09 November 2005

Is there a better example of why we need ID cards?

The case of Earl Buckingham in today's Guardian is a fine example of why we need ID cards.

"Every four minutes, someone has their identity stolen, last year out of 135,000 cases, 70,000 assumed the name of a dead person."

All someone needs is your name, address and date of birth, add a couple of utility bills and they can apply for credit cards and loans in your name.

We can't let this continue, the sooner we get biometric ID cards the better.

57 comments:

  1. Why? As far as I am aware, he had committed no crime, beyond applying for a passport in a false name, itself not exactly a major offense.

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  2. Yes, but unless we know what other identities he has had, which we don't, then we will never know what crimes he has committed. Also what about the effect of his actions on his family?

    This case demonstrates just how easy it is to get a false identity. You can't say that is a good thing. I think the potential for criminals is demonstrated by this case.

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  3. Until we know everything about neil harding how can we be sure he is who he says he is, maybe he has comitted a crime in another country I demand he post a full CV and details of any history of arrests. Also as I am a keen supporter of femenist causes, I wish to have all of his relationships peer reviewed. We must know for the safety of the children if Neil Harding is safe, I suspect he is hiding something.

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  4. Peter Clay9/11/05 5:53 pm

    "The consequences for Buckingham's own children, who cannot be named, will not end with his prison sentence. The prosecutor said the UK authorities had ordered their British passports to be revoked with immediate effect because they were obtained under a false name."

    Well, they're fucked. What's their real name? Do they even have one at all?

    As to the loans thing, I believe I've talked about this before, on http://brightonregencylabourparty.blogspot.com/2005/10/whos-telling-truth.html The problem is not the taking out of loans, but the attempted recovery of loans from people who didn't borrow the money. The government should impose a requirement on lenders to be very sure about who they're lending money to, which would solve this problem in the private sector at no cost to the taxpayer or to people who prefer not to get into debt.

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  5. Surely the problem here is that we shouldn't give passports to dead people.

    In which case the solution would be, don't give passports to dead people wouldn't it?

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  6. Neil -- this chap has been convicted for obtaining a passport by deception; if I were you, I'd withdraw the implication that he has committed any other crimes unless you have evidence to that effect which was not presented to the court.

    Two other comments: firstly, you don't need ID cards to close the "Day of the Jackal" security hole; Martin, in another comment, suggested one possibility (marking duplicate birth certificates as such and prohibiting their use for obtaining passports); doing the check against the register of deaths at the time of application would also have caught him. Similarly, he would not be caught at time of application for an ID card under his assumed name unless the ID card application checks the register of deaths too. ID cards don't really have anything to do with this one.

    Basically, if you want to stop people from getting passports other than in the names you prefer, the solution is to fix the system of passport issuing, not create a massively expensive ID card scheme which will probably detract from that aim.

    "Every four minutes, someone has their identity stolen, last year out of 135,000 cases, 70,000 assumed the name of a dead person."

    Please explain exactly what you mean by "identity theft" in this context, and where your statistics come from?

    (By the way -- we have no name law in this country, and it is perfectly legitimate to change your name at any time. It is not clear what, if anything, a person who changed their name to "Christopher Edward Buckingham" and obtained a passport in that name would have done wrong. This chap was done, in effect, for a material deception about the circumstances of his birth.)

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  7. Peter Clay9/11/05 6:02 pm

    "we will never know what crimes he has committed"

    I thought you needed witnesses in a court to show that someone had committed crimes, not a biometric identity card.

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  8. Peter Clay9/11/05 6:05 pm

    What's your address, Neil? Or do you have something to hide?

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  9. Chris: Come on, even the judge said "Inevitably, someone doesn't assume a false identity unless there is a very good reason, or some very, very deep seated cause."

    Detective Constable Dave Sprigg said "I think he has got some dark secret and I dont think he will ever reveal who he is".

    I got the ID theft figures from the same page in the Guardian as the story, unfortunately I can't find an online link.

    "firstly, you don't need ID cards to close the "Day of the Jackal" security hole; Martin, in another comment, suggested one possibility (marking duplicate birth certificates as such and prohibiting their use for obtaining passports)"

    In fact Martin suggested they had actually closed this loophole, until I checked and found out they hadn't.

    The facts are modern lifestyles require an identity and having more than one is 'cheating' in my opinion. Biometric ID cards will limit everyone to one identity. That seems a good thing to me.

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  10. Peter; when we've got ID cards, I would feel more easy about someone like you having my address. After reading about how easy it is, I don't want you stealing my identity do I?

