enough to "100%" to be workable for matching against a database which will grow to over 100 million records within 20 years
    The scheme would need to keep the details of all the people who have died, if it is intended to prevent "Day of the Jackal" style false
    Passport applications using a dead person's details.

    The trials being referred to on the Home Office Identity Cards page are the UK Passport Office trial which was not designed to
    compare the error rates of the various technologies, but to test the workflow and some ergonomic factors
    to do with the enrolment process. This small scale trial also did not attempt to cover the issues of scale - the whole 6 month
    trial did not even "enrol" as many people as the full scale system will have to achieve in a hour, without fail,
    and with actual "biographical footprint" checking of primary identity documents, something which was out of scope for this UKPS trial.

    Apart from reading the full LSE report, and the Home Office's weak "rebuttal" of it, you should also read the
    LSE's counter-rebuttal

    "1. That the govt and potential hackers will be able to track your movement around the country, view your medical, criminal, social security, bank, credit, supermarket, ISP and mobile phone details"

    This is a "straw man" argument.

    What the National Identity Register will do, inevitably, is to create an "audit trail" of each and time an ID Card is checked with the central database.
    Not to do so, would be criminally negligent - how would you track down anyone who successfully cloned an ID Card, or faked or replayed
    some biometric credentials without such an audit trail ?

    This means that when, as planned, the use of the ID Card is forced onto the NHS, the specialist clincs or hiospitals
    which you attend will be betrayed by the audit trail. This is not your full medical record (there is already an insecure £30 billion NHS "data spine" project for that),
    but people will be able to infer, and jump to conclusions about your state of health, by noting your attendance at,
    say, Pregnacy Advice, Cancer, AIDS etc. clinics

    "2. It is unsafe to keep biometric and name/address data on cards and on a central database rather than on a number of secure databases."

    From an individual's viewpoint, it would be best to keep biometric and other information on a secure smart card, and nowhere else, especially
    not a centralised database or even on any distributed databases.

    Other possible smart card ID schemes, such as the one in Belgium, might also include Digital Certificates, generated only on the smart card itself, for use
    in online internet transactions, where most of the hype about so called "identity fraud" is focussed.

    Evening Standard: Andrew Gilligan demolishes the £1.3 billion identity fraud hype

    This is all perfectly technically possible today, but it is specifically not what is being proposed by the Identity Cards Bill.

    "But the system would be no less secure than at present where work details and electoral registers could be hacked into."

    There is no £2,500 fine for failing to keep your current address up to date on an electoral roll, but there will be for the National Identity Register.

    The address history on the NIR is also far in excess of what is demanded by any other Government or private sector system.

    Even if you have a spent minor criminal conviction, where the records have been partly expunged under the
    Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, your previous address record at Her Majesty's Prison Slade etc. will betray something
    to a potential employer, or to a snoop posing as a potential employer.

    If youjob requires anonymity for security purposes, your life may be put at risk by the National Identity Register e.g. if you are an policeman, or a prison warder, or a Judge.

    If you are an undercover policeman, or British secret agent, or special forces soldier, or are in a witness protection scheme, your life may very well be put in danger, when it becomes possible to verify your alleged undercover name and home address against the NIR. The use of biometrics, will make it far more likely that such people will have their undercover identities compromised.

    "Under the Data Protection Act, you would be able to ask for these details. It is understood that (apart from the fight against terrorism and benefit/tax fraud), anyone accessing your data would need your consent."

    The Data Protection Act is not a Privacy Law per se, and it has lots of "coach and horses" loopholes
    e.g. anything which uses the excuse of "national security" or "for the prevention or detection of crime", no matter how vague or indirect
    such excuses actually are.

    This particular Identity Cards Bill allows for "accredited " private sector organisations
    to access the NIR for "verification" purposes. It will not be long before the Credit Bureau etc.
    have reverse-enginered the basic data on the NIR as a result of volume discounted 24//7 routine access.

    The Home Office seems to think thatthere will be over 44,000 private sector organisations
    which will be so "accredited",
    - an impossible task to do so securely.

    Home Office ID Card "Procurement Strategy Market Sounding" documents

    "The govt have stated that the cards and NIR will carry only the information your passport does"

    Your Passport does nothave a record of your current address, of all your other addresses in the UK or and overseas, and past history of those addresses,
    but that is what the NIR will have.

    Not even an ICAO compliant "biometric" passport will have all the personal "3 biometrics" data that the ID Card Register will have.

    So that statement is false.

    In your comments on the original article you say: "It is estimated 35% of criminals/terrorists make use of false identities."

    False United Kingdom identities ?

    Estimated by whom ? By the disgraced ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett.

    Almost all of the false identities used by terrorists and serious criminals are
    false or forged foreign identities.

    Even a perfect UK ID card scheme would have almost no effect on this.

    Even taken at face value this figure implies that the vast majority of terrorists use their own identity e.g. the
    7th of July London bomb suspects would all have qualified for legitimate UK ID Cards had the proposed Identity Cards Bill
    already been in operation, and it could have done nothing to prevent the attacks.

    Tony McNulty brainwashed to repeat the "one third of terrorist suspects use false ( UK ?) identities" propaganda

    Blunkett and Browne ID card quotes before the HAC

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for the opportunity to engage you in discussion on this matter. Very few proponents of the Government's ID cards scheme permit such debate.

    I am responding to each of the points you raise in your post, in order, so I apologise for the lack of structure in what I'm writing. My own weblog does not permit comments yet, but you're of course welcome to email me, and I'm happy to carry on the discussion in a public forum such as this one you provide.

    You claim that you are either deluded in supporting ID cards, or that bloggers are unrepresentative. Both are true. The opinion polls are not all in favour of ID cards, and the questions asked bear little relation to the Government's proposed scheme. In particular, even those polls which show a majority in favour (around 55 per cent now), this is conditional on the cards being almost exclusively funded redistributively out of general taxation, which is not what is being proposed.

    You characterise political bloggers as more likely to be affluent and educated. You don't present any evidence for this, but I happen to believe it too. What I also believe is that most ID card supporters are working class, uneducated and racist. My evidence for this is that I have travelled to many towns in my area to leaflet against the Government's scheme, and engaged in discussion, debate and argument with literally hundreds of people I meet on the street, and it's quite obvious that the reason people want these things is because they believe it will keep foreigners out of the country. The main reason it is obvious is because some of those who believe this say so; some even claim to be racists.

    Of course, this is an ad hominem tu quoque argument. Just because a bunch of racists agree with you doesn't mean either that you are wrong, or that you are a racist or in any other way deserving of moral obloquy. After all, Hitler was a vegetarian and animal welfare nut, but that doesn't make vegetarians Nazis.

    I am confused by your claim that it is the authoritarian / conservative types who favour ID cards. I'm not sure I'd conflate authoritarianism and conservatism; if the status quo is non-authoritarian, conservatives will be too, by definition. Please also treat Political Compass with the contempt it deserves as a biased attempt to make everyone look like a libertarian. See Chris Lightfoot's political survey for an antidote. This point is relevant, as really the people who want the Government's scheme are not authoritarian/conservative but people who care about the efficient running of the state. That's not exactly the same thing. People who are inspired emotionally by the notion that, ooh, if only people could be a bit more organised in our society, things would be better for everyone, and let their thoughts run away with them, they are the ones who like this identity register.

