07 November 2005

ID Cards: An Update.

Thanks once again for all the comments about ID cards. Sorry I've not replied to them all recently. I've unavoidably had to be away for the last 5 days. I promise to get round to answering individual points in the next week.

Looking at the most recent comments it seems we are reaching a critical point of the debate, which I'd like to summarise as follows.

The Concept of ID Cards

The first thing I'd like to do, is to separate the actual concept of ID cards from their 'potential use' and their 'practical implementation'. I'll deal with these other aspects lower down.

When we look at the actual concept of ID cards, it is quite apparent that this is a neutral concept. For every 'potential' abuse pointed to by opponents there are 'potential' equal and opposite benefits.

When arguing against the principle of ID cards a lot of opponents throw into the debate aspects that at first glance appear compelling arguments, for example; 'its an invasion of privacy that damages our civil liberties'. This seems to be accepted at its face value, without anybody seriously asking what civil liberties are affected and how they are affected in a detrimental way. Ask these questions and opponents seem to find it very difficult to describe specifically what is being affected detrimentally. Where they do come up with arguments, they are generally arguments against the abuse of power or the incompetence of a bad government. By linking ID cards to a negative in this way, opponents obviously lead themselves to a negative conclusion. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. Which leads me onto the next points.

The Potential Use of ID Cards

Despite a huge dislike and mistrust of government, when pushed, most opponents will admit that they do not believe that this government has an evil authoritarian agenda to control our lives. They will also admit that under a stable representative democracy such as ours, the chance of there ever being such a government is extremely remote.

So, once we acknowledge that the governments motives are generally sincere, opponents then shift their position onto highlighting how misguided and incompetent governments are. Of course it immediately becomes apparent that this accusation could be used against any policy that the government was looking to introduce. We have to ask ourselves questions about the fundamental point of having governments at all. If we accept that under our system, governments have come about because on balance they are a force for good, then we have to accept that ID cards (their concept being neutral) will be used on balance in a positive way, like they are in the rest of the EU. (Remember liberty campaigners in the EU have no objections to ID cards and are bemused by their British counterparts opposition to them).

The Practical Implementation of ID Cards

The next objection is that the implementation of a workable ID scheme and National Identity Register (NIR) is just plainly impossible. Many opponents have raised the government's poor record in implementing IT databases, and I have retorted that this IT database has a number of advantages that will make this scheme different. Opponents have also pointed out problems with the biometric technology. The answer to all of this is that the technology is advancing fast, and that if you concentrate on the negatives of any new scheme, it will seem to have insurmountable problems during its development phase.

When I first talked about opponents raising practical objections to implementation, I called it a 'red herring' that was being used to distract from their real objection to the concept of ID cards in principle. The reason I said this was that; if you asked the question- what if all practical problems are overcome? Then opponents would immediately talk about their opposition to ID cards in principle. None would concede that ID cards would then be ok. So this made it clear to me, that practical objections were just being used as another tool to win support for their cause.

The practical implementation of a national database and ID scheme doesn't worry me for another reason; e.g. the fact that national databases can be so successful in the private sector. The banking system can be made to work for mutual advantage of both company profits and consumer interests in the face of stern practical and security problems. This means there is no reason why a system developed with new software and technology cannot be introduced successfully over a five year introductory phase.

Another reason for faith in a workable system is that, during the introductory phase, any problems in the system will be very apparent, and unless fixed to the satisfaction of voters, no party will go into a general election on a platform of making such a failing system compulsory. Ultimately the voters will decide. Just like the introduction of the scheme was based on a democratic decision (The ID scheme was clearly flagged as part of the Labour manifesto, even 1 of their 6 pledges), it will not become compulsory until after another general election. Opponents of ID cards are arguing against this democratic decision. To argue as opponents do, that the public didn't understand the issue as well as they should have done, or that the government didn't have enough of a mandate with 35% of the vote, is to argue that we need a better electoral system and a freer media, and on both of these points I would agree. What it does not argue against is ID cards, because the same level of public interest in and knowledge of policy could be said about almost any of the policy areas of government.

Conclusion

So firstly we established that the concept of ID cards is a neutral concept and therefore opponents highlighting potential negatives of the scheme is meaningless when there are an equal and opposite number of potential benefits of the scheme that could also be highlighted.

Secondly if we accept that governments are on balance a force for good, then we have to accept that the neutral concept of ID cards will also be used as a force for good.

And finally the electorate will have their say about the practical implementation of ID cards at the ballot box, just as they had their say about their current introduction. Any potential problems in the new scheme will be overcome and if they are not, the government will pay the price at the next general election. That is democracy. ID card opponents while right to point out potential problems and encourage the best scheme possible should accept that it was the democratic decision of the public that ID cards go ahead.

114 comments:

  1. Frankly, thats the biggest load of garbage Ive read on the ID card "debate" in quite some time.

    "We live in a representative democracy" - right, so representative that NuLab can rule over England with less that 30% of the votes cast. So representative that the NE regional assembly was voted down, only for the government to institute it anyway.

    "For every negative on the use of ID cards there are an equal amount of positives" (paraphrased) - sure there are - if the argument id that water tight why arent the government pushing those instead of all the anti crime, anti terror claptrap?

    If we were talking about ID cards / NIR in general terms then I could accept some of your points.

    However we are talking about this governments proposals - which are illibral, less secure than keeping your life savings under the mattress, fundamentally change the relationship between citizen and state, so badly costed as to be a total fabrication, and establish the framework required for a total surveillance state by refusing to establish restrictions on usage / ancilliary systems / user access & penalties for misuse.

    Face it, accept youre talking rubbish and get her head out of the sand.

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  2. I've already pointed out that I favour a better electoral system.

    I would suggest that the govt aren't pushing the ID debate to the fore because they believe the best way to persuade people of the benefits is for them to experience the scheme in practise rather than being told by the govt. They probably also fear how their argument will be distorted int the media.

    I think the govt are wrong not to push this debate to the fore.

    You obviously are welcome to think what I say is rubbish. You won't be surprised when I say I disagree.

    You accept some of my points in general on ID cards and an NIR but that it is the govt's specific proposals you object to. I believe that destroying this bill is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Any practical problems with the scheme will quickly be shown when it comes to the crunch of putting the scheme in place. The govt will have to make the scheme work if it is to win the next election, that seems a big enough incentive to believe they will get it right.

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  3. For every 'potential' abuse pointed to by opponents there are 'potential' equal and opposite benefits.

    Your claim here must be backed by something stronger than assertion, I presume; since you can't possibly have enumerated all pro and anti arguments and found them to be both equal in number and strength, you must have some other reason for making the above claim. What is it?

    Of course, if you haven't such an argument, I presume you'll withdraw that statement.

    And (to pick a random example) what's the equal and opposite benefit to the (ab)use of the s.13 powers?

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  4. I'm confused.

    For every potential abuse there is an equal and opposite benefit.


    Here is a potential abuse.

    "The home secretary removes my identity card on a because he's fed up of responding to my letters, and means he can disqualify an opposition voter from voting. This disqualifies me from voting, opening bank accounts, healthcare. working, any userful interaction with the government whatsoever."

    Please tell me the *equal and opposite benefit* I get in exchange.


    Once identity cards become compulsary, it would then become an offence for me to exist.

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  5. Chris, Peter, you are confusing the neutral concept of an ID scheme with 'abuse of power' and 'incompetence of the govt' arguments.

    Both of your examples are just criticisms of govt proposals, not ID cards themselves.

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  6. OK, so are you now claiming not to support the government's proposals, but instead to support only some sort of abstract ideal identity card scheme, perhaps unrealisable in practice, that has (e.g.) the "equal and opposite" property which you describe?

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  7. The govt's proposals are far from perfect. What legislation hasn't started out such?

    I just don't believe the problems with the bill are insurmountable. Therefore the potential benefits of an ID scheme make it a worthwhile gamble.

    Do you agree with me that the 'concept of ID cards' is neutral?

    Do you agree with me that govt's are on balance a force for good?

    If you agree with these points, it obviously follows that an ID scheme will be put to good use by a govt.

    Any flaws in the technology and implementation will either have to be fixed or circumvented.

    Your arguments remind me of the creationists' arguments against evolution. That the problems that evolution had to overcome were just too insurmountable for it to be likely. It can't happen because of this or this, but the point is, the technology has to work for there to be an ID scheme.

    What you and I both know is that the implementation will work well enough because it has to. There are loads of examples of large databases like this that do work.

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  8. I just don't believe the problems with the bill are insurmountable.

    Absolutely not. For instance, the government could abandon the Bill, thereby surmounting all associated problems (well, they won't get back the twenty million quid they've wasted on propaganda for the scheme so far, but perhaps David Blunkett could make a donation from his newfound wealth?).

    Do you agree with me that the 'concept of ID cards' is neutral?

    You are going to have to very carefully define what you mean by that before anybody is going to engage seriously with it, because it is fairly clear that what you are about to try is some sort of infantile bait-and-switch tactic.

    More specifically: I can imagine lots of different ID card systems. Many of them share features (like compulsion, unnecessary data collection, etc.) which render them definitely bad. It appears that you want to obtain my agreement that there exists some example of an ID card scheme which is not (let's say) actively dangerous, and then jump up and down in triumph, crying, "See! You agree with the principle of ID cards!"

    That's not a constructive way to debate, and you well know it.

    Why don't you describe your proposed abstract ideal of an ID cards scheme, so that we can critique it?

    ... it obviously follows that an ID scheme will be put to good use by a govt.