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  11. we will never know what crimes he has committed Well since the Police now have his prints and DNA, he can't have any previous convictions, or they'd have found 'em. So you are, as you do, assuming guilt first (just as you do when you assume I'm a liar if you ask who I am). This is a reversal of the way the law is supposed to work in this country, but it fits perfectly with your advocacy of ID cards.

    Here's a bit of news - if we ever have the stupid ID card scheme, bad people will still do bad things. Illegal immigration will continue, suicide bombers will strike if they feel inclined, people will fail to register and pretend to be other people. Meantime, the law abiding will have spent a lot of time, cash and effort and sacrificed their privacy for nothing.

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  12. Come on, even the judge said "Inevitably, someone doesn't assume a false identity unless there is a very good reason, or some very, very deep seated cause."

    The judge's words appear to me have been chosen quite carefully. As has been explained to you repeatedly, such a "very, very deep seated cause" may be wholly legitimate. You do not know whether this person is a crook or whether he is (e.g.) hiding from a vengeful gangster on whom he has informed -- or even both.

    Detective Constable Dave Sprigg said "I think he has got some dark secret and I [don't] think he will ever reveal who he is".

    Also completely consistent with his taking on a new identity for his own safety.


    I got the ID theft figures from the same page in the Guardian as the story, unfortunately I can't find an online link.

    Should I therefore take it that you are withdrawing that claim? If you are not, please (a) explain what you mean by "identity theft"; and (b) subtantiate your statement.

    In fact Martin suggested they had actually closed this loophole, until I checked and found out they hadn't.

    They hadn't closed it in 1983 -- a mere 11 years after The Day of the Jackal was published. In fact it took the UK Passport Service almost 32 years -- and that in an overcomplicated and expensive way.

    Biometric ID cards will limit everyone to one identity.

    Even the Home Office has now accepted that this is not true. Biometric ID cards may make it a bit harder to get more than one identity, but probably not much. Given that (according to UKPA's enrollment trial) ~1 in 1,000 people won't be enrolled with any useful biometrics anyway, it won't be hard for somebody determined to enroll multiply.

    You are correct to believe that I don't think it's a good idea to change from a customary model of identity to a state-controlled model of identity. I have given lots of reasons for that, and you have disagreed with them on the basis that, e.g.,
    - you don't care much about what happens to victims of domestic violence;
    - you don't think it matters whether we are able to guarantee the safety of informants in criminal trials;
    - you don't care about the victims of government abuses.
    Now, I'm clearly not going to convince you on those -- you don't give a toss about the vulnerable, you don't care whether the Police are able to obtain testimony in criminal trials, and you think that all governments everywhere are fundamentally nice and never abuse their powers (despite considerable evidence to the contrary).

    Now you are telling me that you also believe that the technology is perfect, even though the government's own report on it says otherwise! This is really quite extraordinary.

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  13. "Yes, but unless we know what other identities he has had, which we don't, then we will never know what crimes he has committed."

    Do you always jump to such silly conclusions?

    As has been pointed out his reasons may be perfectly legitimate. And, to answer your original premise - no, this is not a reason to have identity cards.

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  14. Chris, I do give a toss about the vulnerable. But the vulnerable will not be affected by ID cards. All I've got to say on this, is lets wait and see what happens. I've answered all these questions many times now, and I can't just keep on repeating myself.

    You are right, no system will be perfect, but it will be near as damn it. I just can't wait till this scheme starts and you lot change tack. I've answered all these questions before, its getting too tiring repeating the same answers over and over.

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  15. But the vulnerable will not be affected by ID cards.

    You have not justified this assertion on any of the previous occasions when you have made it. Do you propose to? Alternatively, withdraw it.

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  16. Julian Midgley9/11/05 7:37 pm

    But the vulnerable will not be affected by ID cards

    You have asserted previously that people should be permitted only one identity, and that an identity system that uses biometrics will enable this restriction to be enforced. (You've never supplied any evidence to support this latter assertion, beyond a blind faith in biometrics, but let's leave that for now.)

    I am curious as to how you would change the identity of someone in a Witness Protection Programme, such that a criminal who had a photograph of that person's iris and knew a corrupt official with access to the National Identity Register wouldn't be able to obtain the new name and address of the supposedly protected person.

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  17. I disagree, I think I have justified the statement.

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  18. "As has been pointed out his reasons may be perfectly legitimate. And, to answer your original premise - no, this is not a reason to have identity cards."

    His reasons may well be legitimate but his massive dishonesty in other areas suggests they may not be.

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  19. julian midgley9/11/05 7:45 pm

    You are right, no system will be perfect, but it will be near as damn it

    Your homework assignment - to research the ten largest IT projects ever comissioned by a UK government, and report back on how many could be said to be successful, let alone perfect. Bonus marks will be awarded for listing those which failed outright, comparing the delivery schedule and final costs with those originally budgeted, and for re-evaluating your statement above in light thereof.