    There's a good argument in favour of the Government's scheme: there are savings to be made by biometrically matching everyone in the population, such that duplicate records in government and private databases may be eliminated and records in multiple databases may be cross-correlated, not to mention other useful things which this would render feasible. The Government hasn't made this argument, so as a matter of democratic procedural legitimacy, we should just discount it, though I think it's a very good one; similarly, I think there may have been a good case for the Iraq war, but it was not the one made by the Government, and so it was wrong for us to invade. When Australia invaded Vietnam, and when they pulled their troops out, the matter was settled by putting the question to the people in an election, three times, and doing what they wanted each time.

    You do not address why so good a scheme requires so many false and evasive statements to be made in its defence by the Government.

    You effectively accuse opponents of ID cards of being against ID cards in principle and cloaking our arguments beneath a "veneer" of practical objections. Personally I don't oppose ID cards in principle, and have said as much, even when giving official speeches on behalf of NO2ID, in your own town of Brighton no less. We had ID cards in the Second World War, and were right to have done so, facing as we did invasion and annihilation. We do not face such threats now. In the War, we didn't have a biometric population register, either.

    You are free to predict that the controversy over biometrics will subside, though be careful what you wish for as it may subside in the same way as the controversy over the Government's cryptographic key escrow policy subsided: with an effective abandonment of the policy following its comprehensive defeat in debate with people who understand the technology. You seem to assume that iris recognition is less accurate, though I believe it is the most accurate of the systems proposed. It must be noted in this connection that use of multiple biometrics reduces recognition accuracy rather than increases it.

    You say "as the system is proved to work", it seems as though you are assuming that it is going to work. You don't offer any basis for this assumption. It is clear that technology will improve, yes. Physics and logic don't, though, and anything which is logically or physically impossible isn't going change in such a way as to favour the Government. Here's an example. Incidentally, it's an example of something that the Government is petrified of talking about. Biometrics are useful because they're measurements of bits of the body which you can't easily change (irises, fingerprints, and so on). We don't use height, or hair colour or such things as biometrics because they can be changed to fool the system. If a registration system enforces a link between current biometrics and someone's name and address, then if they need to change their name and address they have a problem because their new name and address will be associated with some piece of data about them which was chosen because it was too hard to change, such as their iris pattern. A consequence is that an old biometric, e.g., a photograph taken before they went into hiding, can be used to determine their new name and address. Improvements in technology will make this problem worse, not better, and cannot solve it, since it is a logical consequence of wanting something which is hard to change, but which might need to be changed.

    It's not true to say that we ignore the LSE's recommendations for a biometric ID system. What we'd like to know is why the Government won't use such a system. What is it that the Government needs to do, for which it is necessary to use its system rather than the LSE's? They won't say.

    You seem to have this point about technological arguments being used as well as civil libertarian arguments, or instead of, or as intellectually dishonest proxy therefor, or whatever. I think it's a fair criticism that the blogosphere and the sort of (often mildly autistic) people who get hung up on this sort of stuff do do that. Really, though, is it your claim that opponents should disavow technological arguments entirely? Even when some of the problems (like running a witness protection scheme when you have a biometric population register) are purely technological?

    You claim that the Government has stated categorically that details of movement round the country, medical records and so on won't be on the Register. You don't provide a source for this, or any reason for us to believe that it might be true, or that this is exactly what the Government really said. Firstly, on the face of the bill itself, it's clear that the time and location of each check made against the Register will be recorded in the Register, so the statement with respect to movements around the country is in part false to begin with. I think you deal with use of the NIR number in relation to these other details elsewhere in the post, so I'll deal with it later.

    You also say that this concern is nothing to do with ID cards. Sure. It's do with the National Identity Register, which is so closely integrated with ID cards that the proposed legal definition of ID cards is in terms of this Register. The arguments against the scheme as a whole do not lose any force just because they apply to the Register and not the cards. If you're proposing a Register without the cards, then good for you, but that's not what the Government is proposing and it's irresponsible in a democracy to go round appearing to support the Government while actually advocating something less dangerous than their real proposals.

    You mention that biometric information can be "distorted". This is basically a one-way hashing function. All this means is that producing a fake iris or fingerprint to wear becomes more difficult. It doesn't stop you producing a fake card or database entry, and is largely irrelevant. Scrambling on DVDs doesn't stop you copying the DVD; you just copy the scrambled data and it works fine.

    You claim everyone would be able to view their own data. This is not true in respect of, for instance, the data on the audit trail, or anything excluded under the Data Protection Act. Outrageously, you claim that there's no need to have the NIR number on the database. This is just absurd. The Government, and I know this because the Minister responsible said it to my face when I asked him, is not going to restrict the use of the National Identity Registration number in databases outside the Register. This hasn't stopped him saying the contrary to Parliament. Here's a reference for you: Hansard; try reconciling this with, for instance, other ministerial statements such as the response to question 562 here.

    A national register without the NIR stored on it would be incapable of being used to link all the government's databases together, and we'd drop half of our objections. But, once again, that's not what the Government is proposing, nor is it something the Government is prepared to compromise on, so you shouldn't be raising it.

    It just is not an argument that one side in a debate is wrong to point out that they would become wrong if their arguments were applied against something radically different.

    Please spare us the EU comparisons. How many EU countries were self-governing democracies when they introduced ID cards? Zero? One? Two? How many were Nazi or fascist dictatorships at the time? Twenty or so?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Obviously, when I said "NIR" in
    "A national register without the NIR stored on it would be incapable of being used to link all the government's databases together,", I meant NIRN, the National Identity Registration Number. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Neil,

    I'm sorry, but I cannot allow such wilful fabrications to go unchallenged.

    News reports do not constitute links to research.

    The MORI report is here

    The YouGov report is here

    The actual research gives a rather different picture in terms of public perception that the b*ll*cks you are pushing out.

    You can read my full rebuttal here.

    I suggest that you do so.
    I also suggest that you refrain from peddling rubbish about public support for ID cards: you are unlikely to get away with it on your blog.

    In short: you are indeed completely deluded.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Martin, 'Watching', thanks for taking the time to write such detailed responses, and thanks for pointing out a few errors I have made. You are indeed right that while enrolment in the UKPS trials was near 100% success for facial and fingerprint biometrics, verification was best for the iris scan biometrics at 90%. I am reading with interest the LSE reply to the govt's criticisms.

    You make some very good points, a lot of which I totally agree with. I'm glad that you can agree with me that there is nothing wrong in principle with ID cards. I will need more time to reply to your points in detail, but I will state this for now.

    As far as I know, nothing is set in stone about the govt proposals, and I assume and expect there to be quite major changes.

    I don't see how it is in the govt's interests to have a system that doesn't work properly and is open to widespread abuse as you claim it will be.