    You've mixed up the specific and the general. If you replace "an ID scheme" with "the proposed ID scheme" and "a govt" by "this or a likely future government" then your claim does not obviously follow -- quite the opposite, I would argue.

    What you and I both know is that the implementation will work well enough because it has to. There are loads of examples of large databases like this that do work.

    Neil, this really is wretched. Can't you come up with something better?

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  9. Hi there,

    An interesting post that at least raises some good questions about the nature of the debate - something most ministers seem keen to avoid (which in itself makes me curious and somewhat depressed).

    While I agree that much of the issue is over the extent to which people trust the UK government, I also think that there are some aspects that have nothing to do with the current level of trust in the country. Things like the low terrorist-suspect-to-arrest ratio, the desire for secret trials, and the acknowledgement of torture-induced "evidence" have been thrown around, so I won't go into them too much here.

    One central tenet that I hold to is that in a democratic system - whichever model of democracy you use, and whichever level of "approval" a government may claim - a ruling party must remain a) accountable and b) transparent as much as is possible. Voting without information is merely a mockery of democracy, as is voting without the power to make a difference. In that sense, then, I argue that any scheme that allows the government to collate data about the individuals it serves must remain open to public scrutiny. As it is, though, ID cards provide a level of information to the government, with exceedingly few (in proportion to the amount of data available) checks on how it is used. A democracy with neither transparency or accountability. No matter how much you trust the government, I would claim that such an understanding is central to the sustainability of the system - removing accountability removes from the very principle of democracy.

    Secondly, your assumptions are somewhat broad at times. The assumption that "governments have come about because on balance they are a force for good" is particularly misleading. Perhaps policy analysis at the turn of the century might have taken the view that governments are ideal actors that exist to serve the public that voted them in, but any modern view that didn't factor in the self-interestedness of any ruling party would be heavily questionable. All groups maintain some level of self-interestedness - it could be seen as natural, perhaps. The issue then of what constitutes "public good" is up for grabs. Is it in the interests of the public, for example, to lock them all in their house and have food/drink delivered to their door? On one level, of course it is - such an arrangement would lead to next-to-no crime, nobody would get run-over, etc etc. If the food and drink delivered were of sufficient quality, how many people would complain?

    There is probably a good reason why many scientists are against the ID system - apart from issues with the technology (more on that in a bit). Scientists (not exclusively), by their nature, tend to be indepently-minded - they like the freedom to be able to question given theories. This independence exists in all of us to an extent. Does this independence lead to difference of opinion? Clashes and struggles both mental and physical? Yes, of course. Is removing the capacity to independence, for the good of a safer society as a whole, the solution?

    Technology-wise, you say: "The banking system can be made to work for mutual advantage of both company profits and consumer interests in the face of stern practical and security problems." Here, there is (as far as I can see) a insurmountable difference between the ID used in banks and the ID proposed under the government scheme - namely that the ID tokens (cards) issued by the bank are *disposable*. If my card details are stolen, I cancel my card, and get a new one from the bank. I can change my pin. If my biometric details are stolen, how can I change them?

    Secondly on the banking front, banks have the advantage of only dealing with one medium - cash. Cash is replaceable - if someone steals a large amount of money from my account, and I can prove it wasn't me, then it's not difficult to replace that money - even if it costs the bank. If judgements based on an insecure ID card are misused, however, and the theft of my identity leads to a loss of, say, reputation, or time (via detention), how then can I be repaid?

    At this point, we should address the issue of the reliability of technology.

    Firstly, you state that "The answer to all of this is that the technology is advancing fast". While I agree with you to some extent here, it's also important to note that technical progress alone isn't always the panacea many hope it is, and as such one really should be extremely cautious about placing any kind of faith in it. Progress isn't assured in many cases - for instance, we're still trying to solve the problem of High Level nuclear waste satisfactorily, despite 60 odd years of having a solution promised "soon". The difference between plausible science and snake oil is a good distinction to be aware of.

    Furthermore (and this relates to the ability to implement large scale IT projects too), technology does not act alone. To state that technology will progress to a perfect/usable condition and that we'll all be fine borders on the dangerous. Many non-technical factors are involved and, indeed, often have more impact on the implementation than technology itself. In the case of a public ID system, we need to factor in both the time/plausibility of rolling out *progressing* technology on such a large basis (which holds managerial problems in itself), as well as institutional influences that are embedded in the public sector culture. I suspect that you've not had much experience in public sector IT, but I may be wrong. However, anyone that had would probably realise that observing a successful industrial IT project, and applying the outcome directly to a public sector project would be a mistake. Never take success for granted - just because 50% of IT projects finish on time (that's a very conservative estimate) doesn't mean project X will do the same.

    Finally (yes, I'm shutting up soon ;), the defence that the next election hangs Damocles-like over minister's heads probably, I would think, doesn't hold much threat for the Prime Minister on his way out, or for the Chief of Police ("Well I didn't vote fer yer!"). Plus, as you repeatedly acknowlege, a political system that doesn't perhaps offer the fairest representation may also not be the best selection mechanism to "approve" individual policies. If 99 policies are split evenly between 3 parties, do you have to agree with all 33 policies in order to vote for any one party? Heavens. If this is democracy, I'm giving up now.

    BTW, I think Chris posted while I wrote this, so haven't read his reply yet...

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  10. You've raised this before - and I posted then. Compulsory ID cards are morally wrong, but the current scheme will fail as a result of a range of practical issues. Separate the two issues by all means - it doesn't make ID cards any less reprehensible.

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  11. Do you agree with me that the 'concept of ID cards' is neutral?

    I don't quite see what you mean by this. The concept that I could go to jail for refusing to tell someone my address, having committed no other crime, is offensive to me. The concept of being forced to register my "biometrics" in a database is offensive to me, in the same way that having a number tattooed on my arm would be offensive. I hope you'd find the latter offensive as well.

    (The ID scheme was clearly flagged as part of the Labour manifesto, even 1 of their 6 pledges)

    What? The six pledges I found at
    labour.org.uk
    are:
    - Your family better off
    - Your child achieving more
    - Your children with the best start
    - Your community safer
    - Your country's borders protected

    I don't see "Your papers, please" or "Your biometrics in a database" in there. Presumably "Your country's borders protected" is code for this, and it has something to do with illegal immigrants - have I guessed correctly?

    Now, please explain how identity cards are going to make borders more secure, given that borders are already areas where people are required to show passports. The money spent on the ID cards scheme would pay for several thousand police; given that our borders are airports, ports, the coast and the Eurotunnel we should be able to protect them without having to impose identity cards on everyone else.

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  12. Peter Clay7/11/05 9:29 pm

    Ah, I missed "Your family treated better and faster". Presumably this is code for "please wait while we check your identity card".

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  13. How on earth can you represent as neutral something that so changes the relationship between state and citizen? The Information Commissioner and the Lords cross-party committee have both underlined this as a serious concern - something which forces my relationship with my government to be inverted to a degree whereby I become its servant can't possibly be described as 'neutral'.

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  14. Oh and back to Neil's "massive public support" (NOT!) for ID cards.

    We must all believe everything that this completely honest and public-spirited labour dictatorship ...cough.. err.. government, because everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

    So Neil: have you stopped beating your wife?

    No: it is the citizenry that makes the government: our government is of our making. If it turns out to be really rather nasty, it must be our fault. And we must be punished. And entered into some monster database...

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  15. (Sidenote: Interesting, Blogger doesn't remove old links if you change the name of the post, hence my single, edited article gets listed twice below.)

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  16. Neil, I'm making a request. I can't find a blog which supports New Labour's plans to increase the length of time a suspected terrorist can be held without charge - can you do the honours? Failing that, a robust defence of using evidence obtained by torture or the abolition of trial by jury will suffice.

    Thanks in advance.

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  17. I spoke too soon. Harry's Place has done the job for you.

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  18. "So firstly we established that the concept of ID cards is a neutral concept..."

    We have established nothing of the sort. You have asserted it. Something that fundamentally changes the relationship between the citizen and the state is not, by any stretch of the imagination, even remotely neutral.

    Your ability to stretch the English language is comparable to that of the Right Dishonourable Mr Blair.

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  19. So firstly we established that the concept of ID cards is a neutral concept.

    I could just easily say that nuclear weapons are a neutral concept. I wouldn't make it true, or indeed mean anything at all.

    believe that destroying this bill is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    This bill is so very very bad that this is worth doing. Throw the baby out as well, its the only way to be sure.

    Any practical problems with the scheme will quickly be shown when it comes to the crunch of putting the scheme in place.

    After billions of pounds worth of taxpayers money will have been spunked on this dismal white elephant. Doubtless any information gathered will be kept anyway, for our "safety" of course.

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  20. Neil,

    Let me quote you again.

    "For every 'potential' abuse pointed to by opponents there are 'potential' equal and opposite benefits."

    I highlighted a potential abuse of the proposed identity card scheme. I would like to know what the equal and opposite benefit is.

    You response appears to be 'The identity card is not being abusive. It is the body administering the scheme so your objection doesn't count'.

    As for our police and security services never abusing power they give themselves, look here

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2003-04-28.108787.h&s=995+terrorism#g108787.r0

    During policing of RAF Fairford the police used the terrorism act 995 times to stop and search protestors,

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2004-09-01.183826.h&s=raf+fairford#g183826.q0

    Of those 995 searches, not a single charge was made, only six were subsequently arrested and *none* of those for terrorism related activities.


    I've now presented you with the government giving itself the power to abuse innocent citzens and going ahead and abusing innocent citizens.