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  20. Julian, I've leave it to you, to provide me with this info.

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  21. "His reasons may well be legitimate but his massive dishonesty in other areas suggests they may not be."

    It suggests absolutely nothing.

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  22. "All someone needs is your name, address and date of birth, add a couple of utility bills and they can apply for credit cards and loans in your name."

    How exactly will an ID card change this?

    Since I can't reasonably post my ID card to my bank and my bank has no branches how would the existance of an ID card in my wallet change anything?

    Even if I did post them my ID card, presumably I'd have to include myself in the envelope for them to check my biometrics. Or are you proposing outlawing online banks?

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  23. pete: "How exactly will an ID card change this?"

    When people realise that fraud is a lot higher with online banks than ID card protected transactions they will move back to more traditional methods (like they have in other countries where cardholder-not-present transactions are rightly more distrusted). It will be the consumers' choice to decide what level of risk they prefer.

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  24. Neil,

    Suppose I choose not to use online banks because they're a hive of scum and villany.

    Why would this prevent a fraudster using my identity applying for an online bank?

    Either you outlaw online banks, or it is still possible to apply for loans in other peoples names, ID card or not.

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  25. Pete: you are right it wouldn't. Maybe we should make online banks have face to face enrolment when ID cards come in.

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  26. or maybe we should just dispense with the whole scheme as fundamentally unworkable, prone to abuse, and morally wrong.

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  27. "Is there a better example of why we need ID cards?"

    There had really better be. This guy has committed no crime other than pretending to be what he isn't. No-one was hurt, or robbed, and he is not wanted by any police force or his prints would be on record.

    So ID cards will stop victimless crimes? You'll forgive me if I remain unimpressed.

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  28. His reasons may well be legitimate but his massive dishonesty in other areas suggests they may not be.

    I assume you'll use the same reasoning for all of the people that genuinely need false identities? Bunch of bloody criminals, the lot of em...

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  29. "There had really better be. This guy has committed no crime other than pretending to be what he isn't. No-one was hurt, or robbed, and he is not wanted by any police force or his prints would be on record"

    I don't think his family or the family of the identity he robbed would think it was victimless.

    This example I think just demonstrates how easy ID crime, that was my point.

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  30. "I assume you'll use the same reasoning for all of the people that genuinely need false identities? Bunch of bloody criminals, the lot of em..."

    If he had a genuine reason for keeping his identity secret, he could of told the authorities and kept his anonimity. This means he probably hasn't got a legitimate reason.

    He's obviously going to do a runner from the country in 18 months when he gets out of jail. He'll just get another birth cert and another passport in another name, its easy enough, as he well knows. You obviously have no problem with this. Lets see what happens eh.

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  31. "family of the identity he robbed would think it was victimless"

    What have they lost, exactly? They haven't lost any money. They haven't lost any reputation. They haven't lost any contracts or considerations. AFAICT they haven't even been inconvenienced. The person whose birth certificate was used fraudulently was dead before it happened. They didn't (and couldn't) know it was happening until it was exposed.

    They might be upset about it, but not for anything Dawkins would recognise as a rational reason.

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  32. I don't think his family or the family of the identity he robbed would think it was victimless.

    Fair point.

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  33. If he had a genuine reason for keeping his identity secret, he could of told the authorities and kept his anonimity.

    ... or perhaps been shopped to the people from whom he was running by a crooked police officer, then murdered.

    If your life were at stake, would you take that risk?


    I can see that this chap's refusal to reveal any other name by which he was previously known really irks you, though. What measures do you suggest taking to compel him to confess all? Perhaps we should detain him indefinitely without charge, or send him to a foreign country to be tortured?

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  34. Or maybe we should just make it a lot more difficult for it to happen again by having ID cards.

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  35. Chris: This guys face is all over the national newspapers, if those who are chasing him, don't know now, when will they?

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  36. This guys face is all over the national newspapers, if those who are chasing him, don't know now, when will they?

    Will you do that to everyone who doesn't register for an ID card?

    Perhaps the Sun could put them on the front page, and call them paedophiles, and publish their addresses? After all, if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.

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  37. As for this:

    He's obviously going to do a runner from the country in 18 months when he gets out of jail. He'll just get another birth cert and another passport in another name, its easy enough, as he well knows. You obviously have no problem with this. Lets see what happens eh.

    You want to make emigration a crime, now?

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  38. Or maybe we should just make it a lot more difficult for it to happen again by having ID cards.