    The scheme will be voluntary for 5 years and will not become compulsory until 2013 and only then if it meets certain criteria. In the mean time there will be a further general election and it will again have to pass through both houses of parliament. There is plenty of opportunity for the public to have their say on this, and also for practical problems to be overcome as the scheme is introduced.

    I'm sure that if Sweden can have a successful ID card system with a compulsory register which brings many benefits to its citizens, then it can be possible here as well. Why couldn't it be?

    I think the govt's sheepishness until now can be explained as pure politicking, a way of handling media sensationalism. A wrong strategy for many reasons perhaps, but eventually when it gets down to designing a system that works, they will need to address all concerns.

    Pedant, thanks for the poll links. Reading through them, they both clearly show massive support for ID cards. The yougov poll that you consider 'neutrally' posed, still shows more in favour than opposed. So I don't really see what your argument is.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello again, thank you for responding. Some follow up points below, again in the order in which they appear in your post.

    You overlook the racial disparities in the biometrics; some groups will find it harder to register. The Government doesn't say what proportion of people have to register properly for the system to deliver its benefits. Getting the economically inactive section of the public (who statistically have the worst fingerprint biometrics being generally rather old) into the system will be a struggle. Remember also that these people were volunteers, so it's a self-selecting sample which may differ in amusing ways from the real population.

    Please remember that there are some changes the government can't make, like overcoming the logical contradiction of requiring that a body feature both be hard and easy to change.

    You don't see how it is in the Government's interests to have a system that doesn't work properly. There are several answers to this. One, the misfunctioning system may nevertheless provide benefits, such as serving to undermine civil liberties in this country, which is a means of carrying on the class war insofar as civil liberties perpetuate inequality and are more prised by rich people than poor. I'm just taking the piss obviously, here: the Government is acting against its interests, it's just too cut off from people who can afford to tell it that it's wrong to know.

    I don't claim it will be open to widespread abuse. I claim it will be open to abuse sufficiently serious as to outweigh the scheme's benefits, but that doesn't need to be widespread. The burden of persuasion lies with the Government to come up with figures for the costs and risks of this potential abuse. Just for you, I have just emailed my MP to ask him to put down a written question on this subject (I was the chap who asked that the above question about hospitals be asked).

    The scheme will not be voluntary for passport applicants. Please read the legislation before making false claims to the effect that the scheme will be voluntary. I look forward to the Labour MPs for Brighton voting to make this "voluntary" scheme compulsory for passport applicants when the legislation returns from the House of Lords.

    Please stop asserting that potential problems can be overcome; that is tantamount to an assertion of the form "there is no problem with the NIR/ID cards which cannot be overcome" and you lack evidence to demonstrate that, and have not refuted the one counterexample I gave about witness protection and biometrics.

    I'm not really concerned about the reasons for any sheepishness the Government may or may not be emitting. I just listen to and read what they say, within Parliament and without, and enumerate the falsehoods they are peddling to try to mislead people into getting this thing through. How sheepish they are in this or other activities is not something I care about, and it doesn't help your argument in favour of ID cards, though it may be interesting in the context of this "how one-sided is the blogosphere?" question and its equivalent for the press.

    The polls are for ID cards, not for the Government's scheme. I've already said this and you appear to have ignored it when addressing the other commenter.

    As to Sweden, you say: if Sweden can have such a scheme which benefits them, then we can too. I presume you've selected Sweden from the hundred-odd countries round the world which have identity registration, because it's European and wasn't a dictatorship when they were introduced. It wasn't a democracy either, but neither was England when they started recording births, deaths and marriages to keep the welfare system from abolishing labour mobility in the sixteenth century. Either the argument is "what is possible in one country is possible here", which in the case of Swedish identity registration is true as regards the UK. That's unremarkable, but it doesn't help you as the ID card opponents in the UK claim that the UK Government's ID cards / NIR scheme is impossible only in respect of elements which are absent in the Swedish system. Or you're holding up Sweden as an example of a country we should imitate, which I would decry. Sweden was one of the very last countries to abolish compulsory eugenic sterilisation, in the 1970s or 1960s; it became obsolete after abortion became safe, and was serving the purpose of reducing the cost to society of people who were (adjudged to be) mentally defective by preventing them from reproducing. Even in the 1990s, government ministers were refusing compensation to women who had been sterilised because they'd been incorrectly diagnosed as imbeciles when they were merely dyslexic. I shan't willingly take any lessons about how to run any country from a country where such attitudes are prevalent in government, and am horrified that anyone would dream of doing so.

    ReplyDelete
  19. So some european countries have "successful" id card systems. This still doesn't count as a valid reason for such a system to be introduced in Great Britain. It merely demonstrates that people can be cowed into acepting ID cards and have yet to revolt because the systems have failed. Their systems have yet to fail because they are far simpler and less intrusive than the one proposed by our own champions of liberty in Whitehall.

    I have seen nothing here or elsewhere that demonstrates with any confidence that the cards will solve the problems it is claimed they are designed to thwart. Quite the opposite in fact.

    Let's deal with the technology issue first. The latest report I have read says that the iris scanning technology fails quite frequently when presented with brown eyes. I think any anthropologist will agree that a high proportion of people from the Middle East possess brown eyes. Unfortunately for them, "the greatest threat to civilisation as we know it" comes from a small group of people who, in the most part, also happen to come from the Middle East. Not exactly an encouraging facet in one of HMG's flagship anti-terrorist measures is it?

    As for other aspects of technology. Reports blandly state that only 1% of tests fail and everyone seems happy. 1% isn't much is it? In reality this means that under carefully controlled conditions 1% of the tests failed. That figure hides a scary number; 1% of the adult population is 400,000 people. But even that number doesn't show the whole story. It's 1% of the number of times the system is used that failures occured. If we assume that each of the 40 million users need to present the card once per month (based on the number of times I generally have to use my SA identity card or number, a fact I bitterly resent, by the way) that 400,000 becomes 4.8 million failures per year. Assuming a 50:50 ratio of false positives to false negatives that means nearly two and a half million times each year people will be subjected to hassle or misery by the state and two and a half million times each year bad people will get away with some naughtiness or other.

    Now I am sure that people will debate the numbers above, but regardless of the actual numbers involved we can all agree that people will suffer harm that can be directly linked to ID cards. Are you personally prepared to go and apologise to each and every one of the people wrongly identified and thus disadvantaged? Will you personally apologise to each and every one of the victims of the criminals who manage to slip through the net? Until you (and every politician who supports the ID card scheme) state publicly that you are prepared to do this and explain how you will justify your support for these cards without platitudes, generalities or obfuscation then I don't think anyone can take your support for the scheme seriously.

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  20. Neil,

    You claim that there is strong public support. You cite research (for which I provided the actual links) and which I shall summarise here for you, just so your readers can decide for themselves:

    MORI: 80% support, given that three quarters of the sample know little about them and the sample has been told prior to the question that they are going to happen anyway. This is not 80% support. Indeed, it declines to 21% who are prepared to fork out the actual cash that Charlie wants to extract from you for the pleasure of allowing the state to declare that you exist.
    That is not strong support. The real figure for public support as far as MORI is concerned is 21%.