    I reject your suggestion that the current government would not abuse it's power, and provide you with documented evidence of it having done so in the past.

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  21. Neil - I wonder if you've seen the news today. In spite of your unsubstantiated claim that (I'm doing this from memory so excuse any slight errors) "Crims would rather not do on-line fraud", it seems face-to-face card fraud is down. In fact card fraud is down overall; however, cardholder-not-present fraud (which couldn't be addressed by the daft ID card scheme) is up.

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  22. Have you stopped beating your wife

    Good grief. That would be funny if it weren't real.....

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  23. Lots of points here, thanks. I'll see if I can address the most important.

    "Do you agree with me that the 'concept of ID cards' is neutral?"

    Chris: "you are going to have to very carefully define what you mean by that before anybody is going to engage seriously with it"

    The idea of this post was to give a sort of 'base philosophical' answer to hundreds of related questions I was being asked in the comments.

    I thought the post had adequately defined what I meant by the 'concept of ID cards being neutral'. But I'll try to elaborate.

    I think where we tend to disagree is on how we think about govts.

    I see the govt as just an extension of us. We elect representatives to reflect our views.

    Obviously the system has a number of dysfunctional aspects and could be improved, but essentially 'we are the government'. I don't see them as an enemy. I see the govt as something we should work 'alongside' to try and improve its performance. All ID cards do, is help in the exchange of useful information that help improve this performance.

    ID cards for me, are neutral because they are just 'a method of communication'. You would probably view this as an 'extension of govt power'. But even viewing it as such, is only a bad thing if you view govts as on balance bad, I don't, I think you do. This is not to say that govts are not prone to corruption and incompetence. Of course they are, but 'on balance' this is more than cancelled out by the good things they do. This, as far as I can see is why, in general, we support the idea of having a govt.

    Now for me anything that improves communication between govt and citizen is a good thing because it will improve the performance of govt.

    "It appears that you want to obtain my agreement that there exists some example of an ID card scheme which is not (let's say) actively dangerous, and then jump up and down in triumph, crying, "See! You agree with the principle of ID cards!""

    I can assure you, that was not my intention at all. All I was trying to do is break this subject down into axioms, and explain why I think the ID scheme is a good idea in principle. From this principle I was then going to address the more practical concerns.

    You have put forward a number of practical concerns about the govt's proposals, a lot of which I agree with. I can understand why this alone could make someone an opponent of the govt's scheme.

    What I was interested in, was your objection in principle. It seems from your comment, that you are very apprehensive about admitting that ID cards are in principle fine. You seem worried that this would in some way damage your objection against the govt's proposals. I think that this depends on your views of how insurmountable the problems are in the govt's scheme. Because you disagree with me here, it is quite intellectually honest to be in favour of ID cards in principle but against the specific govt proposals. What I don't think is intellectually honest is to agree that ID cards are neutral and govts 'on balance' a force for good, but still be against ID cards in principle.

    "What you and I both know is that the implementation will work well enough because it has to. There are loads of examples of large databases like this that do work."

    "Neil, this really is wretched. Can't you come up with something better?"

    I think it is relevant to highlight that there are large databases out there that work well despite stern practical and security tests. This suggests to me that a successful ID database is easily achievable.

    Scribe: "Here, there is (as far as I can see) a insurmountable difference between the ID used in banks and the ID proposed under the government scheme - namely that the ID tokens (cards) issued by the bank are *disposable*. If my card details are stolen, I cancel my card, and get a new one from the bank. I can change my pin. If my biometric details are stolen, how can I change them?"

    I've talked about this specific issue elsewhere but basically; new technology will mean biometric details CAN be changed, by altering the 'part' of biometrics stored or the 'accuracy'. As it happens, biometrics change over time anyway, so everyone will have to update their biometrics over a certain period, the govt say 10 years, opponents are arguing less than 5 years. On top of this, biometric details themselves are of little use to a criminal because their own body's biometric details will be different.

    On the general technology points you raise, like I suggest in the post, any technology that doesn't work will not be used. If certain biometrics are too unreliable they won't make the scheme, its that simple.

    Urko: "Compulsory ID cards are morally wrong, but the current scheme will fail as a result of a range of practical issues."

    I just don't accept either. I really don't understand how morals come into 'having to prove your identity'. We all accept we have to do this from time to time, for the benefit of both ourselves and the rest of society. Its to protect us against a criminal minority.

    If its the 'invasion of privacy' you object to then, apart from the fact that ALL these personal details of your movements, previous addresses, financial, medical, criminal records etc etc. are already out there, apart from that, explain to me how your life will be specifically detrimentally affected by the govt knowing these details?

    Peter Clay: "The concept of being forced to register my "biometrics" in a database is offensive to me, in the same way that having a number tattooed on my arm would be offensive. I hope you'd find the latter offensive as well."

    I would find tattooing someone not only offensive but ineffective as well.

    The difference is there are no physical detriments to registering your biometric details. Its no difference to someone owning a photograph of you. Its just a way of recording physical data.

    The full Labour manifesto pledge 6 reads;

    "Your country's borders protected: ID cards and strict controls that work to combat asylum abuse and illegal immigration".

    Before you jump in on this, it doesn't state that it will solve this problem, just that it will 'work to combat' the problem, like I think it will in a number of other areas as well.

    "Now, please explain how identity cards are going to make borders more secure, given that borders are already areas where people are required to show passports."

    The biometrics will be an added security feature to protect against false identities. ID cards will make the UK a less attractive place to come for illegal immigrants because it will make access to public services and jobs more difficult.

    Squeezeweasel: "something which forces my relationship with my government to be inverted to a degree whereby I become its servant can't possibly be described as 'neutral'."

    How do ID cards make you the govt's servant?

    Pedant General: "Oh and back to Neil's "massive public support" (NOT!) for ID cards."

    Like I've said before, show me a poll that doesn't have as a headline figure more in favour of ID cards than against?

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  24. How do ID cards make you the govt's servant?

    You do understand how they will change your relationship with, say, the executive branch of the government (i.e. the police), right Neil? At the moment, no branch of the government can apprehend you while you're pootling down the road, minding your own business, if that branch of the government has no grounds for suspicion that you're doing anything wrong.

    ID cards will make the UK a less attractive place to come for illegal immigrants because it will make access to public services and jobs more difficult.

    Are you asserting that ID cards will not make access to public services and jobs more difficult for the rest of us?

    I'd also be really interested to understand how you can think that government is a genuine expression of the will of the people when you also believe that the current voting system is flawed. Claiming that you're 'passionate for electoral reform' while also asserting that 'I see the govt as just an extension of us. We elect representatives to reflect our views' is disingenuous.

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  25. squeezeweazel:

    There is no compulsion to show your card to the police included in the bill.

    Do you think you are a servant of your bank, because you have to show them ID to take out large amounts of your money? This is obviously there partly for your benefit. I don't see any difference with access to services using an ID card.

    As for electoral systems, then yes, I think a move to PR would be a huge improvement in how we are represented, but that doesn't mean that the present system doesn't represent us at all. It obviously represents us, just not as well as it could do.

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  26. Neil,

    I note I was not sufficiently important to merit a response, and a solid example of the government abusing it's powers is not important when an axiom of your argument is the government a force for good.


    You have implied (subtley) that Chris believe that ID cards are a good idea in principle but the implementation is flawed - a considerable extrapolation from his statement, that he should refuse to debate the details of a theoretical and completely unexplained scheme with you.


    Still, your argument is rubbish.

    You move from

    axiom #1 ID cards are a tool without good or evil motive

    axiom #2 Governments are in general a good thing.

    You combine these to get to

    Conclusion #1 This government wants ID cards so they must be a good thing.


    Now this is obviously rubbish, taking your axioms at face value and looking at axiom #2

    'Governments are on average a force for good.'

    In order for your conclusion to be true, this needs to be strengthened to become axiom 2a

    'Each and every action done by this government is an action for good'

    in order to conclude that

    'A specific action done by this government is good, because it was done by this government.'

    Of which the ID cards would be a specific case.

    Now, I've provided a counter example to show that axiom 2a is false, and hence so is your conclusion.

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  27. Not so: Swiss Bank v Robinson established that the bank has to give you all your money back on demand at your branch where the account is kept if you so demand. See http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/pipermail/ukcrypto/2004-August/074461.html - any demand for extra ID is actually spurious and not grounded in law. And *anyway* - my bank card isn't, currently, linked via a database to my medical records, my work status, information about my travel habits - I am happy for it to remain that way.

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  28. Pete Stevens: Sorry I missed you out of my original answer.

    I've never said that corruption and abuse of power are not a part of the government's make-up, just that 'on balance' the government is a force for good.

    Of course there will be abuses of power, but ID cards by themselves don't increase or decrease this abuse. They are totally neutral in this relationship.

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  29. Pete stevens: "Conclusion #1 This government wants ID cards so they must be a good thing."

    I didn't conclude that at all. My conclusion was;

    'if we accept that governments are on balance a force for good, then we have to accept that the neutral concept of ID cards will also be used as a force for good.'

    Which is a totally different thing. I am not saying that because the govt wants something, it must be good.

    I am saying that 'on balance' having govts is a 'force for good', so ID cards being just a facilitatory device, will be 'used' as a force for good.

    ReplyDelete
  30. squeezeweazel:

    Your bank records tell the bank quite a lot about your travel habits.

    Isn't your financial history on its own extremely personal?

    Do you have a mobile phone, this tracks you to within 100 yards?
    What about your ISP records?
    What about CCTV?

    All of these are available to the authorities.

