10 November 2005

The Burden of Proof.

During my discussion with opponents of the ID scheme, I keep getting told, 'it's up to supporters of ID cards to prove that the ID scheme will work'. Well actually no, it isn't.

I believe in evolution, can I categorically prove it is correct, no I can't, but the evidence overwhelmingly suggests it is. It is up to opponents to scientifically prove it incorrect.

The same is true for ID cards, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the scheme will lead to financial gains from more efficient government administration and crime reduction. But more than this, there are social gains which cannot be so easily quantified.

Most opponents of ID cards (in my experience) seem to oppose them on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties. These civil liberties to them have become unquestionable. To ask for evidence to back up why these civil liberties are worth more than the social good, usually gets retorts like 'have you no morals' or some such. They have complete faith in the authority of civil liberty, without actually questioning what it means or why it is sacrosanct. This religious aspect to the opponents of ID cards is very difficult to break down, but I am only interested in the evidence for and against ID cards not some abstract authority.

If the evidence suggested to me that ID cards really were going to be a waste of money and that the threat posed by ID cards to a vulnerable minority was credible, serious and reasonably numerous, I would change my mind and oppose them. If however the opposite was suggested by the evidence, a lot of opponents would still oppose ID cards because of this unquestioning faith in civil liberties. That is the difference between us in approach.

I can accept that the ID scheme might not work. In any new project there is an element of gamble, but in this case, from the evidence available, I think the gamble is worth taking. A lot of opponents however refuse to accept that ID cards could EVER be a success, this is where their argument is not evidence based.

There are some, like Chris Lightfoot, who accept that for the social good, some invasion of privacy is allowed. In an article on Speed Cameras, he acknowledges this trade off.

He gives the example that banning cars would lower deaths but that the overall benefit to society of having cars outweighs these deaths. We are talking here about 3000+ deaths a year. If this is acceptable then surely any minor inconvenience caused to people by ID cards is acceptable.

I am not convinced by arguments that vulnerable people will be put at risk by ID cards, because I don't think that there would be any more personal data available than there is at present. It is all out there, and if people are determined enough to find their battered spouse, they will do it, with or without ID cards. If opponents can give the numbers of victims of domestic violence who have changed their identity to avoid serious harm then lets see them. I would suspect this figure is very low indeed and anonimity would still not be a guarantee of safety for them. I suspect most victims live with or near to their problem and don't even contemplate changing their identity. They deal with their protection in other ways, friends, family, police etc. ID cards will make no difference to these cases. There are around a 100 deaths a year from domestic violence. I doubt this figure would change, lets see the evidence that it would.

So in conclusion. I need more evidence from opponents of the ID scheme as to why it won't work.

Yes, there are doubts about biometric technology, but that doesn't mean it will NEVER work. If the technology is not ready, the ID scheme will not happen. If biometric technology can NEVER work as you claim, then quite simply the ID scheme just won't happen. However you seem to think the ID scheme could well happen, so that seems to suggest that you do think the biometric technology can be made to work well enough.

Yes, the costs will outweigh the benefits for an estimated 14 years when we include the start-up cost. But even ID fraud alone (bound to be underestimated) was almost twice the predicted maintenance costs of the scheme. In 2003 it was £150 million, ID fraud has increased 500% since 1999. AT this rate we would be looking at £750 million a year by 2008 when the scheme starts. Compare this to a maintenance cost of just £85 million a year. ID costs would only have to stop a fraction of ID fraud to recoup their cost. This is without looking at savings in government efficiency and the non-financial benefits in convenience and crime reduction etc.

On the final point about privacy, I just don't see how opponents can argue this when we have CCTV, mobile phones, congestion charge tracking, ISP records, medical and criminal records on databases, bank and credit audit trails and other database records, passports and driving licences databases, retail databases etc. etc. There is a wealth of information already out there and none of it as secure as the National Identity Register will be. The privacy arguments just don't make any sense. This privacy issue doesn't seem to be more than at most, a minor irritation to the vast majority of people. Trying to pretend it is the end of the world, is ridiculous.

SOURCES:
SPY.ORG
CIFAS
HOME OFFICE
LSE
CHRIS LIGHTFOOT

61 comments:

  1. Since you seem to want to argue by analogy rather than deduction and induction, here's your analogy turned on its head:

    the people who want to change the accepted theory of evolution have to prove their case. Analogously, the people who want to change from not having ID cards to having them need to prove their case.

    Now, let's have a cost benefit analysis, please.

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  2. Martin, as Karl Popper said, science works by the process of 'falsification', not having to prove something works. People do not have to 'prove anything', just provide evidence it is a better theory.

    I have provided cost/benefit figures in this. Tell me why they are wrong.

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  3. "During my discussion with opponents of the ID scheme, I keep getting told, 'it's up to supporters of ID cards to prove that the ID scheme will work'. Well actually no, it isn't."

    During my discussions with opponents of the monorail on the moon scheme, I keep getting told, 'it's up to the supporters of the monorail on the moon scheme to prove the monorail on the moon scheme will work'. Well actually no, it isn't.

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  4. That is correct. Its up to people to prove the monorail on the moon scheme won't work, which I would imagine could quite easily be done.

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  5. From what I remember from the scientific method, you propose a Hypothesis.

    -> "ID cards will save the government money."

    Then you propose an experimental test

    -> "Implement ID cards and see if money is saved compared to a control group that does not implement ID cards"

    This gives you the evidence to conclude if ID cards will save money or not, and hence show your hypothesis to be true or false.


    Now, it's quite difficult to carry out the experimental test, with there not being a control country to use so we're forced to estimate.


    Now, the best experimental evidence we have for hypothesis above 'ID cards will save the government money.' is that we have already introduced ID cards into the UK before, and the cost a lot of money, and we got rid of them.

    The experimental evidence we have so far, is that 'ID cards cost more money than they save'.


    (I am assuming you can tell the difference between evidence - in the form of measuring the results of actual an ID card system - and not evidence - figures that a government body has made up from projections).


    You can conduct similar experiments such as,

    Hypothesis, 'The government consistently underestimates the cost of large IT projects'.

    Now, you'd need to look at the evidence which is the cost of every IT project, and the projected cost and then you could find out if this statement was true. We don't have all the evidence, but there is quite a lot of evidence that suggests this statement is true.

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  6. "This privacy issue doesn't seem to be more than at most, a minor irritation to the vast majority of people."

    So, people should be happy to have stars of David / pink triangles / cresents etc. stamped on their ID cards? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear right? There's no reason why someone might want their orientation or religion kept secret. We could add "P" for paedophile too these days.

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  7. Neil,

    Let's go ahead with the monorail on the moon project. Currently there is no proof that it won't work so we should immediately commence building it.

    While we're at it I note there is no proof that building a giant pyramid of gold for Pete Stevens to stand on project, so we should immediately go ahead on that project too.

    Did you know that there is also no proof that systematically executing every blogger would not save the government money so we should start that project too.