    YouGov: 45% support on a properly constructed unbiased question, declining to 19% support for this use of the actual sum of money likely to be extracted from taxpayers. 84% think the government will stuff it up.
    This is not strong support. In fact the first question hangs completely in the balance: 45% for, 42% against.


    You claim " Reading through them, they both clearly show massive support for ID cards.

    45% for, 42% against is "massive support"? Are you mad? Only 19% think that ID cards are a sensible way to spend the money that the project will cost. In parallel universe is that "massive support"?

    Home Office: Can't actually bring themselves to ask about support in the clear. Somewhere between 69% and 89% [i.e. something between a comfortable and an overwhelming angry mob-type majority] do not see that it would be worth paying more for an ID card to be bundled with a passport.

    Your claim of strong public support should actually read:

    The public are strongly in favour of ID cards if and only if ALL of the following conditions are met:
    1) they do not have to pay for the cards;
    2) the project is paid for by fairy dust money rather than actual taxpayers' cash;
    3) the government miraculously pulls an exceptional blinder and for probably the first time in Public Sector IT history doesn't screw up the implementation - this being nigh on impossible given the mind-boggling size and complexity of the project;
    4) the public remains blissfully unaware of what it actually means and the chances for something really, really horrible to go wrong.

    That is not the kind of public support I would want to count on.

    In all three polls/studies public support vanishes faster than an unattended thick brown envelope full of cash in a Scots Labour party meeting as soon as the pollster gives the surface a little polish with a soft cloth.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Remittance Man26/10/05 6:04 pm

    It hasn't been mentioned before, but at the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, I'll make this comment. It was related to me by a freind of mine of the Cloggie persuasion.

    Before 1940 The Netherlands had a very comprehensive national registration scheme. The records were on paper rather than computers and copies were kept both nationally and locally. The problem was that they were very detailed with a lot of personal information about each citizen including their religious affiliation.

    1940 was a bit of an annus horribilis for the Dutch and after an unplanned change of regime the new rulers took swift advantage of the national population database. People of a particular religion were rapidly identified and relocated. Later, using a bit more datamining (in a paper system remember - it's a lot quicker with electrons) other "undesirables" were also identified and dealt with in the same fashion.

    Now, I'm pretty sure the pre-war Dutch government were a liberal bunch and would never have dreamt of using their system for such evil purposes, but the fact is that it could be and was used by people less liberal than the scheme's architects.

    Can anyone guarantee that the same couldn't happen in the UK? We've got a pretty good record as far as democratic government goes but can we honestly assume that all future regimes will be as scrupulous and honest as the current one? I know that authoritarian regimes will always be able to oppress their victims, but do the victims have to make their jobs easier?

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  22. Remittance Man:

    A very salient point, but you have pulled your punch: It is our duty to assume the worst as regards government.

    This goes to the very heart of the unanswerable, principled objection to ID cards regardless of how they are implemented.

    The Government is there to serve us. Not the other way round. Full Stop.

    Our ultimate safeguard is never to grant Government that could be used unscrupulously. The current Government's assurance that it will not act in such a manner is worthless and should be treated as such.

    You have only to look at Neil's ridiculously repeated claim that the public supports this scheme to see that those in power (even now...) will not bend to reason.

    Governments should not be trusted in general: this one should not be trusted in particular.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for all your responses; I'm still working on a general post, but heres some response to the main points you raise.

    Martin, as you have no objection in principle to ID cards, maybe you should change the name of your organisation from NO2ID to 'NO to the government's current plans for ID', just so the public have a more honest statement about where you stand. From a media perspective, I know this wouldn't be as catchy.

    This sort of explains why the govt are looking disingenious by standing firm with their original proposals. I have no doubt in my mind that these proposals will change quite significantly, with the elements that don't work being jetisoned. Like you admit, it is not in the govt's interests to have a bad scheme. Either the biometrics will be scaled back or the technology will significantly improve. It is just difficult for them to currently highlight this.

    This unfortunately is how politics and the media interact. Being in government is similar to being the England football Manager in this respect, except they don't have easily defined results to point to. Everything you do is criticised and everybody thinks they can do a better job. It is a thankless task.

    If the govt were as inept and corrupt as the media make out, you'd think we were in the most repressive, corrupt state in the world, rather than being in one of the free-est, with ministers that I generally think are quite decent and honest people.

    On your specific point about witness protection and biometrics. I'm absolutely sure there will be many ways around this. As well as being encrypted, biometrics can be distorted, and they can even be CHANGED by altering the accuracy of the data within the range. People can still change their names on the register, be issued with a new NIRN and ultimately even have PIN access only.

    You claim the following;

    "If a registration system enforces a link between current biometrics and someone's name and address, then if they need to change their name and address they have a problem because their new name and address will be associated with some piece of data about them which was chosen because it was too hard to change, such as their iris pattern. A consequence is that an old biometric, e.g., a photograph taken before they went into hiding, can be used to determine their new name and address."

    If this is true what about your claim that ID cards will have to be re-issued far more regularly than passports because biometrics change. Either this is true or it isn't, you can't have it both ways. *Genuine query, is it possible (as you seem to suggest), to get iris scan biometrics from an old photo?*

    What you have to do is prove that ID cards will make it EASIER than at present for criminals/abusive husbands etc. to find people. I don't think you have proved this. There are plenty of ways at present to track people down using data that is far more accessible than the national register will be.

    As for records of where people have been that give away sensitive health information. People don't need an ID register to find this out, there are doctors, GPs, clinic or chemists staff etc. who could breach confidentially. Or people can be seen coming out or going in to certain clinics or in chemists shops asking for certain medicine.

    Generally none of these staff breach confidentiality and the ID register staff will have the same onus of confidentiality on them.

    If you concentrate on all the possible negatives and costs of a new scheme and nothing else, then nothing new that is of general benefit would ever be done. The fact is ID cards have proven successful abroad, so they can be successful here.

    To cite Sweden's eugenics scandal as a reason against ID cards is ridiculous. This has nothing to do with ID cards and you know that.

    You could find an example of wrong doing in any country. What relevance has that to the ID card debate? The point is ID cards work very well in Sweden, and you have not provided any answer to why that couldn't be the case here.

    In conclusion, all the criticisms you have of the technology and implementation (i.e. the ethnic issue and iris scans), are basically irrelevant, because if it doesn't work, it won't happen.

    No matter how stupid you think this govt is, and I disagree with you on that, they are not going to continue with elements of a scheme that don't work, or if they did continue, their scheme would fail to become properly compulsory after 5 years because they will be voted out.

    On your point about compulsion. Nobody has to have a passport, so it is a voluntary scheme. I know this is a bit of a cop out, but it is the same argument you use when you suggest it is voluntary to have credit cards or debit cards, bank accounts, use supermarket loyalty cards, the internet, the library etc. etc.

    RM, I refer you to my general answer above.

    Pedant, do you agree with me that all the opinion polls that have asked the neutral question 'do you want ID cards or not', have found more in favour than against?