    Your medical and criminal history is on a database somewhere, why are you not campaigning against this?

    All of this is available to the authorities.

    So if you lost your bank card, you will be quite happy that banks don't ask for extra ID?

    Whether its legal or not, I know a number of banks, building societies and post offices that ask me for extra ID and I'm quite happy to give it because I know its for my benefit as well. I don't think I'm their servant for having to produce ID in this way. An ID card in my opinion will be safer and more convenient than digging out utility bills and birth certificates.

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  31. I really don't understand how morals come into 'having to prove your identity' This is it really. The point we disagree on is that you expect me to be lying when questioned about my identity. Unlike you I don't have to prove who I am (not that I can anyway - and nor would I be able to under these proposals) too often - and if I told you where I work, that might surprise you. You accuse opponents of being cynical luddites who won't look to the future in a positive light and don't trust the government. You, on the other hand, want to spend a fortune of all our money on a scheme, the central tenets of which reverse the presumtion of innocence - that's why it's a moral issue.

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  32. Neil, what is the thing that makes the ID card scheme good other than a good body (the government) controlling it ?

    Certainly from reading your material I get the impression that the thing that makes the ID card scheme good is the motivation of the body behind it is generally good.

    If we took the ID card scheme as we're being presented with, which of the following bodies would you be happy running the scheme?

    1: The current government.
    2: Maggie Thatchers Tory Government.
    3: The Direct Marketing Association.
    4: The Mafia.
    5: Oxfam.
    6: The Information Comissioner
    7: No2ID
    8: David Blunkett
    9: The Bush Administration
    10: PETA

    ReplyDelete
  33. One aspect of the proposed legislation that you do not mention is that of cost. The figures cited by the government seem rather on the high side, and of course their track record in estimating the likely cost of large IT projects is not good (see Eyes passim). Independent estimates seem to suggest that by the time we're done, we may well be a cool 15 billion out of pocket.

    Surely, even if we were to agree with your (questionable) view that ID cards are 'neutral', and that the implementation can be made to work (presumably through the application of large amounts of money), there might be better ways to accomplish the government's stated goals.

    As a starting point, perhaps we could protect our citizens from terrorists by hiring more anti-terrorist police. Or protect them from benefit fraud by hiring more benefit fraud inspectors. Or, if we're feeling libertarian, give the whole thing up as a bad lot and give everyone a tax cut.

    Why do you feel that the proposed legislation represents the best possible use of resources? Please, for the sake of my sanity, don't say "because the government is nice", or worse "because the government is us".

    ReplyDelete
  34. urko: "Crims would rather not do on-line fraud", it seems face-to-face card fraud is down. In fact card fraud is down overall; however, cardholder-not-present fraud (which couldn't be addressed by the daft ID card scheme) is up."

    Just noticed this point you made, so sorry for the delay.

    Indeed you are right that total credit card fraud has fallen in the six months to June 30th from £253m to £219m but 'cardholder not present fraud' has risen from £70.2m to £90.6m. This is probably due to the introduction of chip and pin making face to face credit fraud more difficult. However notice that face to face fraud is still HIGHER than cardholder not present fraud. This as I have said before is because 'cardholder not present' fraud holds other dangers for fraudsters, i.e. the delay in receipt of goods and having to enable an address to collect the goods. This all increases the likelyhood of being caught, so they still prefer face to face fraud for speed of transaction and lower risk. ID cards will address this.

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  35. eben upton: I've addressed the cost question in some of the other 15 posts I've made on the subject.

    Generally I believe that the efficiency gains of having an ID scheme will outweigh the costs and that our taxes are higher because we don't have an ID scheme.

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  36. pete stevens:

    I think you can rank the 10 options you gave in order yourself. Any properly elected government I would believe would run the ID card scheme fairly.

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  37. urko:"Unlike you I don't have to prove who I am"

    I'll quote an argument I have used elsewhere;

    I assume you think its a good idea to have driving licences. Nobody asks; why should I have to prove to anyone else that I can drive? It's my business. Yet this is the same argument you use against ID cards. Proof is a necessary inconvenience caused by the untrustworthiness of a minority. It is to the detriment of all of us, to trust everyone without question and the inconvenience is a very, very small price to pay.

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  38. Paul: "Neil, I'm making a request. I can't find a blog which supports New Labour's plans to increase the length of time a suspected terrorist can be held without charge - can you do the honours? Failing that, a robust defence of using evidence obtained by torture or the abolition of trial by jury will suffice."

    To be perfectly honest on this, I haven't a clue how justified the police's claims are to need to hold terrorist suspects for 90 days. Even the present 14 days, seems an awfully long time to me to hold someone without charge. I'm no expert on this, I really don't know how much time police realistically need, its a difficult subject.

    I certainly would never defend the use of torture evidence (even from abroad) for the simple reason that (even before we get to the moral aspects), evidence obtained in this way is totally unreliable.

    As for the getting rid of trial by jury in minor cases, I think there are arguments based on cost, that make this a reasonable thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Just trying to help you on to other subjects! I can't believe there's much new to be said on ID cards after your admirably resilient defence.

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  40. Neil, I see that in common with the Home Office, you find the question about how often you need to identify yourself one to be evaded I assume that's because the answer is that it's not very often.

    No doubt it will be more and more as the scheme progresses - as a justification for it.

    A driving licence is used as evidence I passed a test and a place to record any motoring offences - it is not a licence to prove I exist - there's a world of difference in the intent.

    However, on a practical note, the government has provided extensive evidence that it can't run the DVLA properly, included, but not limited to, the farce of people having to re-take tests because the DVLA messed up their entitlements when re-issuing their licences and refused to admit their errors.

    Whilst I see your point about post-war governments being a force for good, I can't equate that with the adminstration run by the woman who supported Pinochet and presumably would have loved it if she could have used some of his methods to suppress dissent.

    You are asking me to trust that all future governments won't either by cock-up or conspiracy, misuse the vital personal data I provide. You have been provided with a wealth of evidence that even our "benign" post-war administrations couldn't be relied on in this respect. The government doesn't trust me not to lie about who I am. Why should I trust the government?

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  41. Neil,

    Would you count the german government of 1933 (in particular between January where Hitler was appointed Chancellor as part of a coalition and Feb 27th, when the Reichstag was burnt and the communists subsequently disbanded) as properly elected?

    If not, why not?

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  42. Pete Stevens:

    Sadly you are right, the Nazis were democratically elected. They received 33% of the vote and went into coalition government with the backing of the Conservatives. Under our FPTP system, the Nazis would have won every seat in parliament.

    However, to claim (as you seem to be doing) that ID cards helped the Nazis into power seems laughable to me. If the Nazis were ever elected here in the UK, we would have far more things to worry about than ID cards.

    Lets be honest, we are not facing a Nazi takover of this country in the foreseeable future. As I have said before, to postpone an advantageous scheme indefinitely because of some extremely remote possibility of a future Nazi govt, is ridiculous.

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  43. urko: "A driving licence is used as evidence I passed a test and a place to record any motoring offences - it is not a licence to prove I exist - there's a world of difference in the intent."

    It is a licence to prove you are who you say you are , as well as to prove you passed a test to drive. Otherwise why have a photo on it? So where's the difference with ID cards?

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  44. urko: "However, on a practical note, the government has provided extensive evidence that it can't run the DVLA properly, included, but not limited to, the farce of people having to re-take tests because the DVLA messed up their entitlements when re-issuing their licences and refused to admit their errors."

    So are you arguing we should get rid of driving licences because of these errors? If not, why not? It's the same argument you use to suggest we shouldn't have ID cards, so why doesn't it apply here?

    "Whilst I see your point about post-war governments being a force for good, I can't equate that with the adminstration run by the woman who supported Pinochet and presumably would have loved it if she could have used some of his methods to suppress dissent."

    The point is, even under FPTP, even Thatcher couldn't get away with the kind of suppression you mention.

    Like I've said before, much as I hated the last Tory govt, they didn't have deliberate malice. They wanted to govern for the benefit of all, just that they looked after their rich friends first and foremost.

    Just as the inland revenue contacts people about overpayment and dishes out rebates, I have faith that under any democratically elected administration, ID cards will be fairly administered.

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  45. Paul: "I can't believe there's much new to be said on ID cards after your admirably resilient defence."

    I think you are right. My last post was a general post because a lot of comments are on the same theme now.

    There is little I can think of that hasn't been covered. Theres so much on here now, I have to look back at other posts, to see what I've already said. I've probably repeated myself several times in answering some comments.

    Its all been interesting though. I'm thinking about writing a post on social justice and civil liberties. I think the abstract of civil liberties used by some liberals blinds them to the suffering of a lack of social justice. What about the human rights of the poor? Its alright to have liberty in theory, but not much fun, if in practise its means nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  46. What about the human rights of the poor? Well, maybe you could start, as Mr Blair advocated in his speech against ID cards (when it was someone else's idea), by redirecting the huge amount of cash into better Policing instead of ID cards. It would also be nice not to charge people who can ill afford it £30 for a government existence licence.

    The proposal is a regressive tax on the poor, aside from being morally wrong.

    No answer about proving your identity or why I should trust a government that won't trust me I see.

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  47. £3 a year is a small price to pay for an ID card that allows travel around Europe and protects against ID fraud. Like I say I think the efficiency savings in govt departments and adminstering benefits and services to people will actually REDUCE our taxes.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Peter Clay9/11/05 1:16 pm

    Driving licenses are optional. I didn't have one until I was 26 and could happily live without one now, and I know several people who don't have one. I leave it in a drawer as I very rarely need to "prove my identity". Indeed, until fairly recently driving licenses weren't identity documents but simply proof of competence to drive. It most certainly is not a license to be Peter Clay, and the photo etc is to deter forgeries. The police can only demand access to it if I'm driving. Crucially, it's not a criminal offence not to have one!