    Good grief, there's a lot of projects we'd better get going on since there is no proof we shouldn't.

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  8. Look if you can prove to me that this ID scheme is seriously flawed then I will agree with you. Until that point, I see no reason.

    No-one is seriously suggesting any of the schemes you suggest and if they were, they would be quickly proven to be seriously flawed.

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  9. "So, people should be happy to have stars of David / pink triangles / cresents etc. stamped on their ID cards? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear right? There's no reason why someone might want their orientation or religion kept secret. We could add "P" for paedophile too these days."

    As you well know there are serious reasons to object to those things, but where are the detrimental effects of CCTV or the banking system, or any of the other invasions of privacy our society seems quite happy to live with?

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  10. "As you well know there are serious reasons to object to those things"

    What are they? I would have said "privacy", "freedom", "civil liberties", etc. but you don't seem to regard those things as important?

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  11. Neil,

    Can you point me to the exact place where you quantified the cost savings from the ID card scheme? In particular the 85million / year running cost and the payback for the 6billion investment.


    I'm sure you've done the analysis - I just can't find it on your blog. Where is it?

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  12. Neil,

    I have some bad news for you. Tonight I happened to meet John Daugman, the world expert in iris biometrics. He says that he is working on a scheme to scramble biometric information, but that this is not tested in any substantive way yet. More importantly, he states that it would help with preventing impersonation, and can do nothing whatsoever to help with the witness protection / battered wives problem.

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  13. Pete Stevens:

    Here is a link to the £85 million running costs, courtesy of NO2ID.

    And here is a link to the 14 year break-even analysis.

    They are definitely on that Home Office link I provided as well, cos I remember seeing it, but I can't for the life of me find it at the moment.

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  14. Neil, do you own shares in a scarecrow factory?

    Picking just one of your religious beliefs to sacrifice on my altar of anti-ID evil.

    You say-

    "I am not convinced by arguments that vulnerable people will be put at risk by ID cards, because I don't think that there would be any more personal data available than there is at present."

    I'm a contractor working on the ID project, I'm responsible for data cleansing & data accuracy. That means my job is to trawl through the database looking for duplicates.

    To my suprise, I find quite a few duplicate biometrics. To my further suprise, I find some of them are recent. I find some of them only appear to be used for short periods of time, then go dormant.

    I'm about to contact my supervisor, but then I notice for many of them, at least one of the identities belongs to a government employee.

    I notice one of them appears to also be being paid by someone with a reputation as a bit of a crook. I remember he's always under investigation, but so far has never been convicted.

    I start to wonder how much he might pay for this person's identity..

    Get the idea? That's just one example of a vulnerable section of society that must remain protected in order to continue protecting us.. and the ID scheme could/would make that a whole lot harder.

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  15. Martin, I don't see how that is bad news. Scrambled biometrics sounds like another reason biometric ID cards will be better security wise.

    As for the witness protection etc. You have provided no evidence that an ID scheme will affect these people nor the numbers involved.

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  16. You have provided no evidence that you are capable of rational thought, but let me try to answer you..

    I'm sorry, I don't happen to know the exact number of undercover government employees that might be put at risk, and if I did, I certainly wouldn't publish it.

    The ID scheme will affect these people as they'll become more easily identifiable, given the need to register all their identities. ID cards are meant to be necessary on an 'almost daily basis' remember?

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  17. That "14 year break even" link says that 14 million is a best case.

    “With the less favourable independent cost estimates the scheme is never likely to break even”, Mr Gladman said. According to the analysis, removing the more controversial aspects of the system – such as the National Identity Register – could produce substantial cost savings whilst still delivering close to 90% of the identified benefits.

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  18. Why would the govt put its own undercover personnel at risk or for that matter battered wives? There will be a way around this, even if it means opting them out of the system.

    Martin, I'm interested to know if a leading scientist in the biometric field agrees with you about how useless they are.

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  19. Neil,

    Why would the govt put its own undercover personnel at risk or for that matter battered wives? There will be a way around this, even if it means opting them out of the system.

    Would you care to specify what it might possibly be? There's never been a bad idea whose consequences can't be fixed right? I mean you supported training Bin Laden in insurgency techniques, because you were sure the CIA knew what they were doing?

    If there is anyone at all opted out of the system then every single argument you have made for cost savings of ID cards falls down.

    Scrambled biometrics sounds like another reason biometric ID cards will be better security wise.
    Do you even vaguely know what you are talking about? "Sounds like" are you just listening to the soundbytes posted on the grid or are able to engage your brain before typing?

    You seem clearly to miss the point. You've claimed a lot for ID cards. You've not been able to produce one shred of evidience to support any of those claims. A large number of people have patiently pointed out why each of your claims is wrong. Each time you change the subject or claim you don't care. That's fine but you're wrong. You claim they save money. You're shown they don't. You claim they stop terorrism. You're shown they will prevent anonymity of witnesses. You claim that doesn't matter because witnesses are all undercover agents, they're not as any cursorary glace at the history of operations against the IRA will tell you.
    Faced with these claims you retreat to some specious moral argument that the goverment knows best and must be doing what's best for us. Did you think that when thatcher smashed the unions, passed laws against the miners strike, privitized the railways, used the PFI in the NHS, attacked the falkands or introduced the poll tax that these were good ideas created by a democratically elected goverment, which should be defended morally?

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  20. "With the less favourable independent cost estimates the scheme is never likely to break even"

    Think about that statement just for a minute.

    The very worst case scenario is that the scheme will not break even from a financial perspective(of course there are other non-financial benefits as well).

    In 1951, a feasibility study gave a 0.002% chance that the US could land astronauts on the moon. If you looked at the worst case scenario of any project, you probably wouldn't go ahead with it.

    The 14 year figure has been calculated using figures of ID fraud that most realise are underestimates. These figures could well be the tip of the iceberg, couple that with the fact that ID fraud is growing at 500% every four years, and you can see how the break-even point could well be much less than 14 years.

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  21. Anon, I don't know what to say to you anymore because you are making out that none of my points are valid. I accept that valid points have been made from your side of the argument.

    I have given figures from reputable sources (some even used by opponents) for costs and benefits that add up to the ID scheme being easily financially viable. You have given figures that disagree. I suppose we are just going to have to wait and see who is right.

    In any argument I have never thought that one side has won 100% of the points. Usually its around 60% or 70% at most to one side. This debate is no different. I believe that an ID scheme is viable and I am yet to be persuaded otherwise.

    Contrary to what Martin thinks, I won't think it bad news if he provides me with evidence to change my mind. It will be good news if an ID scheme that isn't going to work doesn't happen. But if an ID scheme would have been of benefit and it doesn't go ahead it will be bad news for all of us. At the moment, I still think the scheme will be of benefit from the evidence I have seen.

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  22. Neil -- in your analogy between the desirability of the National Identity Register and the accuracy of the theory of evolution, what are, respectively, the analogues of the Burgess Shale and Piltdown Man?