    Of course if you feed them negative statements about the cost and technology and tell them none of the benefits, you will lower the number in favour, but then it is hardly an unbiased survey is it?

    As for the Netherlands example, if you are going to assume a Nazi invasion in the future, maybe we should get rid of all our govt's records about us, just in case. Its a bit of an exceptional thing to do. Lets make everyone's lives worse for an indefinite period just in case the worst case scenario ever happens. We wouldn't do anything if we thought like this. I just don't accept your accusation that this govt is fascist, you are being ridiculous. I don't actually think you believe it either, if the truth be known.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Very briefly: you keep arguing that (roughly) the NIR won't make problems of privacy, data-sharing and identity fraud any worse than they are now, because private companies already hold lots of data on us, and this is no more "voluntary" than the government's ID card proposals would be.

    This is true, to an extent (the private databases are much less intrusive than the NIR would be: for instance, your credit reference file doesn't record when you go to the doctor, as the NIR would), but as a piece of evidence it argues for strengthening data-protection legislation, not weakening it as the Identity Cards Bill would.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Chris, I agree. But that is not an argument against ID cards.

    I think people are right to take the govt to task over their proposals. They should get them to make improvements, which I think they inevitably will have to make. But I think it is wrong to try and bring the whole ID card system down with it, because this system will bring us many benefits.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Sure, but "I think there's too much collection of private data and data sharing, and I don't think there should be any more", is.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Pedant, do you agree with me that all the opinion polls that have asked the neutral question 'do you want ID cards or not', have found more in favour than against?

    Of course if you feed them negative statements about the cost and technology and tell them none of the benefits, you will lower the number in favour, but then it is hardly an unbiased survey is it?


    Pedants point was that the original MORI poll was far from an unbiased survey. So you yourself are guilty of citing a biased survey as "massive support" for ID cards.

    You imply that "cost" is a "negative statement". Funny that. An overwhelming majority in the MORI survey would not be prepared to pay anything towards the cost of an ID card.

    Now here is New Labour's sticking point. Regardless of whatever supposed benefits you employ you try to sell the idea of ID cards, when it comes to the crunch, people will view this as a tax on citizenship.

    Why the hell should I pay to be a citizen of my own country?

    Looking to the YouGov poll, if you really think that 45% is:

    "massive support for ID cards"

    then I am with PG. With 42% against and the government's plans not finalised, I would say that you "massive support" is hanging in the balance.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The data is out there already, the NIR won't make any difference. There are significant benefits to be had by having a NIR. Lets get rid of a lot of the data in private hands instead.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Allen, if you ask people how much they'd like to pay for something they will say little or nothing. But when people are asked how much are you prepared to pay to reduce identity fraud, tighten immigration controls etc. they will give you a much higher figure. The MORI poll may have been skewed in favour, but the yougov poll emphasised a lot of negatives and gave no positives.

    Essentially the polls are close on this one but they still show more in favour. People voted for this govt with ID cards clearly mentioned and highlighted in both the manifesto and the election campaign.

    Then there is the question of leadership and how the system once up and running will change public opinion. The benefits of the scheme won't be obvious until it is up and running, then attitudes will become more favourable.

    Think of the congestion charge, massive opposition to it before it was implemented and nobody wanted to pay anything toward it. Now people can see the benefits it has brought them in less traffic congestion and less pollution and better public transport, the majority are in favour.

    ReplyDelete
  30. People voted for this govt with ID cards clearly mentioned and highlighted in both the manifesto and the election campaign.

    Neel (sic)... You are on shaky ground here. Labour secured victory with 36% of the vote. The lowest share of the vote a Government has had in British electoral history. ID cards are a contentious issue within your own party, so don't assume just because it was in your manifesto that you have the overwhelming support of Joe Public.

    As for drawing comparisons with congestion charging... Thankfully, not every citizen in the UK has to drive through London every day, so majority of people in the UK really don't care about congestion charging.

    However, every citizen in the UK will have to concern themselves with ID cards.

    Your premise for this post was that Bloggers views on ID cards are unrepresentative given that opinion polls suggest massive public support. You have now modified your view to "Essentially the polls are close on this one" yet you are happy to make the bold assertion that "The benefits of the scheme won't be obvious until it is up and running, then attitudes will become more favourable.". I think you are jumping the gun a little.

    Allan

    ReplyDelete
  31. "The data is out there already, the NIR won't make any difference."

    Nonsense.

    1. Much of the data are not out there already (most obviously the biometrics, but also the address history and audit trail).

    2. The NIR will "make a difference": it will enable cross-referencing of data from disparate databases through a single identifying number. This will make it easier to extract and correlate private information from a wide range of sources (and incidentally make identity fraud easier, since what tends to happen when single identifying numbers are established and used in this way is that people start to pretend that they can be both ubiquitous and secret, and use knowledge of unique ID as evidence of identity; this, with inadequate data protection law, is why the US suffers from so much identity fraud by comparison with the UK).

    Now, NIR advocates in government typically argue that this facility to link data between disparate databases is so useful that doing so compensates for both the giant direct cost of the scheme and -- in the rare cases where they acknowledge them -- its unhappy unintended implications (such as increased identity theft and the threats Martin has alluded to above).

    (This, by the way, is why arguments about "function creep" don't have any purchase -- the functions of the NIR are intended to creep, and for Katherine Courtney et al, linking more and more data to the database is a good thing -- partly, I think, because that gives the Home Office, the controller of the scheme, more power, and makes it harder to shut down if we get sick of it. That is also part of the answer to why civil liberties campaigners whose countries have ID cards aren't arguing against them: once one of these things is implemented and left to fester and intimate itself into every aspect of civil and commercial life, it could be very, very difficult to get rid of. We were lucky to be rid of National Registration in 1952: had it gone any longer, it probably would have become so embedded in the structure of the Welfare State as to be incapable of safe removal.)

    Also note, by the way, that the government still claim (a) a wildly inflated sum for costs to identity fraud; and that (b) the NIR will decrease this amount, while in fact it will increase it.

    "[Lets] get rid of a lot of the data in private hands instead."

    I agree. But putting lots of extra data in government hands -- and remember that the NIR will be accesible to private bodies both formally (through arrangements defined by the Home Office) and informally -- is not a prerequisite for better protection of personal data in other contexts.

    Will we be seeing proposals for a strengthening of data protection law in the next Labour manifesto, then? The last thing I can remember seeing was about weakening the DPA, but I guess if one Prime Minister isn't for turning, another might be.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh, one more thing:

    "People voted for this govt with ID cards clearly mentioned and highlighted in both the manifesto and the election campaign."

    If you're an NIR advocate you should be very careful with this sort of argument -- the manifesto commitment was to a system which was actually voluntary and it did not mention most of the "broken by design" features of the NIR as the Home Office want to implement it. In particular, the manifesto didn't mention:

    - the "designated documents" arrangements
    - the power to name segments of the population on whom registration is forced
    - the power to register persons without their consent
    - unique personal identifiers
    - powers to give out personal data without consent of the subject
    - biometric lookup from the database
    - the audit trail
    - a requirement subject to fine to notify changes of address

    and numerous other details. An ID card scheme which matched the description in the manifesto and no more would be considerably less offensive (and cheaper!) than the scheme they actually want to impose.