    Similarly bank cards and their "identity verification" are optional. If I don't like the conditions imposed on me by my bank I am free to bank with someone else, or even keep my money under the bed if all banks have egregious conditions.

    It's this freedom to opt out of the system that matters, even if very few people choose to take it up. Being able to make that choice and not have it made for me is what makes a society free.

    There is no compulsion to show your card to the police included in the bill.

    Not this bill, no, but combine ID cards with the anti-terrorist stop-and-search powers (anyone who refuses to show ID must be hiding something, so search them) and the detention without trial powers (3 month prison sentences without a trial in open court), and it starts to look pretty much like compulsion to me.

    I've been thinking about the National Arm Number scheme, and can't actually see why you're against it. It would be convenient and efficient - more so than identity cards, as it would be impossible to lose and not need replacing. Obviously you wouldn't put changeable information like addresses on there, but you'd record that in the central database linked to the arm number. Arm numbers could easily be machine readable.

    You're in favour of efficiency and don't object to national databases on privacy grounds - why are you against mandatory arm numbers? It would be safer and more convenient than digging out utility bills and birth certificates.

    ReplyDelete
  49. urko: "No answer about proving your identity or why I should trust a government that won't trust me"

    Like I've said, why should I have to prove my identity with a driving licence? Answer me that.

    We are the government, we all elect them, they are not the enemy. We are one and the same. Why don't you trust people to drive without the need for driving licences?

    The govt are our representatives, nothing else. ID cards were clearly in the govt manifesto.

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  50. Peter clay: "why are you against mandatory arm numbers?"

    Tattoos can be removed and easily changed, biometrics cannot.

    "Driving licenses are optional."

    Oh come on. You don't even believe that yourself. What if you need to drive for your job?

    If you accept driving licences, you certainly cannot object to the first 5 years of this scheme, because it won't become compulsory before 2013. Complain at the next election about this compulsion, not now when it is 'voluntary'.

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  51. If you accept driving licences, you certainly cannot object to the first 5 years of this scheme, because it won't become compulsory before 2013.

    LIES!

    If I want to renew my passport or driving licence I will HAVE TO GET AN ID CARD! That is compulsion. THAT IS NOT VOLUNTARY.

    I'm starting to think you are just dishonest.

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  52. Well I have Peter Clay telling me driving licences are voluntary because no-one has to drive, and you telling me ID cards are not voluntary because people need a driving licence or passport. Which is it? I'm not lying about anything. It's you guys who can't make up your mind. My position is, if driving licences are voluntary, so are ID cards in their first 5 years.

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  53. Peter Clay9/11/05 2:14 pm

    "Tattoos can be removed and easily changed, biometrics cannot."

    Now you're just trying to wind me up. You can't think of any other objections?

    "Driving licenses are optional."

    "Oh come on. You don't even believe that yourself. What if you need to drive for your job?"

    *shrug* I lived without one for years. It was totally optional for me. There are jobs which don't require driving. I didn't say it was convenient for everyone, I said it was optional.

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  54. Neil, you said "Any properly elected government I would believe would run the ID card scheme fairly."

    You also said that the Nazi party were properly elected.

    Therefore you've stated that the Nazi party would run the ID card scheme fairly.


    I contend that it is not true that and properly elected government would run an ID card scheme without abuse, and I propose the Nazi party, being both properly elected and abusive of an ID card scheme, as an example of my position, and a disproof of yours.

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  55. Peter, I'd already answered that tattoos were an offensive idea because they were physically detrimental. But this wasn't good enough for you, so I followed up with how they are ineffective as well.

    So if driving licences are optional, so are ID cards. Nobody has to have a passport or driving licence do they?

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  56. Peter, I just don't believe that the Nazis would ever be properly elected in this day and age, do you?

    Ok, theoretically I am wrong, not all democratically elected govts have used the ID scheme fairly, but as I have pointed out the ID scheme would be the least of our worries if we elect a govt like the Nazis. As its extremely unlikely that the Nazis will ever win power in the UK, the point is effectively irrelevant anyway.

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  57. Neil I think the point being made is that driving licenses are voluntary in a way that passports and tax aren't. Many people who live in London find that driving isn't something they do particularly often.

    Deciding to be someone who doesn't drive has precisely effects ones ability to drive.

    Deciding not to have an ID card, and hence being unable to renew a passport, prevents ones free movement across borders within europe, something so fundamental to be enshrined as a right by european law.

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  58. If a far right local goverment official were to be elected in, say, Burnley, does not the bill grant him as, any authorized person, the power to examine the records of his consituents?

    It is not at all impossible in "this day an age" that an organisation sharing the views of "NSDAP" would gain access to the database.

    I suspect your and other's opinions on the NIR will change once chief whips use information gleaned about, say, a particular member's treatment at an STD client, to persuade him to vote with the party.

    If you don't beleive even the current government is capable of this you might wonder how information in Walter Wolfgang's MI5 record came into the public domain for the brief 24 hours when the party decided that smear and bury was the correct response.

    ReplyDelete
  59. 20% of the population decide to do without a passport. Not that much different to the 25% who do without a driving licence. Remember a lot of people get provisional driving licences despite never passing their test.

    I don't see how removing someone's right to drive unless they prove their identity is different from removing their right to travel abroad unless they prove identity?

    Football hooligans and others have their right to travel abroad restricted, how does this fit in with EU law?

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  60. Anon, you are defeating your own argument by pointing out the govt already has this information about us. How will ID cards change any power the govt have?

    ReplyDelete
  61. The point Peter Clay made was no that the ID card scheme effects driving licenses and passports in different ways, but that driving licenses are very different thing from and ID card.

    No service or document which is unrelated to driving is conditional on a driving license. In that way they are voluntary.

    Both the Driving license and the Passport will soon be conditional on owning an ID card. In this way an ID card is not voluntary. This is true irrespective of the particular person's wish to possess either of these documents.

    You may argue that having a passport or a driving license is conditional on having an identity, to which I assert I already have one.


    Re european law and football hooligans, the goverment of the day negociated a specific exemption to the law concerned, but it is, I beleive, a contentious issue. The corresponding national legislation was pushed though when the Middle Classes were whipped up into a war
    on hooliganism.

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  62. Re the goverment already having these records, I am not defeating my argument.

    Currently it is an exponentially difficult task for the goverment to find out compromising information about me, it requires actual people to go and search for it. With the introduction of ID Cards such searches will be trivial cost almost no administrative effort, and will be able to be conducted by one person.

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  63. Ok, Why should we have to have a passport to travel abroad?

    ReplyDelete
  64. Anon, so ID cards just make it quicker and more efficient to find information about you. If the govt really want info on you, do you believe a slight extra cost is going to put them off?

    ReplyDelete
  65. Ok, Why should we have to have a passport to travel abroad?

    Many goverments and their associated citizens and subjects have decided that they wish to control and monitor who may cross their borders. In this respect an ID document is required. Be it an ID card or a Biometric passport.

    I have no objection to a national identity card scheme. I have an objection to:

    1) Lies of the form "This is not compulsorary"
    2) The construction and content of the national identity register
    3) Lies of the form "This will generate a huge cost saving when we integrate it with all our goverment databases"
    4) The centralized nature of the scheme and the way in which it records all the acilliary information about when and where the card has been used.

    I don't understand why the goverment isn't merely producing an electronically signed copy of your biometrics in a computer readable form. This would be much cheaper and acheive all of the same aims, without the necessity of centralizing all components of the scheme.



    ID cards just make it quicker and more .. believe a slight extra cost is going to put them off?

    not at all, the fact they have to ask other people and that they might blow the whistle, and the paper trail that would be created is the disincentive, observe how conspiracies unravel eg Mr Blunket's sad departure over emails sent to immigration service, if he had been able to grant the person concerened indefinate leave to remain by clicking on a web form do you suppose it would have come out quite so easily.

    If every google search you did containing someone's name sent an email to them from you with your search terms, would it change your behaviour?

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  66. Why should we have to have a passport to travel abroad?

    There is no very good reason.

    Almost until the First World War, people from Britain didn't (people from many continental European countries had always required passports for internal travel, which their governments imposed because they felt that they would lose control of their populations unless such conditions were enforced; many travellers would claim to be English in order to evade the various bureaucratic strictures this created). In the modern world a passport is mostly a means to enforce price discrimination in airline ticketing -- it has very little security value.

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  67. Anon: "If every google search you did containing someone's name sent an email to them from you with your search terms, would it change your behaviour?"

    No.

    "I have no objection to a national identity card scheme. I have an objection to:

    1) Lies of the form "This is not compulsorary"
    2) The construction and content of the national identity register
    3) Lies of the form "This will generate a huge cost saving when we integrate it with all our goverment databases"
    4) The centralized nature of the scheme and the way in which it records all the acilliary information about when and where the card has been used."

    None of these are a problem in my opinion. NO opponent on here has proved specifically why I should be worried by any of this.

    I think we are going around in circles, we aren't going to agree are we?

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  68. Chris: "In the modern world a passport is mostly a means to enforce price discrimination in airline ticketing -- it has very little security value."

    Why aren't you campaigning against passports then?

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  69. Why aren't you campaigning against passports then?

    One thing at a time, Neil, one thing at a time.

    Should I take it that you think passports aren't essentially a waste of time?