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  23. I don't know what to say to you anymore because you are making out that none of my points are valid.

    This is exactly what you are doing from your side of the argument, as I said before I'm not anti ID cards I think they are probably a good idea, it's the dishonesty of the argument I disagree with.


    So lets carefuly retread our steps and go back to the arguments you discard and see if there's anything you or they have missed.

    Witness protection/prevention of terrorism:

    You have been presented with incontravertable evidence that the NIR and ID cards as presented will prevent witnessess either
    a) being able to become anonyamous before going under cover [an iris scan now, can be turned into an address you had in the past EVEN IF YOU ARE SUBSEQUENTLY REMOVED FROM THE DATABASE, your iris scan from age 18 can be used to find your parents and threaten then]

    b) being able to become anonymous after going under cover.

    You counter this with the vague answer that "A solution will be found, even if they have to opt out of the database". This is equivalent to
    "I don't understand the problem, but I HAVE FAITH that an answer that proves you wrong will be found"

    Cost:

    The only estimates for cost that you quote are the goverments, even the goveremnet sponsored KPMG report out today pointed out the cost estimates are too low.

    I haven't seen your counter argument to this - do you have one?

    Civil liberties:

    You are either mad, or agree that ID cards have a severe impact on civil liberties. But you state that this is
    a worthwile sacrifice for the benefits of the scheme. How does this compare with the fact that more than 60 elected represenetives and members of the labour party decided that the detention of a tiny number of people for up to 90 days was a sufficiently important to impose a defeat the likes of which britain hasn't seen since the days of Callahan?

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  24. There will be a way around this, even if it means opting them out of the system.

    Oddly enough, that's also the answer the government give on this one. I think that means that they have just as little idea as Neil how to solve the problem.

    So, I feel safe....


    (By the way, opting people out of the system is probably not a goer, since if -- as proposed -- you've forced everyone else to register, and forced them to prove that they are registered all the time, then the few people who are not registered will stick out like a sore thumb, leaving them easy to find by traditional detective work.)

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  25. Anon: "as I said before I'm not anti ID cards I think they are probably a good idea"

    I didn't know you had said this, but its good to see I'm not alone.

    "it's the dishonesty of the argument I disagree with."

    Where have I been dishonest?

    "You have been presented with incontravertable evidence that the NIR and ID cards as presented will prevent witnessess either
    a) being able to become anonymous before going under cover or
    b) being able to become anonymous after going under cover."

    There are a number of answers to this, which I have already given before.

    The NIR doesn't have to keep an entire record of a biometric, just partial data which can be varied. You are assuming any organisation being investigated have breached the NIR security which will be very difficult to do. You are ignoring the possibilities of encryption and of varying the accuracy of the biometrics. Undercover agents might even have their fingerprints and facial features physically altered after an assignment and then re-added to the NIR. There are all sorts of possibilities.

    At the end of the day, if you can get me some links to scientists who will say it is impossible to get around this problem then yes, I will agree with you that a biometric ID scheme won't work. Until that day I remain unconvinced. Maybe Martin can show me a link to John Daugman where he states exactly that, then I will believe you.

    "The only estimates for cost that you quote are the goverments, even the goveremnet sponsored KPMG report out today pointed out the cost estimates are too low.

    I haven't seen your counter argument to this - do you have one?"

    Well you haven't looked very hard then, because I have answered this before.

    Even if the cost estimates are low, it is more than compensated for by the huge underestimate of ID fraud that even opponents agree is probably the case. By the nature of the crime, known ID fraud is almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg. By 2008 known ID fraud will (on current rates of growth) be around £750 million and this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The govt estimate for running costs is £85 million, there is plenty of room for manouvre there. Even if costs are double this, they still only need to stop a fraction of known ID fraud for the financial benefits to outweigh the costs, thats without the fact that there is probably a lot more hidden ID fraud out there that doesn't show up in the records.

    "You are either mad, or agree that ID cards have a severe impact on civil liberties. But you state that this is a worthwile sacrifice for the benefits of the scheme."

    How do they have a 'severe impact on civil liberties'? Tell me how CCTV have had a detrimental effect on people's lives?

    Or the congestion charge or mobile phones tracking us to within a few yards, or banking records audit trails which give a record of so much of our lives?

    44 million people are on passport, driving licence, medical and criminal databases in this country, and the govt already has access to all this information. Where is the detriment and how will ID cards change this?

    When you explain these points to me, maybe I will take you seriously on this point.

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  26. Chris: "in your analogy between the desirability of the National Identity Register and the accuracy of the theory of evolution, what are, respectively, the analogues of the Burgess Shale and Piltdown Man?"

    I really like this, very clever. Unfortunately my dear friend I can't think of any, I'm sure you have some suggestions?

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  27. The NIR doesn't have to keep an entire record of a biometric, just partial data which can be varied.


    What is "partial data which can be varied", and how does it work? or are you making techincal terms up again?

    You are assuming any organisation being investigated have breached the NIR security which will be very difficult to do.

    No, access to the register is given to a very large number of people, the goverment has said that every police officer will have access to the database. There are many documented examples of police offers giving information the dislosure of which is suposedly protected by law.


    You are ignoring the possibilities of encryption and of varying the accuracy of the biometrics.


    No sadly not. Do you understand encryption
    or will this also have to be explained to you? You can encrypt the biometric as much as you like, but for the scheme to work as intended it has to be able to take a biometric, for example your iris, and produce your record. It doesn't matter if the biometric is stored encrypted or it is a hash of your biometric that is stored.
    The system must and will retain this ability otherwise it loses the ability to
    prove someone's identity.


    Undercover agents might even have their fingerprints and facial features physically altered after an assignment and then re-added to the NIR. There are all sorts of possibilities.


    More magic science that you have FAITH must exist. Neil if it's possible to alter your biometric then doesn't every single argument in favour of biometric ID fail?


    At the end of the day, if you can get me some links to scientists who will say it is impossible to get around this problem then yes, I will agree with you


    I'm a scientist I'm telling you, but really this isn't hard you should be able to understand this point.

    Step 1) Make a system that takes an iris scan and tells you who the person is, and
    that mediates everyone's access to services.

    Step 2) Change that person's identity to protect him from the terrorists he has grassed on, and renter him into the database.

    Step 3) The terrorists take a photograph of him from when he was working for them, and run it though the system to get his
    new identity.


    So you can break this cycle at 1) Don't build it, or don't use it, 2) Don't provide witness protection, or 3) Prevent the terorrists getting access to the database.

    You have FAITH and passionately beleive that preventing access to the database is possible. Can you give a single example of a goverement database which has as many people you can access it (every local official, every police officer, and any company that pays to be a memeber of the scheme) which hasn't been compromised.

    The going rate for having three points removed from your license is about £3000, not at lot.

