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.