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  70. well 2) and 4) don't seem to bother you, and that's your personal opinion, they bother me and almost everyone I meet. If you don't beleive me try taking pictures of everyone entering a VD clinic.

    There is plenty of evidence for 3), eg the attempt to integrate the computer systems of just two goveremnt department's databases which failed, but you could argue that is is just a problem with govt. IT contracting, and then we'd get into an argument about that which would be fruitless.

    So lets go back to 1) which you dodged and didn't answer.

    ID cards will be compulsary from day one, because they mediate my access to other documents I require.

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  71. Okay Neil, I cave, I've just realised exactly how useful the NIR could be, it could save a fortune in speed dating costs.

    SELECT id, name, address, telephone, photo, distance(address,my_house) as distance FROM registrants WHERE breasts > 'C' AND sexual_diseases = 0 AND gender = 'f' AND age < 30 AND age > 20 AND marital_status='single' AND driving_licence='true' AND distance < '5 miles' AND salary > '25000' ORDER BY salary desc,breasts desc,distance desc

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  72. Chris:

    At least you are being consistent. I don't think you will get very far with your 'lets ditch passports' campaign.

    Yes, I do think passports are useful.

    Anon, I didn't dodge anything. ID cards are as compulsory as passports, but that is not the same as being compulsory. 20% of the population survive without a passport.

    Compulsory means you have to have one, which nobody will have to do until 2013 at the earliest.

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  73. Yes, I do think passports are useful.

    Yes, but I'm guessing that your argument for that is the same as your argument about ID card systems working -- they are useful only on their own terms: you find it useful to have a passport because you are required to have one in order to travel. But do you think requiring people to have a passport in order to travel is itself useful? If so, why?

    (And surely a passport is a regressive tax on travel; surely as a Labour man you oppose that?)

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  74. Chris: "But do you think requiring people to have a passport in order to travel is itself useful? If so, why?"

    In the big scheme of things, it would be wonderful if there were no countries and no inequality. The reality is that people want to move to richer countries and while that is the case, we need controls on who enters and leaves, even if only a temporary measure while wealth is redistributed.

    Passports may have little security at present and that is why extra security features like biometrics are being added, but that is not a reason to get rid of them altogether. How else would you stop 100s of millions of people coming here from war-torn developing countries? How would you tell who was a British citizen and who wasn't?

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  75. Julian Midgley9/11/05 7:00 pm

    Why, then, do I not require a passport to move from a farm labourer's cottage in Cornwall to a mansion in Mayfair?

    The USA might be an even better example - it has exceptionally prosperous bits, and exceptionally poor bits, and lot of people in the poor bits. If there existed some problem related to the tendency of people who live in poor areas to want to move to prosperous areas, surely the Americans would have encountered it, and introduced internal passport controls?

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  76. The difference is job opportunities. Even in the most deprived parts of the US there are rich enclaves and job opportunities. The difference between developed and developing countries is off the scale in comparison.

    Do you really think we could have completely open borders worldwide at the present time?

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  77. Before answering your comments, I'd like to distance myself from your ambitions about removing borders and levelling inequality.

    Passports may have little security at present and that is why extra security features like biometrics are being added...

    How will biometric passports improve security (if at all)?

    How else would you stop 100s of millions of people coming here from war-torn developing countries?

    Do you mean legitimate refugees? If so, I'm afraid that -- unlike the present Labour party -- I am in favour of the right of refugees to seek sanctuary in a safe country.

    Or do you mean people who come here to work, bettering themselves and enriching the country?

    Or are these the benefit scroungers of Tory and BNP myth, and if so, why should we give them benefits when they cannot prove any entitlement?

    How would you tell who was a British citizen and who wasn't?

    Same way we do when people apply for a passport -- with evidence of their birth and customary evidence of identity from persons of good standing.

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  78. Chris: I think your last answer signifies where you go wrong. You follow your principles to their extreme without taking into account practical restrictions.

    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, that is why we have controlled migration. The present controls in my opinion could be loosened a little, but not completely!

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  79. Chris: "Same way we do when people apply for a passport -- with evidence of their birth and customary evidence of identity from persons of good standing."

    So every time someone travels they need a birth cert and a few persons of good standing with them?

    Wouldn't it be easier to just issue them a passport?

    This discussion is just getting silly.

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  80. Chris: "How will biometric passports improve security (if at all)?"

    Oh come on. If I put a new lock on my bike, even if its a crap one, it makes it more difficult to be nicked. I happen to think that biometrics are pretty good locks.

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  81. Neil -- you do not need passports to control (e.g.) entitlement to residence. They were not needed in 1900 -- a time of much harsher restrictions on residence and naturalisation than today -- and they are not needed now. You are taking your idea of "practicality" from what is done now, not from any assessment of what is, or is not, actually practical.

    ... I agree that the persecuted need safe countries, [but] you have to have some form of restriction

    If your economic policy consists in condemning us to eventual penury because you don't like foreigners coming in here to work, I suppose I can accept that. But the idea of refusing sanctuary to legitimate refugees is absolutely abhorrent, and I want no part of it. If that is why you want to require people to have passports to travel, I consider that a strong reason to get rid of them.

    So every time someone travels they need a birth cert and a few persons of good standing with them?

    No. You do not need to know whether somebody is a British citizen or not to know whether or not to let him into the country or not. Well, maybe you do, given your apparent policy on prohibiting travel to people you find threatening, but sensible people do not.

    I happen to think that biometrics are pretty good locks.

    Under the ICAO recommendations, what biometric or biometrics will be used on MRTDs? What are their equal-error rates and failure-to-enrol rates? Will MRTDs use RFID to access the data on the chip, and if so will access be encrypted? Will the biometric data be present on the passport in the form of a hash or a raw image? (In case you don't know, you'll find most of the answers to those questions in responses to your earlier ignorant claims about biometric passports.)

    In the light of this inforamtion, what assessment do you therefore make about the security implications of biometric passports? What attacks will be made easier by them, and which harder? What will be the overall effect? Will it be worth the expense?

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  82. Chris: Don't try to twist my words, I have stated that I can see the present system loosened in terms of both economic migrants and refugees.

    Even the most open bordered person realises that there are limits to how many refugees any one country can take in a certain time period. There is obviously an optimum level of intake for an economy and infrastructure in any time period. I believe this is higher than our present intake, but it is not unlimited. 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.

    If I increase the number of locks on my bike, I reduce the chance of it being stolen. You can pretend biometrics aren't very good, I disagree, but you can't pretend that they won't make it more difficult for forgers.

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  83. neil: Generally I believe that the efficiency gains of having an ID scheme will outweigh the costs and that our taxes are higher because we don't have an ID scheme.

    Do you have a citation for this from a reputable source, or some personal experience to lend your opinion credibility?

    Given your (outrageously offensive) attitude to the 'middle classes' (by which I guess you mean people who labour under the curse of book learning), I worry that this may be purely speculation.

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  84. Neil: I am not twisting your words. You said, "much as I agree that the persecuted need safe countries, you have to have some form of restriction". If that is not a call for a quota on refugees, what is it?

    If I [make up a completely irrelevant analogy...]

    Why don't you answer the question instead?

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  85. eben upton:

    Fraud by its very nature is under-reported, it could be higher than £20 billion a year. Even opponents like NO2ID accept that identity specific theft was at least £150 million a year 2 years ago. With ID theft rising 500% in the last 4 years. The cost of running the ID scheme has been put at £85 million a year. Even if the costs are underestimated and ID fraud is not underestimated, it seems the scheme could easily break even on ID fraud alone, before all the other benefits are taken into account. But the fact of the matter is ID fraud (as NO2ID admit) is probably significantly higher than this. I'm not saying ID cards will solve it all, but it wouldn't need to, to make it worthwhile. Talking of cardholder-not-present fraud, this is less than half of ID fraud, criminals prefer face to face fraud for a number of reasons I have already mentioned. All the links for these figures are provided in the posts I've already written.

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  86. Chris: Are you suggesting that incorporating biometrics will not make it harder for a fraudster?

    Well you are alone in believing that, if you do. Even the LSE accept that biometrics will have an impact in reducing ID fraud.

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  87. Chris: We have restrictions on refugees applications now. You must know that. How else have applications been halved by this government?

    I'm not saying make them tougher, I'm just not saying we should abolish them altogether. I'm all for the free movement of people. I would distribute wealth massively across the globe and abolish countries altogether if I could, but that is not the current reality. Without border controls, the number of refugees descending on the developed world would cause infrastructure collapse, it would be chaos.

    What you suggest would be madness. I'm sure you wouldn't use this as an argument against ID cards with the general public, because you would quickly lose sympathy.

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  88. It is true that not everyone has a passport or a driving licenece.

    However those that drive often NEED to drive for all kinds of reasons. Public transport isn't massively wonderful and many many people need to drive to get to work, to keep family ties, to visit friends, in short to live their lives.

    If these people cannot have a driving licence without an ID card then they have a choice between getting an ID card or not living their life. This is really so close to compulsion that to deny otherwise is spectacular pedantry.

    Ditto to passports, not everyone has one. For example foreigner hating sun readers (that paper has been annoying me lately) won't want to travel abroad and come into contact with filthy foreigners. There are many others however who need to travel abroad to work. They will be compelled to get an ID card or find another job. People who holiday abroad may have a choice in getting an ID card or not having holidays abroad, but I'm reasonably sure this will feel like compulsion.