    COST:

    You state that the cost of the scheme will be offset by the HUGE saving in identity theft which is on the rise, and engague in one of those project current growth in to future excercises. Jolly good. It's a shame that the majority of those transactions are cardholder not present which ID cards can't help. But I forget, you're going to ban cardholder not present transactions to fix that, so no hotel bookings, no mail order, no theatre tickets.


    How do they have a 'severe impact on civil liberties'? Tell me how CCTV have had a detrimental effect on people's lives?


    CCTV is very expensive to search, there is no national CCTV archive. One of the arguments made by Charles Clarke yesterday for 90 days was the length of time and resources required to do a CCTV serach, abuses of power if a search requires such huge and conspicious resources to be used is rare and unlikely.

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  28. Neil,

    Thanks for that, Brian Gladmans paper is interesting reading,

    He states that in the best case the scheme will payback in 14 years (assuming 2% amortisation per year), almost all other cases the scheme makes a loss. (Page 2)

    The majority of the cost benefit accrues to the private sector and not the government. What the identity card scheme will do -- according to your source for the costs benefits -- is transfer money from the government into private companies. (Page 3)


    In consequence, the scheme will implement a blanket per person tax, in order to save private companies money.

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  29. In consequence, the scheme will implement a blanket per person tax, in order to save private companies money.

    How extraordinary. We knew that Neil was to the right of the Tories on immigration and lines up with the racists to promote ID cards, but a supply sider?!

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  30. I can't think of any

    Do you think, therefore, that your analogy may be missing a vital piece?

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  31. During my discussion with opponents of the ID scheme, I keep getting told, 'it's up to supporters of ID cards to prove that the ID scheme will work'. Well actually no, it isn't.

    With the greatest possible respect, yes it is.

    You want to make a radical change to how this country is run. You need to make an agument as to why we should do this. Bearing in mind that a lot of people hate this idea the argument needs to be extremely persuasive.

    It must be hard arguing for this scheme. Most people that have thought about don't like it, for many many different reasons, some of which are contradictory (eg it won't work and will thus be a massive waste of money OR it will work and be a massive intrusion upon the lives of UK citizens), some of which aren't valid. Attempting to refute all of these arguments must be like fighting a fog.

    Just because two people have conflicting reasons for not wanting this scheme doesn't mean that we should have this scheme. The original rationale for the scheme needs to be strong enough.

    Also just because one argument is invalid doesn't mean that the scheme should go ahead either. This is analagous to the creationists argument of "There is a gap in the fossil record here, this means that Evolution is wrong".

    I've read your arguments and those of the government and those of people against ID cards, and I've reached the following conclusions:-

    The government don't know what they are doing. They've bought their own hype and the marketting material of some companies who are going to become very rich as a result of this scheme and gone for it. They've not been able to justify themselves, and have resorted to deception. This reason alone would be enough to not trust them with the power this system would give them.

    I don't believe you are actually for this particular scheme. I think you are for some other scheme which would give some of the benefits of the current scheme without the drawbacks. Unfortunately I don't think from all the evidence I've seen that such a scheme exists.

    The anti-ID card crowd include a lot of people, including some tinfoil hat wearing nutters. However those against THIS SCHEME IN PARTICULAR have produced the most consistent and convincing arguments, hardly surprising perhaps as they include security experts, IT experts, government procurement watchdogs, civil rights organisations amongst others.

    As a result I don't think this particular scheme should be introduced and will not take part in it if it is. I really hope it won't come to that though....

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  32. Hi - I don't think Neil's doing the ID card scheme justice. You anti-ID zealots must know of other pro-ID bloggs. Would you be so kind as to post some links to them, so
    that the undecided can have a look at both sides of the argument.

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  33. Well, the source Neil quotes most often for evidence seems to be www.no2id.net so I'd start there.

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  34. I don't know of any other pro-ID blogs, astonishingly. That's one of the reasons why I follow this one so avidly :-)

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  35. You lot are close to out-commenting Harry's Place - but is anyone learning anything? (not that HP is necessarily any better)

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  36. Chris: "Do you think, therefore, that your analogy may be missing a vital piece?"

    Maybe 'Burgess Shale' is the Home Office trying to bury negative info about the scheme and 'Piltdown Man' is the claim that the missing link between encryption and biometrics has been found. I hope those analogies are good enough.

    Anon: "Attempting to refute all of these arguments must be like fighting a fog."

    It is hard work being so outnumbered.

    "Hi - I don't think Neil's doing the ID card scheme justice."

    I'm trying my best, I'm obviously not an expert, but I'm learning new info every day on this, I think I've raised many points in favour of the scheme and aginst their objections that haven't been answered by opponents, such as;

    1. How, when we already have 44 million people on medical, criminal, banking, passport and driving licence databases that the Government have access to, will an NIR increase the Govt's invasion of our privacy.

    2. What are the detrimental effects of the invasion of our privacy by CCTV, mobile phones, ISP records, banking audit trails, congestion charge tracking etc. etc? And how is this less detrimental than an NIR?

    3. If biometric technology is as poor as you suggest and can never be used in an ID scheme, why do you think it could be implemented by the government?

    4. Why or how (will/can) biometric technology be used if it doesn't work?

    5. Where are there any links to reputable scientists who say that biometric technology can NEVER be used in an ID scheme?

    6. Known ID fraud at present growth will be £750 million a year by 2008. The estimated maintenance cost of the ID scheme will be £85 million a year. Considering known ID fraud is probably a significant underestimate of the real problem, how do these figures suggest the scheme won't be financially beneficial?

    7. Why should I support anyone arguing that passports aren't necessary?

    8. Cars kill 3000+ annually in this country and injure many more. If it is right to override the interests of a small minority for the greater good in this case, why, when you can't show me anywhere near this level of detriment to people's lives as a result of ID cards, is it right not to have them?

    These are just a few I can think of now, there are plenty more.

    Answer these points satisfactorily and you can win me over to your side. You have spectacularly failed to answer these questions up till now.

    "How extraordinary. We knew that Neil was to the right of the Tories on immigration and lines up with the racists to promote ID cards"

    Don't even say this in jest. This is a total and utter lie and you know it. If you are resorting to these tactics you must be seriously worried.

    I want to see MORE immigrants come to this country not less. How is that to the right of the Tories? It's a pity we can't get rid of wankers like you and replace you with a few people from other countries. If you really cared about people's civil liberties you would be campaigning against the real poverty and inequality we face, not some chattering class abstract principle that doesn't actually mean anything practical. What about the civil liberties of the poor? I know these comments are strong but if you going to say outright lies about me that are a slur to my character, you are asking for it.

    ReplyDelete
  37. "In consequence, the scheme will implement a blanket per person tax, in order to save private companies money"

    The government are looking at this, don't be surprised if the govt make private companies share some of the cost.

    ReplyDelete
  38. "The government don't know what they are doing."

    In a sense you are right. Every new project has risks that are unquantifiable and potential benefits that are unquantifiable. This is a gamble. But the government are not blind to the practical difficulties of the scheme as you suggest.