    (It's also true, btw, that almost 80% of people in this country didn't vote for this Labour government, ID cards or no, but let's not dwell on that.)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Allen, I think its obvious bloggers views are unrepresentative. I did a blog search on ID cards, found hundreds of blogs and couldn't find a single blog in favour, whereas opinion polls consistently show more in favour than against.

    When I said the majority, I was on about the majority in London.

    CHRIS,

    1. If you give me your name and address, I can find out your address history for the last 5-10 years.

    2. The solution is to have proper data protection and high security and encryption in how the data is stored. If that is too difficult them maybe don't have the NIRN on the register.

    At the end of the day, if the system is as bad as you suggest, why are Labour doing it? What are they getting out of it?

    ReplyDelete
  34. People voted for this govt with ID cards clearly mentioned and highlighted in both the manifesto and the election campaign.

    Come on, Neil. You've used exactly the opposite point when arguing for PR. You know that people don't vote for political parties accepting the whole of the manifesto. You've said so yourself. Numerous times. You can't go back on this when it suits you.

    ReplyDelete
  35. True enough, but you should accept it, since you argued the opposite to me.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Actually, I didn't. I just stated that the manifesto was a good indicator of what the party specifically believed, and was a useful document to hold them to account with. On that note, we return to Chris Lightfoot's point about the Labour manifesto not actually advocating this specific scheme.

    At the end of the day, if the system is as bad as you suggest, why are Labour doing it? What are they getting out of it?

    Good question, but isn't that for the government to answer? After all, it is their scheme, they are in power, and it is their duty to explain to the citizens of the country what they are planning to do and exactly why. So far, much like yourself, they have spectacularly failed to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Martin, Chris, Andrew, etc. thanks for the informative comments. I will mill it over, you have given me a lot to think about. Good stuff. Bit busy now, back here about 7-8pm. keep posting stuff. I promise to answer as much as poss.

    By the way Chris, as a strong advocate of PR, I know that nearly 80% didn't vote Labour. Plenty of good points there, will get back to you tonight. You are persuading me. Need to do some more research.

    Martin, cheers for the info, sadly have to admit I didn't know about photos and iris scans. How good does the photo have to be?

    ReplyDelete
  38. "If you give me your name and address, I can find out your address history for the last 5-10 years."

    Maybe, and maybe not. There are two significant problems here: firstly, the existence of the electoral roll as a public document (this government, to their credit, have made some moves in the right direction there); and secondly, the misbehaviour of credit reference agencies. Both of those are solvable problems, whereas the NIR is supposed to keep all this data forever and make it available to all and sundry, with or without consent.

    (Oh, and note that -- unlike the address history on the proposed NIR -- the addresses recorded by the electoral roll and credit reference agencies are neither (a) necessarily addresses at which a person resides, nor do they (b) necessarily include all such addresses.)

    The solution is to have proper data protection and high security and encryption in how the data is stored. If that is too difficult them maybe don't have the NIRN on the register.

    Alright, then, what data protection, high security and encryption should be used in respect of the data stored? What's probably easiest is if you note down the schema you propose (in conformant ANSI SQL 92, for avoidance of any confusion), the data structure for the cards, and sketch out the protocols that you propose for verification, data sharing and so forth. Once you supply a definite proposal, we can critique it; prior to then, I think we can safely assume that your "solution" is so much hot air.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Allen, I think its obvious bloggers views are unrepresentative. I did a blog search on ID cards, found hundreds of blogs and couldn't find a single blog in favour, whereas opinion polls consistently show more in favour than against.

    So you have said, time and time again. You claim to have checked "hundreds of blogs". Not a single blog in favour. Polling the view of hundreds of people could be viewed as representative, after all the MORI poll only interviewed 1000 people. Why are bloggers so different? Bloggers views may well be unrepresentative, but the fact that you couldn't find a single pro-ID card blogger must tell you something.

    I also take real issue with your earlier assertion that "the yougov poll emphasised a lot of negatives and gave no positives." implying that by definition the survey was biased.

    The first question that broaches the subject of ID cards in that survey was question 7. Questions 1-6 covered voting intentions and leadership ratings, no mention of the ID card scheme at all. Question 7 was simple: "Are you in favour of, or opposed to, the introduction of a system of national identity cards in Britain?" That seems completely unbiased to me.

    Result: 45% were in favour, 42% opposed and 13% don't know. That is a very shaky starting position for the 'overwhelming public support' camp.

    The fact of the matter is that the public is split on the issue ID cards. Still, it wouldn't matter if 60% of people were against ID cards because we are getting them whether we want them or not... Isn't that right Neil?

    "At the end of the day, if the system is as bad as you suggest, why are Labour doing it? What are they getting out of it?"

    Control.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Martin, as you have no objection in principle to ID cards, maybe you should change the name of your organisation from NO2ID to 'NO to the government's current plans for ID', just so the public have a more honest statement about where you stand.

    No, because some of his members and members of the 11,000, like myself, do have a severe objection to ID Cards in principle. If they were to change their focus, I would withdraw my membership of No2ID, and my pledge.

    For me, this issue is non-negotiable. As Remittance man said "ID cards are an intrusion of the state into the lives of the private citizen".

    DK

    ReplyDelete
  41. I dunno how good the photo has to be to get an iris scan out of it, but I'd be surprised if some of the photos taken of people's faces with a three hundred quid digital camera weren't good enough. You have to worry about how good the iris is as well of course; how open is the eye, does the subject have one of those flaps of skin East Asian people typically have, concealing more of the eyeball than the typical Caucasian, etc. The information I've seen has all been about how posh a camera you need to take a suitable photograph from twenty or thirty metres away.

    I suggest if you want to assert that this isn't a problem, you email John Daugman (or whatever his name is) - the iris biometrics guy who wrote that article, and ask him.

    As to your MP, please write to him rather than speak to him. That way you won't catch him off guard, and he won't catch the minister off guard. A paper letter gets you a considered and detailed and more accurate response, as well as being much more unambiguous when it comes to disputing who said what when.

    I don't know whether the Devil's Kitchen chap will read this, but I'd just say that when I said I wasn't against ID cards in principle, I explaining that I couldn't bring myself to have opposed them during World War II. I am opposed in principle to a compulsory biometric population register, however.

    ReplyDelete
  42. hello again. I've been having a few problems with the server. It seemed to delete my last comment, hope this hasn't affected anyone else.

    Lots of persuasive argument. Will get back to you. I was leaning towards the persuasive argument of Martin and Chris, I don't doubt their technical arguments. But this article Ive just seen in the paper has swung me back again. This is something ID cards would address;

    "Over the next two years they discovered the ease with which organised criminals can bleed vast amounts from the country's coffers. Their fraud was imprinted with several classic carousel hallmarks. One was the use of false identities. Employing a trick lifted from the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day of the Jackal, Pigott got a passport in the name of David Roy Chapman after finding the name on a child's gravestone in a churchyard near his birthplace in Yorkshire. The child, a copy of whose birth certificate he obtained, would have been Pigott's age had he lived."