    The other option is to to renew all these documents ahead of time. Something most people won't think to do as it seems that the public is woefully unaware of the ID card scheme. My passport runs out in 2011, 2 years before the cards are to become even more compulsary. I won't be renewiing my passport because if the ID card hasn't been killed stone dead by then I'll be taking my IT skills and experience and emigrating to a country less on the slippery slope to totalitarianism, that doesn't demand my fingerprints simply for existing.

    Hopefully this won't be needed, yesterdays vote on the plan to intern people for 3 months on the whim of the police has given me some hope in Parliament.

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  89. "The cost of running the ID scheme has been put at £85 million a year."

    Er, no.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/09/egov_idcard_costing/

    "The total average annual running costs for issuing passports and ID cards to UK nationals is currently estimated at 584million." -- source - the Home Office

    Given the ID card scheme is currently estimated to cost almost seven times your estimate, do you still expect it to save money? Where in particular do you think the half a billion a year of savings will come from?

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  90. Chris: We have restrictions on refugees applications now.

    No. Anyone can apply for asylum. We do not have a quota now, but that appears to be what you are suggesting. A quota on refugees was, of course, a Tory policy at the last election, and I was pleased to see it roundly defeated.

    How else have applications been halved by this government?

    Mostly because the number of refugees seeking asylum fell during the period over which that claim was made (autumn 2002 to autumn 2003, as I recall). Other European countries experienced a fall in the number of applicants over the same period, suggesting that this didn't have a lot to do with UK domestic policy. As with the CCTV example, you need a control group too -- I surely shouldn't have to point this out to somebody keenly trying to quote Dawkins in his support?

    The rest of the fall is probably down to bureaucratic obstruction of asylum applications (e.g. the attempt to prevent people from applying for asylum at any time, as required by the refugee convention, but instead forcing an application at time of entry; the illegal restrictions on the use of forged travel documents to flee to a safe country; etc.).

    (By the way, the asylum system is abused, possibly heavily abused; but that should not be used as an excuse for denying sanctuary to people who need it.)

    (Source: Eecutive Summary of NAO report on asylum statistics; see PDF page 9.)

    Without border controls, the number of refugees descending on the developed world would cause infrastructure collapse, it would be chaos.

    1. Evidence?

    2. Suppose that there were a humanitarian disaster in a nearby European country -- let us say, a genocidal government. Millions want to flee; the alternative is death at the hands of their oppressors. Is your preferred policy to shut these people out and let them die?

    I'm sure you wouldn't use this as an argument against ID cards with the general public, because you would quickly lose sympathy.

    You are correct in thinking that most of the public support for ID cards comes from people who are (to a greater or lesser extent) racists, and who think that ID cards will be used to harrass economic migrants, refugees, Muslims and people who look a bit foreign. Generally they are surprised to hear that this is not their intended application and that they would not be all that much use for the purpose claimed.

    Chris: Are you suggesting that incorporating biometrics will not make it harder for a fraudster?

    You made a very specific claim about the effect of biometric passports, and then you did not back it up. I asked you a number of questions about your claim, which you refused to answer. I, meanwhile, have made no such claim about biometric passports here. So, come on, back up your claim or withdraw it.




    If I increase the number of locks on my bike, I reduce the chance of it being stolen.

    Compare: "If I increase the number of handguns in my house, I reduce the chance of it being burgled."

    I happen to think that biometrics are pretty good locks.

    Do you know what is meant by the "irrevocability" of biometric authenticators? Would you use a lock with an irrevocable key?

    You can pretend biometrics aren't very good[...]

    I'm not pretending -- I'm basing my claims on the Passport Service's own study, and other similar studies (the Passport Service's study's results are generally consistent with those quoted elsewhere, though in some cases they got results significantly worse than expected; ignore vendor "studies" which are usually worthless advertising bumf).

    Do you know what the failure-to-enrol rates measured for the various biometrics are, by the way?

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  91. ...will actually REDUCE our taxes

    Excellent - If I get my lawyer to draw up a contract, will you promise to pay any extra taxes for me if this proves not to be the case.

    No post war government has reduced taxation overall. Thatcher redistributed the burden on to the poor, but contrary to many Tory apologists, didn't reduce taxes.
    Your faith on this would be funny if it wasn't so sad. By the way, I'm not generally against paying my taxes for decent services. Not even the government has said the ID cards scheme would reduce taxes (presumably because they know it won't).

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  92. pete stevens: As you well know the £580m a year is over the first ten years 'including start up costs'. The start-up costs are a one off cost. In the long term these costs will diminish but the benefits will acrue. The actual annual maintenance cost is £85m. The Home Office have also estimated it will take 14 years to break even. Why don't you accept those figures?

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  93. Pete: Think of any long-term project, you don't factor in the start-up costs over the short term. Do you think the railways would ever have been, or the roads. You have to think over 20 years or maybe longer or no beneficial long-term project would ever come about.

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  94. urko: "No post war government has reduced taxation overall."

    Measured as a percentage of National Income, the overall tax take used to be around 48% in the 1970s, it now is around 38%.

    ID cards will bring about savings, whether this is dished out in tax cuts or extra public spending will depend on who is elected, probably.

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  95. Chris: "No. Anyone can apply for asylum. We do not have a quota now, but that appears to be what you are suggesting."

    Chris-you know you are being very disingeniuos here. I was as disgusted as anyone at the Tories scurrilous campaign. I DO NOT SUPPORT QUOTAS and stop trying to suggest I do. On the question of restrictions, you say there aren't any then say this..

    "suggesting that this didn't have a 'lot' to do with UK domestic policy."

    and this...

    "The rest of the fall is probably down to bureaucratic obstruction of asylum applications"

    So obviously (as you admit) there ARE restrictions. I'm saying we can LESSEN these restrictions but not bet rid of them altogether.

    "Suppose that there were a humanitarian disaster in a nearby European country -- let us say, a genocidal government. Millions want to flee; the alternative is death at the hands of their oppressors. Is your preferred policy to shut these people out and let them die?"

    No, I would let them ALL in if they had nowhere else to go.

    These are exceptional cases, and of course it would be unfair for the UK to take the full burden if other rich developing countries weren't also taking their share.

    On the point of infrastructure collapse. The latest figures for 2003 suggest 16 million refugees. Do you think a country of the density of the UK should or could take ALL of these refugees? And this is just refugees, without taking into account economic migrants.

    The world's developed regions take an estimated 2.3m migrants a year from the less developed regions (Europe takes 0.8m), and that is with all the current restrictions in place. How many do you think the UK could take a year if it dropped all its restrictions? Are you telling me this wouldn't cause infrastructure problems?

    There are people literally dying to get into the UK, from the safety of France, and you are telling me that if we opened our borders to every country in the world we would be able to cope? You are living in a dream world.

    At least I know how to argue against you now. I'm sure any reasonable person would object to what you say. Can't you see how you have been driven to this ridiculous position by opposing ID cards. You now have to oppose passports and all border controls as well, to try and justify your opposition to ID cards. I think you've lost the argument on this point, Chris.

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  96. The Home Office have also estimated it will take 14 years to break even. Why don't you accept those figures?

    1) Because the governments record on IT systems is absolutely abysmal.

    2) They won't refuse to release the full figures and working.

    3) After Iraq I no longer trust a damn word that comes out of the Labour spin machine/

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  97. ack!

    The "won't" shouldn't be in the above post!

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  98. If you are not going to believe any of the figures the govt comes up with, then it is going to be impossible for them to persuade you isn't it?

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  99. Also I've shown why this IT database has significant advantages over the other ones that have had difficulties.

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  100. I DO NOT SUPPORT QUOTAS and stop trying to suggest I do.

    I'm not "trying to suggest it" -- you stated it. You said that you want to restrict the entry of legitimate refugees to this country based only on their numbers. That is a quota, and you suggested it, above.

    Now, you have reversed your position under questioning. That is good, but not much to be proud of; I would expect even Michael Howard to do so in the hypothetical situation I described.

    As for the rest of your piece, you are confusing freedom of travel with freedom of residence and so forth; hence your bewilderment.

    Also I've shown why this IT database has significant advantages over the other ones that have had difficulties.

    I think you misspelled "asserted without evidence".

    Oh, are you going to answer my questions about biometrics? I presume so, since you haven't withdrawn your claim.

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  101. Oh -- are you going to answer the question about irrevocability of biometrics? And if not, can I take it that you're withdrawing your claims about biometrics?

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  102. "I'm not "trying to suggest it" -- you stated it. You said that you want to restrict the entry of legitimate refugees to this country based only on their numbers. That is a quota, and you suggested it, above."

    I will say it again.

    I DO NOT SUPPORT, OR HAVE EVER SUPPORTED THE USE OF A QUOTA ON REFUGEES ENTERING THIS COUNTRY AND I NEVER WILL.

    If that isn't clear enough for you I don't know what is.

    A QUOTA is a specific number. Bureacratic RESTRICTIONS do not give a specific number.

    YOU have stated that you agree there are RESTRICTIONS on the number of refugees entering this country using bureacratic and other methods and tighter restrictions are partly why the number of applications have halved.

    YOU have stated this, so stop trying to twist words. RESTRICTIONS are NOT the same as a QUOTA. Even you accept there are currently restrictions. This is NOT the same as a QUOTA.

    I stated I wanted these restrictions actually REDUCED so more refugees can enter the country. What I said is these restrictions cannot be ABOLISHED altogether, like you claim.

    To compare my position on this to Michael Howard is like comparing Mahatma Gandi to Ghengis Khan.