    You guys are just pointing out all the things you think could 'potentially' go wrong with this scheme. You are also assuming total inflexibility in the govt's plans, and a total inability to change direction when problems occur.

    This is just not credible in my opinion and doesn't follow the history of new projects in the past. Lots of beneficial projects wouldn't have come to fruition if this logis had been taken. For instance, the Euro had a number of risks attached both known and unknown, but a political decision was taken based on the balance that the scheme would be a success in the long term. None of the catastrophes predicted about the practical implementation of the Euro that Euro opponents shouted about has occurred. The long term future is less sure, but on balance the future still looks good.

    Yes, the ID scheme could go wrong. Unlike your side, I do recognise both sides of the argument. But on the balance of the evidence and the questions you have been unable to answer, I still feel justified in supporting the govt's scheme. That's not to say I won't change my mind, but that is my present position. In fact I am surprised considering the passion of opponents that their case is so weak.

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  39. "I don't believe you are actually for this particular scheme. I think you are for some other scheme which would give some of the benefits of the current scheme without the drawbacks."

    Basically, Yes, but I also believe the govt's scheme will adapt to criticisms and practical problems on implementation and will be made to work well.

    I think the scheme will evolve. Just like the first eyes were just pieces of thin skin and pretty useless, they were still more useful than having no eyes at all, and of course they evolved into what we have today.

    Can of any project that has been perfect on paper and not had to be changed during the practical implementation?

    "Unfortunately I don't think from all the evidence I've seen that such a scheme exists."

    You could well be right, but I severely doubt it. The sheer massiveness of ID fraud and the usefulness of easy ID are very powerful reasons in my opinion. Even without biometric tachnology, I think an ID scheme would be useful. The biometrics have the potential to radically improve security. The technology will only get better and probably radically so. Even if opponents win this battle and postpone them for a few decades, it's likely to be back on the agenda soon, when another more foresighted country has implemented them and made them work to huge success.

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  40. What about the civil liberties of the poor?

    It's anecdotal evidence, sure, but here's some French poor angry young men complaining about ID checks being used as a tool against them:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,11882,1637213,00.html

    We already know that the police use stop-and-search powers disproportionately in a racist manner. It seems likely to me that the poor will suffer disproportionately from any problems that arise in the scheme, and from the insulting "ausweis bitte" of being asked to prove identity. Can you imagine being an ethic minority who fails a biometric check in a public place? Everyone's going to assume that you've got a forged card and are trying to escape HM Immigration.

    Do you think ID cards will improve the relationships between ethnic minorities and the police?

    ReplyDelete
  41. B4L, "but is anyone learning anything?"

    I know a lot more about the technology of biometrics now. I've obviously still got a lot to learn, but its been good.

    I've also learned a lot about civil liberties and that while they shouldn't be overlooked, they should be justified.

    I think opponents sometimes in their defence of privacy end up defending dishonesty. Dishonesty is rarely a good thing.

    There is also no perfect civil liberties, defending them without justification is as bad as blind faith in a religious or ideological doctrine. Civil liberties are sometimes less important than social justice.

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  42. "Can you imagine being an ethic minority who fails a biometric check in a public place?"

    The problem is not the security check, its the racist assumptions. You are not helping minorities by shifting blame onto a scheme and ignoring the real problem.

    Black people in flash cars get stopped more by police.

    Your solution would be for black people to stop buying flash cars.

    My solution is to change the police's racist attitude.

    Which is right? isn't it your attitude that is more racist?

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  43. 1.

    At present the people with access to my medical records are restricted to the medical profession. The NIR will extend this to all police officers and civil servants.

    2. At present the police do not have my banking records until they issue a warrant because they have suspicion for a crime. Under the NIR these will all be collated for easy review.

    3. Biometric technology has two failure modes. The risk of false positive (identifying someone as someone else) and the risk of false negative (failing to identify someone as themselves). For a perfect ID scheme both these number would have to be < 1/1 billion. At the moment, DNA testing is not able to tell identical twins apart and I believe DNA testing is still better than Iris testing - certainly it's harder to forge. Combining biometrics (counterintuitively) does not make the system stronger.

    4. Biometric technology is very effective at telling apart people who don't try and forge it. Given fingerprint scanners, iris scanners have all been fooled it's likely it will only incovenience the innocent while not stopping the guilty.

    5. Biometrics can be effective in an ID scheme.

    6. You seem to be confused between the works 'known' and 'predicted'. The cost of ID fraud in 2008 is not yet known. Pointless speculation dismissed.

    7. I don't know. Is it necessary for all anti-ID card people to believe passports aren't necessary to not want ID cards? (hint, the answer is no).

    8. It is possible that cars have a benefit greater than the deaths of 3000 people per year - for example - the ambulance service. Similarly, you have to show the benefits of the ID card scheme are greater than the costs. At present *your reference* for the cost benefit suggests that ID cards are unlikely to pay back, and even if they do will pay back to private companies - not the government.


    And in response.

    If the ID card scheme is going to save eveyone money and we all want it, surely we could set up the private ID card company and you could buy an ID card if you want one. If it's so great for the private companies they'll give you discounts for having it, and the market can do everything?


    Lastly, suppose I get a good photograph of you and make myself some contact lenses with your irises in, and then register myself into the ID card scheme with your irises using my contact lenses.

    You now can't be registered because your biometric is already in the database and you'll be carted off to jail for trying to register multiple identities.

    Time to ban cameras?

    (well, we've already done online banking, cardholder not present transactions ...)



    As another thought, suppose Woman A (not british) marries Man B (british) and has a child with Man C but registers the birth as being of Man B - entitling the person to an ID card and citizenship. Do you think we should use the DNA biometric to stop this happening?

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  44. Re your 8 questions. They're remarkably similar to the questions you already asked & answererd over on the NO2ID forums.

    But

    1&2. Private databases aren't really relevant as there's a greater element of choice whether those services are used, and to an extent, what ID you present when purchasing them.

    For government databases, yes, they exists, and people with the correct authority can already request details from them. So the NIR is not required, other than to make it 'more convenient', with greatly increased cost & risk.

    3&4 Questions kind of unclear. Biometric technology is not as reliable as the government believes.

    What people challenge is both the technical & commercial ability of the government (and suppliers) to implement the scheme for the costs & claims made.

    5 I doubt any reputable scientist would ever claim 'NEVER', but many reputable scientists have already pointed out the errors & challenges that face this scheme.

    6 As repeatedly pointed out, that fraud figure includes frauds that an ID card would not & could not prevent. Also, why is it up to the Government to solve & pay for the banks/credit cards/retailers fraud problems? Its a spurious arguement, and could just as easily counter argue with the potential increase in fraud along the lines of SSN fraud in the US.

    7 Technically, in the UK, they're not, simply convenient. Another spurious arguement. Why should I support anyone that believes in 90 day detention without charge, or turning the NHS into a simple 'commissioning' business?

    8 Cars? So? 'if it will save just one life..'

    OK, lets ban those as well, and trains, and peanuts, and milk, and bees..