    OK. You argue that nobody should be allowed to escape victimisation by changing their identity. You would prefer that the gangsters kill an informant, or an abusive husband their wife, than sanction any loosening of your preferred model of identity.

    It is good that you have now admitted this point without obfuscation. Needless to say, I think it's a shocking and offensive policy to advocate, and very counterproductive; you (presumably) disagree but offer no reasons in your support.

    This guys face is all over the national newspapers, if those who are chasing him, don't know now, when will they?

    Well, he's been out of circulation for 23 years; his appearance may have changed quite a bit in that time. Maybe, if he can keep the connection between his present and old names secret, he could still remain undiscovered, though as you say this has been made less likely. I can't imagine he's very happy about having his photos splashed about the place, as you say.

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  39. Now now, Neil hasn't quite said that: he's said that you must have the permission of the state to change your identity. They will presumably vet your reasons before saying no.

    This is what lots of commentators mean by "changing the relationship between the individual and the state". At the moment, we own our identities. This scheme nationalises them.

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  40. Chris: "OK. You argue that nobody should be allowed to escape victimisation by changing their identity. You would prefer that the gangsters kill an informant, or an abusive husband their wife, than sanction any loosening of your preferred model of identity."

    I don't say that at all, but even if I did, you have not provided evidence that anybody will be affected by this, and as you say yourself, sometimes the social good overrides the rights of a few. 3000+ die on the roads every year. If we got rid of cars, this wouldn't happen, but as you rightly said, the benefits from having cars overide this.

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  41. Andrew: "You want to make emigration a crime, now?"

    No. but its reasonable that he has to abide by the same rules as everyone else and give his true identity when applying for a passport. Or do you think it should be legal to be able to use anyone's birth certificate we like to apply for a passport with?

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  42. "This guys face is all over the national newspapers"

    Andrew: "Will you do that to everyone who doesn't register for an ID card?"

    Look its pretty standard for a high profile case of this sort to make the newspapers. Should all convicted fraudsters not have their picture printed in the paper?

    Chris: This guy must have known he would be printed in the paper so the defence that he was scared his anonimity would be blown by a bent cop is ridiculous.

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  43. Re: false passports, this might be of interest to you:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/Immigration/Asylum-seekers-told-to-get-false-passports-activists/2003/09/29/1064819873013.html?oneclick=true

    Where the Australian government encouraged asylum seekers to get false passports so that they could be deported more easily?

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  44. "must have known he would be printed in the paper"

    Well, he wasn't for 23 years, and during that time there seems not to have been a problem. I'm a tiny bit suspicious of this having been unearthed now, it reminds me of the uranium in Niger business or the "ricin plot" (containing no actual ricin). Of course, I have no proof that it's a government leak.

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  45. Peter Clay: "Well, he wasn't for 23 years, and during that time there seems not to have been a problem. I'm a tiny bit suspicious of this having been unearthed now, it reminds me of the uranium in Niger business or the "ricin plot" (containing no actual ricin). Of course, I have no proof that it's a government leak."

    Me and Chris were talking about after he had been caught, why he refused to reveal his true identity if he had a legitimate reason. Chris said he was scared of bent cops, I say he must have known the case would garner publicity, so this is a ridiculous claim.

    Peter, this guy has just been convicted, that is why it is in the newspaper.

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  46. I don't say that at all

    What, then, did you mean by,

    "Or maybe we should just make it a lot more difficult for [obtaining documentation of a 'false' identity] to happen again by having ID cards [which I assert would have that effect]."

    ?

    ... you have not provided evidence that anybody will be affected by this

    Bollocks. There are lots of people whose safety depends on remaining anonymous, and I and others have given lots of examples. Stop lying.

    Should all convicted fraudsters not have their picture printed in the paper?

    Read the story again. These are not photographs taken by journalists on the steps of the courthouse; what has happened here is that the police have released photographs of the bloke because they know nothing about him -- an unusual step, according to, er, the police. That, and a press release, have turned a fairly trivial conviction into a big media story.

    The police have, so far as we know, no evidence that he's done anything wrong other than obtaining a passport by deception. Nevertheless, they want his "real name", but of course nobody knows him by any name other than the one he uses presently. Even you, Neil, a fanatic for the nationalisation of identity, call him by his chosen name and title. It is not obvious that what the police are doing is defensible behaviour.

    Chris: This guy must have known he would be printed in the paper

    No, as I've said. The police decided to make this a media event, and they released information and photographs about him. Or do you think it's normal for a plea of guilt and a sentence of 21 months handed down in a provincial court would usually make headlines around the world?

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  47. Chris: "These are not photographs taken by journalists on the steps of the courthouse"

    Err..he was convicted, how would they do that?