    If you don't apologise for this slur, you are a complete and utter liar and everyone will be able to see that in black and white. You have made a mistake, own up. I have owned up for getting a few facts wrong on biometrics in an earlier thread. It takes a big man to admit he is wrong. IF you can't do that, I will lose all respect for you.

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  103. Biometrics can be changed, its difficult, but it can be done.

    They change over time naturally anyway. Opponents claim ID cards would have to be reissued every five years for this very reason.

    Also not all of the biometric data has to be stored on the NIR, as I have explained before, so even if security were breached, these partial biometrics could be changed.

    Also new technologies in encryption are advancing all the time, and you cannot say that a breakthrough will not be made in the future. I know the fuzzy nature of biometric data makes this difficult but no scientist is saying it won't happen.

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  104. I forgot to add that biometrics are going to be EXTRA security measures used in conjunction with the current security, so there is no way it can't be less secure than at present. In fact common sense tells you it will be more secure and could be very secure indeed.

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  105. Also biometrics could be used in conjunction with a pin number.

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  106. OK.

    You said that you want restrictions on refugees getting in to the country.

    You said that there were ("practical") limits to the numbers who could be "assimilated".

    The clear implication was that the restrictions should be used to keep the numbers of migrants within the "practical limit", or, as we say in English, "quota".

    To your credit you later backed away from this statement, and now say that you are not in favour of a quota.

    Were you not in fact saying that the restrictions should be directed towards keeping the number of persons accepted within the "practical limit"?

    Do you think that a system which imposes more and more arbitrary (and often illegal) restrictions in order to limit applications to a particular, arbitrary number (say, "half what they are now") is materially different from a quota? Is it not simply a quota arrived at constructively?

    Does it matter whether we say to the thousandth applicant, "No Mr Smith, you did not apply sufficiently soon after arriving in the country; you must go back to Zimbabwe", or "No Mr Smith, we already have enough Zimbabweans here; go away"?

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  107. Biometrics can be changed

    Yes, to a greater or a lesser extent.

    Now, let's go back to your analogy and comment about biometrics making good locks (I think you meant keys, but whatever). Let's say that you replace the lock on your bicycle with a lock which uses iris-codes.

    Suppose that a thief then wishes to steal your bicycle, and so takes a photograph of you, and presents the photograph to the lock, opening it and so obtaining your bicycle.

    Now you are stuffed. You could use your other eye for the next lock -- but that only works once -- or you could undergo surgery (e.g. some types of cataract surgery can alter the iris enough to change its iris code), but that's a bit extreme.

    Alternatively you could go back to a normal lock with an actual key or a combination, either of which can easily be changed.

    Remind me why you think biometrics make good locks (keys)?

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  108. I forgot to add that biometrics are going to be EXTRA security measures used in conjunction with the current security, so there is no way it can't be less secure than at present.

    This is common sense. It turns out not to be true. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/jgd1000/combine/combine.html

    Combining multiple high-tech security measures may make a system weaker.

    "Also biometrics could be used in conjunction with a pin number."

    Well, that depends on what they're being used for. We know there will be plenty of systems which do biometric lookups without cardholder consent (the police are planning to compare their 900,000 unmatched fingerprints with the NIR - better hope you're not one of the false positives for that one), so our hypothetical biometric-matching terrorist has to get the use of one of those. Exactly how easy that is depends on how much access private companies are allowed to the system.

    Incidentally, the ability of people to do biometric lookups on me without my consent is one of the things that specifically offends me about the currently proposed system.

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  109. Chris: you are playing with words.

    So, if quotas are already in place as you suggest, what was Michael Howard on about? Of course a quota is different. It is an exact number, restrictions mean numbers are variable depending on how people apply. I've already stated some restrictions should be lifted and more refugees let in than at present. That has always been my stated position, It has not changed as you suggest and I am sure I have never used the term 'assimulated', show me where I've used it?

    You are trying to label me the same as Michael Howard, which is completely ridiculous. You know this is an inappropriate slur, you should apologise for this if you've got any decency. I have apologised for getting a few facts inaccurate on biometrics in the early part of the debate. Can you bring yourself to be honest on this?

    So, as you think there should be no practical limits on immigration and no restrictions in place, there would be no problem if the UK immediately took in ALL 16 million refugees currently in the world. Is that right? If not, why not?

    "Remind me why you think biometrics make good locks (keys)?"

    They are going to be extra security features, so even if they were completely useless, which they are not, it wouldn't make something less secure.

    If I lock my bike with my usual lock and then add a biometric lock as well. That means as well as going to the trouble of getting a photo to unlock the biometric lock (and high tech cameras stop this problem), a thief has to get past the original lock as well. This has obviously made it more difficult for the thief to steal my bike.

    As John Daugman himself says 'it is an arms race', I have never claimed biometrics are completely unbreakable as a security feature. They are just like the use of antibiotics this century. Eventually bacteria have caught up and got round the early anti-biotics. But nobody would wish we never discovered them or used them.

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  110. if quotas are already in place as you suggest

    I'm not sure to what extent that is correct, actually. If the total number of refugees coming to rich countries had risen in 2002/3 rather than fallen, I don't know whether this government would nevertheless have tried to hit their target of "halving" applications. Bluntly, I do not know if they are as immoral as you or Michael Howard. However, it is definitely true that they could use the same sorts of obstructions to enforce an arbitrary quota, such as your "practical limit".


    Do I think that we should accept all 16 million refugees you say are abroad in the world? Well, this is a purely hypothetical question, since most of them aren't actually trying to get into this country; indeed, many of them aren't even in a position to. Of those in a position to come to this country, in the natural run of things they are likely to try to seek refuge in a variety of different countries which they could also reach. But in the not remotely likely situation that there genuinely were no other options -- either we take in the refugees, or we abandon them to death or totalitarianism or some other dreadful fate -- then yes, of course we should take them in and bear any temporary hardships this brings with good grace. We are morally obliged to.

    You have not been consistent on this point. You have argued alternately for a quota, and then that a quota is morally abhorrent and that you do not think one should be implemented. You apparently think that a quota implemented by bureaucratic obstructiveness is less offensive than a quota implemented by a pure cut-off; I don't understand why, since its consequences are just as bad for those excluded. Make your mind up.

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  111. Chris:

    YOU HAVE ADMITTED YOURSELF THAT RESTRICTIONS ARE CURRENTLY IN PLACE through bureacratic methods.

    By YOUR DEFINITION that is a quota.

    I prefer the dictionary definition.

    "A number or percentage, especially of people, constituting or designated as an upper limit: a country with strict annual immigration quotas"

    Michael Howard got into a mess electorally by stating he wanted a quota. The question he was asked was; what is the upper limit? Nobody ever said it doesn't matter because we already have a quota did they?

    We have restrictions in place, you admit that, but depending on the number of applications the numbers will always vary, there is no upper limit, so it is not a quota.

    I can admit when I'm wrong, can you?

    If you can't this will explain a lot about why you believe what you do about ID cards. You have absolute faith in the abstract concept of civil liberties no matter what it does to real civil liberties in practise.

    There are all sorts of restrictions on refugees entering the UK, some can't afford to get to a safe country, some have made it to a safe country but still want to come here, some are not allowed to leave their country by the authorities and would like to apply for asylum to Britain from there.

    According to you we have a moral obligation to pay for their travel and let them apply from where-ever. Surely we have a moral obligation to contact those 16 million refugees and let them know they can come here? If we don't we are placing restrictions on their entry, a quota in your semantic world.

    Remember that as well as refugees, you would have no restrictions on economic migrants either. Do we have a moral obligation to contact all of them and invite them here as well?

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  112. We have restrictions in place, you admit that, but depending on the number of applications the numbers will always vary, there is no upper limit, so it is not a quota.

    I've already said that I do not believe that the government is presently trying to operate a quota (specifically, I don't think they would have tried to force the number of applicants down in the face of an actual increase in the number of refugees) though it certainly could use the same dishonest tactics it is presently using to obstruct legitimate applicants to create the same effect as a quota, if it wanted to.

    depending on the number of applications the numbers will always vary, there is no upper limit, so it is not a quota.

    As I said, I do not believe that the present government are operating or trying to operate a quota. You are the one who raised the idea of an arbitrary quota (what you falsely call a "practical limit") on applicants, and the idea that "restrictions" should be used to implement it.

    The question of whether we should assist people to flee oppresive countries is interesting but it is not relevant to the question of whether we should accept actual legitimate refugees seeking sanctuary in this country. As such it looks to me very like an attempt to evade the point at issue. You should not use it as a smokescreen to hide behind.

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  113. At the moment the level of immigration into the UK is beneficial.

    We both agree on that, right?

    I think the levels of immigration could increase quite considerably and still be beneficial.

    We both agree on that, right?

    If refugees had nowhere else to go and their plight was serious, of course they could come to the UK, whatever their numbers.

    We both agree on that, right?

    But surely you must recognise there comes a point where the level of immigration would become not just seriously burdensome but maybe even detrimental to both the country's occupants and the refugees themselves because of strains on the infrastructure- housing, education, sanitory conditions, etc.

    I think 16 million refugees plus potentially hundreds of millions of economic migrants arriving in the UK over a short period would be past that point.

    Restrictions are reasonable if it means that refugees are more equally spread amongst recipient safe nations. This is both good for the recipient nations and the refugee.

    Name me a country in the world that hasn't got some sort of restrictions on asylum applications and on immigration?

    Unless there is international agreement and every country removes their immigration restrictions, maybe just maybe there would be enough resources for the developed countries to absorb all the economic migrants and refugees in a short period. Any country that did so unilaterally would risk a huge burden to its country and maybe even infrastructure collapse.

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