    People can't show *exactly* the detriment caused by the ID scheme, just as neither you or the government can show the benefits. No scheme like this exists anywhere in the world, but plenty of people can show the risks based on elements of the scheme.

    Really simple question in return.

    If the ID Card was implemented along the lines of the LSE report, it would provide biometric checks, be secure (if issued carefully), and do everything the government claims for it's scheme. It would cost far less to implement & maintain, and have far fewer civil liberties implications as there'd be no NIR.

    Why is this not a valid alternative? What is so important about the NIR given all the data it contains, as you so often point out, already exists?

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  45. Dear Neil,

    please desist from calling me a liar, or what I've said a lie. At the very best, allege that it's false, but unless you have grounds to believe that what I'm saying is intentionally or recklessly misleading, as opposed to mistaken, do not impugn my integrity. I shall not comment upon the dirtier insult you proffered.

    You say you want "to get rid of [people] like [me]"; I assume you mean voluntary repatriation to my country of origin as opposed to anything more violent. Maybe you are aware that I'm not English and not born in this country, and my departure from the country of my birth was not conducted completely in accordance with all the particular legal niceties then in force. Does this sound familiar? There's a reason I care about the technicalities of passport applications, and it's not a happy one.

    Remember, Neil, whose company you enjoy when you support repatriation. Remember what side of politics they're on.

    Now let's see why I thought you were to the right of the Tories. I mean, my reasons before you posted so intemperately. It was these statements of yours:

    Much as I agree that economic migrants enrich the country, much as I agree that the persecuted need safe countries, you have to have some form of restriction. There are practical limits to the numbers that can be assimilated over time in any one country [...]

    Note that you also, misleadingly, state:

    I am sure I have never used the term 'assimulated', show me where I've used it?

    I assume this is a typo on your part, and not some deliberate spelling mistake.

    And here you go again


    You can't pretend that the UK should or even could take every refugee on the planet without causing significant problems for our infrastructure and economy.


    So maybe you're not to the right of the Tories; but for me to claim so would have been merely untrue, not an "outright lie". But you still sound like Pim Fortuyn. The country is full! These new people don't share our culture! O tempora, O mores!

    As it happens, I think your realism on immigration is something I could agree with, though this "quota" / "restriction" stuff is all a bit complex and I don't understand it - it sounds like the analogue of the "quantitative restriction" / "measure equivalent to quantitative restriction" trade barrier problem the EU keeps having to deal with.

    I do really care about civil liberties, but I just retain the traditional understanding of that term, as covering freedom of speech and freedom of association, not issues of property, redistribution, privacy, equality and so on. That's why I'm not out helping the poor (except inasmuch as I'm trying to save them from having to fork out a hundred quid for these cards).

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  46. Your solution would be for black people to stop buying flash cars...isn't it your attitude that is more racist?

    That's not my solution at all! I resent you mischaracterising my position so you can paint me as a racist.

    Even with a perfectly non-racist police, the iris recognition technology has a higher failure rate for black people: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4580447.stm
    http://www.blink.org.uk/pdescription.asp?key=7477&grp=21&cat=99
    http://www.naar.org.uk/newspages/051031.asp

    My solution is to change the police's racist attitude.

    People have been trying to do that since at least the Brixton riots and before. It's not yet succeeded.

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  47. "I don't believe you are actually for this particular scheme. I think you are for some other scheme which would give some of the benefits of the current scheme without the drawbacks."

    Basically, Yes, but I ...


    Ok it was me that asked this question. I'm going to stop being anon as there are several others posting and it's getting confusing.

    I'm actually quite pleased you've said this, I feel that a proper debate can take place now. The goverments scheme as it stands is intolerable for all kinds of reasons to me, and I would emigrate rather than co-operate.

    This is not the same thing as saying I would never co-operate with any id card system though, although I am in principle against the idea. If a scheme could be proposed that did some good, and SOME Identity theft might be reduced by this for example, and did little harm then I would be willing to go along with it. However as I've said I would be surprised if such a scheme could be laid out. Theres a balance between liberties of the public and power for the government, that I don't think can be squared on this one.

    The government and police have repeatedly in recent years abused (for example) anti-terrorism legislation. There was the high profile Labour party conference incident as well as numerous occasions of peaceful protestors being stopped from protesting under anti-terrorism legislation. In view of this I am extremely reluctant for the government to be given new legal powers. However if the ID card doesn't give the government any new powers it's a bit pointless and a waste of money.

    This is why I think the whole thing should be written off as a bad idea and the money spent on something else.

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  48. Anon, This is such a big mis-understanding, I don't know where to start.

    I didn't realise I used the word 'assimilated' and I apologise. In the context I was using it, it was just meant to mean 'settled' nothing else.

    I was responding to a specific comment by Martin who inferred I was a racist, I apologise I didn't make that clear. When someone calls you a racist, when I campaign very strongly against this, I was very insulted.

    If you look at the articles I've written on here about immigration, I think it is very easy to see I am very anti-racist. I argue for a more open immigration policy. My comment about getting rid of wankers like Martin, was because of his comment calling me a racist. The actual quote is this;

    "I want to see MORE immigrants come to this country not less. How is that to the right of the Tories? It's a pity we can't get rid of wankers like you and replace you with a few people from other countries."

    It was written in a fit of anger at the accusation. I'm really upset if you interpreted this at repatriation. I was assuming Martin was English, and my comment was suggesting; lets get rid of English people with his attitude and replace them with people from abroad. It was intended to demonstrate how pro-immigration and anti-racist I am. But in hindsight I can see how it could be misconstrued.

    I find it really sad that someone like Martin and Chris are resorting to using this racist smear to try and divert attention from the real arguments.

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  49. 1. How, when we already have 44 million people on medical, criminal, banking, passport and driving licence databases that the Government have access to, will an NIR increase the Govt's invasion of our privacy.

    Because the NIR will be keyed both by biometrics and a unique number, the NIRN, which will find its way into those other databases; and it contains an audit trail and other new records of extremely private information which have never been collected before. The former means that people will be identifiable without their consent; the latter that it will be easy to find all the information associated with them, rather than only that which is necessary to whatever task is at hand.

    2. What are the detrimental effects of the invasion of our privacy by CCTV, mobile phones, ISP records, banking audit trails, congestion charge tracking etc. etc? And how is this less detrimental than an NIR?

    You appear to be a person who doesn't value their privacy at all. That is your look-out, frankly; the population as a whole does (this can be measured in revealed-preference studies). Fundamentally the reason is that loss of privacy has costs and risks: costs such as being vulnerable to price discrimination, and risks like vulnerability to certain sorts of fraud.

    On your specific question of why other invasions of privacy are "less detrimental than an NIR" -- well, once all personal data are (as intended) indexed by NIRN the invasions of privacy enabled by use or abuse of data already kept will become worse, because it will be easier to correlate and compare records from different sources.