    ReplyDelete
  43. Once again your logic escapes you.

    The security vulnerability relied on the Forsyth novel is one which was closed in Australia the moment the book came out. It took a decade or two to close it in the UK. Did it require ID cards? No of course it didn't.

    They banned applying for passports with duplicate birth certificates, and stamped all duplicates with a sign saying "Duplicate. Not to be used for applying for a passport."

    If you're convinced that it's Ok to let battered wives hang just because the UK Government is less competent than novelists and Australian bureaucrats (Forsyth claims he advised them on how to fix it), then you are a very easily convinced gentleman indeed.

    I bet you wouldn't support the scheme if it were the Tories introducing it. Think of all the money they could have spent on schools, hospitals, police?

    Have you done the sums? How many police man-decades do you think we lose by adding a single penny to the cost of an ID card?
    How about a single pound? Why not spend that on public sector employees to fight crime, not on some technological boondoggle?

    ReplyDelete
  44. Remittance Man28/10/05 7:20 am

    Neil,

    I don't assume a Nazi invasion of Britain. I use the Dutch experience as an example of how a system devised by well-meaning, liberal-minded folk can easily be hijacked and abused by those of evil intent.

    I did pose the question "Can anyone guarantee that the same couldn't happen in the UK?" when perhaps it should have read "Can anyone guarantee something similar couldn't happen in the UK?" meaning a violent change of regime leading to a dictatorship. But then I posed another question: "Can we honestly assume that all future regimes will be as scrupulous and honest as the current one?". Well, can we assume all future governments will treat the private information held in the National Poulation Register will be treated with the respect and condifentiality promised by the system's designers? Personally, I don't think we can and therefore see a risk in providing some possible, future dictator with the noose to place around our own necks.

    Oddly enough nowhere did I accuse the current government of being fascist. It's a much overused term rendered meanilngless by repetition and innaccurate in this case. I have yet to see Tony and Gordon poncing around Whitehall in quasi military uniforms and to date Charles Clarke has not sent one person to an extermination camp. If I were going to insult them I'd use terms like "mendacious", "unscrupulous", "unprincipled", "self serving" and "incompetent". Still, these terms could be applied to most politicians regardless of party affiliation.

    By the way, you still haven't answered my question: Will you and all the supporters of ID cards promise to personally explain to each person disadvantaged by failures of the ID system if it is implemented?

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  45. Martin, When Michael Howard announced the idea of ID cards. I was neutral on the subject. I didn't see a problem with the idea in principle and still don't. That was despite despising Michael Howard and his Tory government for most other policies they were enacting.

    As far as I know, a replacement birth certificate can still be used for applying for a passport. See here.

    "Have you done the sums? How many police man-decades do you think we lose by adding a single penny to the cost of an ID card?
    How about a single pound? Why not spend that on public sector employees to fight crime, not on some technological boondoggle?"

    Because to be honest, the police aren't actually very good or cost effective at reducing crime. CCTV, speed cameras and ID cards are much better value.

    Chris, I propose either the Swedish system or the German system for the UK. Critique them.

    Or better still, if we had to have an ID card system making use of biometrics, what would YOU propose?

    RM, "Can anyone guarantee something similar couldn't happen in the UK?" meaning a violent change of regime leading to a dictatorship."

    No, but how likely is it? Should we put ourselves at disadvantage for an permanent period because of a very remote possibility some time in the future.

    "By the way, you still haven't answered my question: Will you and all the supporters of ID cards promise to personally explain to each person disadvantaged by failures of the ID system if it is implemented?"

    Well, obviously not, but will you promise to 'personally explain' to each person disadvantaged because ID cards weren't implemented? I believe this number would be greater.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Remittance Man31/10/05 6:36 am

    Since even supporters of this proposal have admitted that it won't stop terrorism, won't stop general crime and will have only a minimal effect on Identity Fraud I probably won't have to do much apologising at all. However since you posed the question I'll answer it:

    If, after the defeat of the ID card bill, it can be proved that a person suffers some misfortune and it can be proved, without a shred of doubt, that the misfortune only occured because there was no effective ID card system in place. Then, yes, I'm prepared to apologise to that person.

    Your problem is, of course, that proving a negative is virtually impossible.

    Looking at the bigger picture, and your original question, as to why there is so much opposition to this proposal maybe this will help explain: The government has put forward many reasons as to why ID cards are a good thing. In nearly every case that same government has had to acknowledge that their arguement was flawed and yet it continuies to push the idea.

    For a lot of the public this government already has a poor reputation for telling the truth. Now it appears that they are telling fibs about something nearly everyone realises will affect civil liberties in some way and thmakes them suspicious. Could it be that the government has some more sinister motive for this scheme? Maybe if the government could put forward a clear, honest arguement that stood up to scrutiny there would be less opposition. Unless, of course, the honest answer is that the government does have some sinister motive or other.

    Quite frankly the government is making it so much easier for those of us who oppose ID cards on principle to make our case. Long may they continue.

    RM

    ReplyDelete
  47. Neil,

    Others have dealt with this, but here is my reply to your comment on my blog post:

    You ask:

    "All the polls that ask the neutral question 'do you want ID cards or not' come back with more in favour.

    Is this not true, yes or no?"


    Yes. This is not true. (Thanks for the nicely ambiguous double negative - have you stopped beating your wife yet Neil), because (yawn - read my post)...

    1) You quote two polls: MORI did not ask a neutral question. YouGov was 45% Yes, 42% No. On a purely literal interpretation of your question, I am struggling to infer that one poll whose "don't Know" was 4 times larger than the difference between yes and no constitutes "ALL polls being in favour".

    2) Your insistence on taking one question out of context is just crap Neil.

    "Obviously if you feed people negatives about the technology and cost and NONE of the benefits, you will reduce the number in favour. That's hardly a unbiased survey though is it?"

    Really?

    MORI is a very interesting example here. This used a ridiculously biased question in the first instance, but the remainder was pretty anodyne. It asked respondents to suggest what they thought the benefits were likely to be (so that deals wtih your "no benefits" tosh) and what they thought should be on the card as regards technology. This is not "feeding people negatives".

    The cost question was also completely unbiased: It asked:

    Q11 The Government is thinking of making the public pay for their ID cards much as we already do for passports and driving licences. How much, if anything, would you be prepared to pay for a national identity card?

    I agree that YouGov aks a leading question, but MORI does not and neither does the Home Office.

    Which ever way you slice it, 79% do not want to fork out for an ID card. This is not strong public support.

    This is the whole point. You ask:

    "All the polls that ask the neutral question 'do you want ID cards or not' come back with more in favour.

    Is this not true, yes or no?"


    But even if it were true, (which it isn't - come on Neil - "ALL the polls"? you must be joking) it would be irrelevant. This question is meaningless in a poll to the general public without qualifiers to gauge real opinion in the light of costs and benefits. That is why there is more than one question in the poll. That is why your use of the news reports of these polls is so reprehensible: your 80% figure from MORI is the most ludicrous number to take out of context.