    "The police decided to make this a media event, and they released information and photographs about him. Or do you think it's normal for a plea of guilt and a sentence of 21 months handed down in a provincial court would usually make headlines around the world?"

    Its an interesting story, the press wouldn't print it otherwise. It's like that mystery 'pianoman' story that made the news all over the world a while back. People are curious about mysterymen like this.

    "Bollocks. There are lots of people whose safety depends on remaining anonymous, and I and others have given lots of examples. Stop lying."

    I am not saying there are not legitimate reasons for being anonymous in a minority of cases, just that you haven't provided evidence that proves an ID scheme makes anonymity impossible.

    As I've explained on another thread, there is the security of the system, encryption and storing only partial biometric data, or even physically changing someones biometrics and re-entering them. Show me some evidence that this is not possible. Show me a link to a reputable scientist in the field who says there are no ways around this problem. Then I will believe you.

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  48. "You haven't provided evidence that proves an ID scheme makes anonymity impossible. "

    Well, I don't object to having an ID card that says I'm anonymous.

    Just as a question, what exactly is the point of anonymous ID card?

    -- Hello Mr Bank, I'd like an account
    -- Certainly, show your ID card.
    :hands over id card:
    -- Morning Mr Anonymous. Now we've proven we have no idea who you are, it's fine to give you a bank account.

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  49. No-one should be saying that the scheme will make anonymity impossible. We don't have to demonstrate that it would, either. You ought to know that. Stop asking for evidence that ID cards will make anonymity impossible; it's not germane to the witness protection argument.

    What needs to be demonstrated is that the scheme will make detection more likely for the person in hiding, not that it will be guaranteed.

    The evidence in favour of this is that the number of people who can find your new name and address increases from effectively zero to about three hundred thousand, as stated in a previous thread.

    Currently you can't do biometric lookups on the population, so if someone changes their name and moves away, there's much less connecting their old and new identities. That's going to change.

    Stop claiming that scrambling biometrics will help this in any way. It solves a different problem, as has been explained about five times now.

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  50. I'll just quote another example of a class of people who wish to remain anonymous: employees of companies involved, however tangientially, with research on animals. There is now a special exemption in the Companies House register of directors for such people. The terrorists have now been using the DVLA to find the home addresses of people to intimidate. Biometrics are going to make it possible to do this from (some) photographs and fingerprints.

    This is just going to make things easier for such terrorists.

    While I'm here, Microsoft think the scheme is unworkable: http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39153444,00.htm

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  51. "Currently you can't do biometric lookups on the population, so if someone changes their name and moves away, there's much less connecting their old and new identities. That's going to change."

    True. But;

    1. There are known solutions to this problem, for example, it is possible to have your fingerprints removed. Just because there is a 'potential' risk doesn't mean that risk is significant. Also I don't think that you can overlook the fact that advances in biometric technology and cryptology could solve this problem.

    2. Also the numbers of cases are important. If we are only talking about a few hundred people or even less and it only slightly increases their chances of harm, then that is acceptable if the ID scheme is of benefit to far more people. Like I've said before, 3000+ people die on the roads but we don't ban cars.

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  52. Surely your #1 means that the system will be worthless at preventing multiple enrollment, which you have (elsewhere) claimed to be one of its principal benefits?

    (If you don't believe in preventing multiple enrollment, you don't require the central register of biometrics; discarding that makes the scheme much less dangerous. Still a giant waste of money, but much less dangerous.)

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  53. It is expensive and difficult to have your fingerprints removed but it is not impossible. This is the disincentive. You keep claiming that I think biometrics are perfect, I don't claim that. They are added security that will be used in conjunction with other security measures, that is all.

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  54. So you aren't worried about disincentivising (say) abused wives from leaving their husbands, or disincentivising terrorists and criminals from informing on their comrades?

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  55. "So you aren't worried about disincentivising (say) abused wives from leaving their husbands, or disincentivising terrorists and criminals from informing on their comrades?"

    Yes, I was wondering about that too. I think it's the sort of thing that Neil has in mind when he talks about the civil liberties of poor people. (when he uses his definition of civil liberties)

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  56. Well, yes I am worried about that, it all needs to be factored in. Like I say, we are talking about small numbers of people that 'might' be affected if the NIR security is breached. There will be a 2 year jail sentence to anyone caught looking at records they are not authorised to.

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  57. There will be a 2 year jail sentence to anyone caught looking at records they are not authorised to.

    Out of interest, do you ever receive spam or viruses in email or by other means? Do you know what penalties the Computer Misuse Act 1990 provides for the offences involved in distributing those?

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