    3. If biometric technology is as poor as you suggest and can never be used in an ID scheme, why do you think it could be implemented by the government?

    You need to rephrase this question so as to be much less woolly. In particular, there are several different ways in which biometric technology could be "good" or "bad" (consider varying the equal-error rate and independently the failure to enrol rate). Why don't you ask it in terms of how good biometric technology would need to be to be usable? (The government refuse to answer the same question, by the way.)


    4. Why or how (will/can) biometric technology be used if it doesn't work?

    I don't think anybody here has claimed that the respectable biometrics (iris scans, basically -- the "facial biometric" is worthless and fingerprints somewhat problematic) don't work at all. And there are plenty of current applications -- a few of them are even sensible. But any implementation of biometric technology must take into account its limitations, which the government's scheme does not.

    5. Where are there any links to reputable scientists who say that biometric technology can NEVER be used in an ID scheme?

    Firstly, you are asking for an argument from authority. Why not try thinking for yourself?

    Secondly, the important question is not whether biometric technology "can" be used in an identity-management scheme -- it obviously can (many foreign identity card systems carry photographs, signatures and/or fingerprints) -- but whether this is a sensible thing to do; and in particular, whether the application of biometrics which the Home Office are proposing is sensible.

    6. Known ID fraud at present growth will be £750 million a year by 2008. The estimated maintenance cost of the ID scheme will be £85 million a year. Considering known ID fraud is probably a significant underestimate of the real problem, how do these figures suggest the scheme won't be financially beneficial?

    This question is unanswerable until you define what "ID fraud" is -- you've been asked again and again to say what you mean by this term, and have refused every time -- and, having done so show some evidence for your data.

    7. Why should I support anyone arguing that passports aren't necessary?

    Aren't necessary for what? Is a passport necessary for going to the loo? Is it necessary for brushing your teeth? Is it necessary for filling a passport-sized hole in your wallet?

    Your previous argument on this point was undermined by your wilful confusion of the conditions under which a person may travel and the conditions under which a person may reside in a place, claim benefits, and so forth.

    That said, since I think you said somewhere else that you want to make emigration illegal, I'm not sure you should be taken all that seriously on this point either.

    8. Cars kill 3000+ annually in this country and injure many more. If it is right to override the interests of a small minority for the greater good in this case, why, when you can't show me anywhere near this level of detriment to people's lives as a result of ID cards, is it right not to have them?

    Surely the answer is, "it depends how much", and "it depends which minority". Since you enjoy analogies, how about these: Would you support banning cars to save those 3,000 lives per year? How about requiring a police officer as co-pilot in every car being driven on a suburban street? How about replacing all the cars with helicopters (at the taxpayer's expense) so that the drivers have three dimensions in which to maneuver, reducing the probability of collisions?

    Answer these points satisfactorily[...]

    For fuck's sake Neil. You know perfectly well that you have constructed a set of questions which you believe can never be answered to your satisfaction. I appreciate that you think this to be a clever rhetorical tactic, but it isn't.

    Are you actually interested in having an honest debate at all?


    (Oh, in answer to the chap who wondered whether anyone is learning anything from this -- well, Neil claims to have learned something about biometrics, but there's precious little evidence that it's sunk in. I'm learning a lot about the intelligence and honesty of committed NIR supporters.)

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  50. Neil, I didn't say you were a racist; take it back.

    I keep pointing out that you're on their side in this argument, that's all.

    Sorry about the screwup with not giving my name on one or two of the posts.

    Now stop calling me a wanker and advocating my expulsion from the country.

    What does it say about you if you think people should be kicked out of the country just because of their political views?
    Does history afford you any examples of countries which did that? Were they nice countries?

    When you say "inferring" (that you are a racist), do you actually mean that, or "implying"? (I'm not a stickler for this sort of thing, but it obviously makes a difference in this case).

    I don't think you're a racist, and I've already said as much; I think you are one of the few non-racist sincere advocates of ID cards, and I've given reasonable grounds for that assertion already. I think it's fair to point out when someone is saying the same sort of things on immigration as Pim Fortuyn did, though.

    To the extent that I've made any error at all here, I don't think it justifies repeatedly calling me a wanker and wanting to kick me out of the UK.

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  51. Peter Clay: "That's not my solution at all! I resent you mischaracterising my position so you can paint me as a racist."

    This is getting silly, I wasn't accusing anyone of being a racist.

    You said;

    "Can you imagine being an ethic minority who fails a biometric check in a public place?"

    Using the logic that it's the security check at fault rather than the racist assumptions;

    I used this logic to the argument about black people stopped in flashy cars.

    I pointed out that the only solution to the problem was to tackle the racist assumptions not stop black people having flashy cars, which is what your logic about ID cards would suggest.

    It was the logic I suggested that could be racist, not the person using it.

    "Even with a perfectly non-racist police, the iris recognition technology has a higher failure rate for black people:"

    This is a valid point, if the discrepancy is large, maybe iris recognition technology will have to improve or we can't use it for ethnic minorities.

    "People have been trying to [change racist police attitudes] since at least the Brixton riots and before. It's not yet succeeded."

    Maybe by highlighting the problem more, which ID cards will do, we'll be able to tackle it better?

    Look at France, by ignoring even the concept of ethnicity they have made the problem worse.

    Only by monitoring the problem, do we solve it. That is why asking people for their ethnicity on job applications, on the census is the way to monitor progress in race relations. We can only tackle problems when they are highlighted. ID Cards will be a force for good in the fight against racism.

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  52. "ID cards will be a force for good in the fight against racism"

    Yes, because it is only when every police officer can ask a computer "show me all the black people in Burnley who may have been near the crime scene" that members of ethnic minorities can truly have any peace of mind about their position in our society.

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  53. Neil: "It is hard work being so outnumbered."

    But I thought anti-ID people were in the minority? :)

    Neil: "Dishonesty is rarely a good thing."

    How can you say this? It's given us contracts, lawyers, an entire justice system, large portions of the insurance industry, locksmiths, biometrics and many more that contribute billions.

    Point being is that we don't live in a perfect world, and a handshake backed up by a knotted club doesn't really cut it any more.

    So how does the ID card get to the root causes of dishonesty, or is it yet another palliative piece of legislation that offers little real benefit?

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  54. "It's given us contracts, lawyers, an entire justice system, large portions of the insurance industry, locksmiths, biometrics"

    I rest my case. Wouldn't the world be much better if we didn't need any of these and everyone was honest? All these are necessary but it doesn't mean its not a waste. It's impossible to get rid of, but if it wasn't for all this dishonesty, the money could be spent on better things like the health service.

    Martin.
    When you accuse someone of having immigration views to the right of the Tory party and the same as the fascist Pym Fortyn that sounds like a thinly veiled accusation of racism to me.

    So Pym Fortyn and people to the right of the Tories want immigration restrictions reduced and MORE immigrants allowed in, do they?

    Because that would have to be reality for them to share my views on immigration.