    To do so suggests one of two things: either you are just lazy or you actively wish to deceive. It could also be that you know that the support is not there, but this conflicts with 1) your worldview and 2) your political masters so denial takes over.

    I shall be charitable so I shall assume that you are just lazy.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Chris, I propose either the Swedish system or the German system for the UK. Critique them.

    German system: no national ID number (banned, constitutionally, for an obvious reason); registration is local and numbers identify cards not persons. I believe this is pretty much like the system we had during the First World War; so far as I know it doesn't do the Germans any good against crime etc. but if the government wanted to waste money on something ID-card-related, that would be a much less harmless alternative than what they're actually proposing.

    From the description you've posted, the Swedish scheme is not a great design (single ubiquitous identifying number, but at least -- unlike the Americans -- they have some kind of data protection law). Not really sure what good it does them outside having a national register of births and deaths (which doesn't need ID cards, or a ubiquitous ID number), but as your article implies, they're certainly very attached to it.

    (It won't surprise you to hear that neither Germany nor Sweden is a country I'm in a hurry to emigrate to, regardless of how much I've enjoyed visiting both.)

    Or better still, if we had to have an ID card system making use of biometrics, what would YOU propose?

    Been there, done that:

    "If you asked me to design a scheme (unaccountably, nobody has) it would look something like this:

    "- issue cards having a unique document number bearing name and other personal details (extent decided by purchaser, and perhaps authenticated by a trust mechanism something like the LSE's) and, at the purchaser's option, a biometric;

    "- encrypt data on the card so that it can only be read with the user's permission (via a PIN or password or whatever), and do not store any other copy of it except with the user's permission;

    "- have the data signed by some issuing authority (as in the ICAO passports scheme), so that, with the user's permission, the authenticity of the card can be determined;

    "- publish the specifications for all the technical bits for free and ensure that there are no IP issues protecting any of it, and get it all subject to public scrutiny for a year or two before issuing the first cards;

    "- legislate to have government and the private sector recognise the cards as an optional 'proof of identity' (quotes to avoid the philosophical issue here), enable private industry to sell them to punters at whatever cost they want, and to prevent likely abuses of the system, such as: requiring that people have a card, or that they present it under any particular circumstances, or that they accept data -- most importantly the biometric -- being copied from the card to another database, etc. etc.

    "Now stand back and see whether people want the things or not. Personally, I'd probably be happy to own one for occasional use -- for instance, if you could check in more quickly at the airport if you presented one, it might be worth doing so.

    "So far as I can see this scheme enables all of the supposed benefits of ID cards to the user, which have to do with convenience. It does create privacy risks but they are controlled by the user. And it doesn't have the built-in surveillance risks of a scheme with a central register, though obviously if the cards become widespread then they would make surveillance easier. Also, the scheme relies in part on the issuing institutions, government bodies and so forth understanding and obeying the law, which may be a bit of a leap where (e.g.) the security services are concerned.

    "On the technical side there will obviously be cock-ups in design and implementation, but hopefully the design is simple enough that these won't be so numerous or serious as to make the thing unworkable, and since the only intelligence is in the cards and anyone can easily get a new card by the same means they got the first one, it should be possible to fix any serious security holes as they arise. This could be assisted by making the issuers bear the costs arising (presumably by raising the price of the card to cover insuring themselves).

    "The costs would obviously be substantial, but should be smaller than those of the LSE's scheme (because the issuing process is simpler). And those costs would be born only by those who perceive that the cards have some benefit to them."

    (I wrote that before I'd read the full LSE alternative proposal. From that design I'd definitely want to lift the facility for generating multiple provably authentic ID numbers which could be used with different institutions, though I remain skeptical of how to make the user experience of this good enough for all cardholders to be able to make effective use of it. I should also add, for the avoidance of doubt, that the comment about airport security is not intended to imply that I think that such a card would improve airport security in any useful sense.)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Oh, one other thing, since we've got on to convenience. It's a truism in security engineering that convenience and security trade off against one another. It's easy to think of examples here: it'd be more convenient not to lock your house, because that'd save you from having to carry keys, but that would leave you at greater risk of burglary; it'd be more convenient not to need to use a password to log on to your computer, since you wouldn't have to remember a password, but that would make it easier for a colleague or a hacker to compromise your machine; having a single ubiquitous identifying ID number makes it easier to build databases of people, but increases the risk of identity fraud. Why is this so? It's because effective security measures work by increasing the cost of doing something to an attacker; but it's very rare for that to decrease the cost of that to the legitimate user.

    The corrolary is that any argument that attempts to show that ID cards and a National Identity Register -- or any other proposal -- will make our lives more convenient and more secure should be treated with healthy skepticism if not outright suspicion. Proponents of ID cards who segue effortlessly from "convenience" arguments to "security" arguments and vice versa would do well to bear this in mind.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Chris, Thanks for answering in detail.

    I think if your voluntary scheme were adopted, once it got off the ground, it would become so useful, (you even admit you would have one yourself), that virtually everyone would want a card and there would be clamours to improve the system and add an NIR.

    Personally, I have no problem with the govt knowing pretty much everything about my travel, financial, medical, retail history etc. As long as it is a universal scheme, I believe that there is safety in numbers.

    My life would be vastly indistinguishable from millions of others, and only if I broke the law would it be of any consequence. Assuming that laws are generally good, there is no problem as far as I can see.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Chris, on the question of convenience versus security, by convenience I meant having to carry one card rather than a host of documentation.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I think if your voluntary scheme were adopted, once it got off the ground, it would become so useful, (you even admit you would have one yourself), that virtually everyone would want a card...

    Well, that depends on what price companies managed to sell the cards for.

    ... and there would be clamours to improve the system and add an NIR.

    As I've said, that would not be an improvement; the scheme I describe is carefully designed to make it virtually impossible to add an NIR or NIRN in the sense you want. Specifically, in the scheme I propose, people can always buy new cards and/or destroy their existing ones, and it is the cards, not the people, that carry numbers in this design.

    ... on the question of convenience versus security, by convenience I meant having to carry one card rather than a host of documentation.

    Yes. This would not make anyone more secure (only one document to forge or only one database to crack, rather than several).

    ReplyDelete
  53. Martin, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that a birth certificate replacement or otherwise is required to apply for a passport.

    In October 2001 I applied for a replacement passport due to one being stolen. I used the same day passport service at the passport office in London, my supporting documentation was a four year old statement from my LEA showing I'd received a grant as a student and an application form countersigned by a (then unemployed) Cambridge University graduate. I walked out with a full ten year passport three hours later.

    ReplyDelete
  54. The govt have stated that the cards and NIR will carry only the information your passport does. It would need primary legislation through parliament to add to this. Then would be the time to object.

    This statement is actually false, if you read the bill you would notice that there are many pieces of information that are going to be entered onto the National Idenity Register which are not currently on Passports. In addition each indivdual will be assigned a NIR idenitifaction number, this could be used as a key field to link in with other relational databases, thus widening the amount of information stored on indivudals.

    ReplyDelete