    I'm sorry I called you a wanker and said I wished people with your views would leave the country. I was mistaken to do that, it was written in a fit of anger at your accusations and I retract it and I apologise. But I think you shouldn't go round 'implying' someone is a racist who isn't.

    "I don't think you're a racist, and I've already said as much; I think you are one of the few non-racist sincere advocates of ID cards"

    Well that clears that up, I think.

    I think I'm one of the 'few non-racist sincere advocates of ID cards', that is actually bothered to argue their case. But that is not the same thing as what you said.

    I would guess that the vast majority out there, are either fairly in favour of ID cards or not particular bothered either way.

    Most can't be bothered to get passionate about it. Of the small minority that do get passionate about it, the vast majority of those are against ID cards.

    This is why the government needs to make a much better case in favour of ID cards and not be complacent, otherwise they risk losing the popularity of the scheme, I think we would both agree on that.

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  55. ok, so add inability to detect sarcasm to your list of thought crimes..

    As for the NHS.. why is your government so desperate to bankrupt it, cripple it, let it be sold for scrap to the private sector & generally bollocks up one of the last great Labour ideals?

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  56. "ok, so add inability to detect sarcasm to your list of thought crimes.."

    I did wonder, but by the way some of the threads have been going on here, I thought I'd better take your comment seriously, just in case.

    "As for the NHS.. why is your government so desperate to bankrupt it, cripple it, let it be sold for scrap to the private sector & generally bollocks up one of the last great Labour ideals?"

    Triangulation. Thats what crosses my mind. I think this 'private good, public bad' idea that TB has, can only be taken so far. This does seem a step too far to me. It comes to something when a Labour government with a pretty big majority has to rely on the Tories to get legislation through. This will be a disaster. I'm a big supporter of what TB has done (Iraq, PFI and lack of PR referendum aside) but I think his time might be coming near. Trouble is I'm not so sure of Gordon Brown either. Oh well. In a dream world Ken Livingstone, what a great PM he would have made.

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  57. Martin: "Yes, because it is only when every police officer can ask a computer "show me all the black people in Burnley who may have been near the crime scene" that members of ethnic minorities can truly have any peace of mind"

    If they are going to do that, they will do it anyway, with or without an NIR.

    Circumstantial evidence is just that, and a good lawyer would point that out. It is not anywhere near enough for a conviction.

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  58. No problem, at least you've made an honest attempt at debate, unlike your government.

    One of my biggest regrets is sitting in a pub (illegally) watching NuLabour getting into power, and thinking 'at last, a change'... But now seeing what a terrible mess they've made of that opportunity.

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  59. Anon: "One of my biggest regrets is sitting in a pub (illegally) watching NuLabour getting into power, and thinking 'at last, a change'... But now seeing what a terrible mess they've made of that opportunity."

    Oh come on. Its not that bad, can you imagine what it would have been like if Major had carried on. Look at the mess that govt was in, tearing itself apart.

    Think of all the good things that wouldn't have happened.

    1. Bank of England independence. The economy has done pretty well for the last 8 years, low unemployment, inflation etc.

    2. The minimum wage and guaranteed four weeks holiday.

    3. What about all the extra doctors and nurses and teachers etc? All the extra investment that has gone on in the NHS, education. Even if you are not entirely happy with the improvements in terms of value for money, its better than it ending up as tax cuts for the wealthy like it would have under Major.

    4. I don't know whether this tickles your fancy but the improvements in gay rights have been pretty spectacular.

    5. I don't know if this is a coincidence but take a look at a picture of your town centre in the mid 90s and compare it with today. From personal experience I've noticed the massive improvements everywhere I've lived over the last eight years and I don't think its isolated. Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Preston, Manchester and London. These are the ones I've noticed big improvements, but I heard places like Cardiff and others have been transformed as well.

    6. We have regained our position as the fourth biggest economy so we can't be doing too much wrong.

    7. Friends all seem to be significantly better off than when I knew them 8 years ago. Maybe this is just down to technology but I'm not so sure. I remember friends in some right poor living conditions during the 80's and their lot never seemed to improve then.

    8. The biggest difference I've noticed has been that the poorest pensioners seem so much better off. I know some of the wealthier pensioners complain about the council tax and I can understand that, but generally most pensioners have never had it so good. The winter allowance, free local public transport, free TV licences and of course the expenditure on the NHS benefits them the most.

    9. Then there are families with children, tax credits (despite their bureaucracy and inefficiency) have made a difference here. Then childcare/surestart, maternity/paternity leave, and the increases in the education budget. I know everyone thinks the pass rates have been fiddled, but I'm not so sure.

    10. Free access to Museums. Not to be underestimated how this has helped millions of people. Museums and Galleries are enjoying their best period ever.

    I'll stop there because I don't want to sound like a Labour Party Broadcast for too long.

    I like Ken Livingstone's answer to when he is asked on the doorstep, what this government has done for them? He replies 'Maybe I should come insidem because this could take some time'.

    People don't remember things that have gone right very well, they just bank them and move on, but they tend to remember what a government does wrong, especially when we have a conservative supporting media constantly slagging this Labour government off.

    Anyway its always worth remembering that a lot of the criticism of this government is for being too much like the Tories, it won't help by replacing this government with the nasty party.

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  60. Reading through a bit of the archives, I have come to the conclusion that you are probably all wasting your time trying to convice Neil of anything. Whatever input might go into his pensees happens before he writes his posts not after. A quick search of the literature, recent news stories and editoral comment will show you that there practically no sources of pro-ID cards articles so we have to assume we're in cognative dissonance territory here viz:

    I am good
    I voted for Rex Toni
    Rex Toni is good.
    Rex Toni wants ID cards.
    ID cards must be good.

    [the negation of that being ID cards bad => Rex toni bad => either I didn't vote for him or I am bad]

    you should have been suspicious at the start because there would have to be some reason why there is only one pro-ID cards blogger out there.

    Possibly further progress will only be acheived by locating Neil's sources and reubutting them. If he were to be kind enough to post them here that would be excellent, otherwise I suggest you spend some time looking for a pro ID card article or press release preferably written by or for a goverment minister.

    Post a link here and then rebutt it, maybe that might work better.

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  61. I'm sorry, you seem to misunderstand. Neil is actually doing a better job of putting forward the government's case than the government itself, for several reasons:

    Neil's income probably doesn't depend on pandering to the racist elements of the working class who want the darkies kept out of the country and think ID cards will help.

    Neil simply doesn't know enough about biometrics and payment systems to be able to qualify as lying about them when he gets his facts wrong. He's under no duty to the public to get this stuff right, and by the combination of these two reasons is therefore in morally superior position to the government ministers pushing the scheme.

    When something has to be explained to him several times over, it's plausible that he just doesn't get it, rather than that he's been briefed with a careful statement which will get him out of the problem.

    The density of false statements in Neil's pronouncements (even when his parroting of government lies is taken into account) is significantly lower than that of the government's pronouncements on the ID cards subject.

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