NO2ID celebrates the ConDemNation coalition’s abandonment of ID cards and the National Identity Register, but gives words of continual warning:
The Home Office, the Cabinet Office, and various other departments have cherished the idea of a population register for decades. The problem is not that it is not going quietly; it is that it is quietly not going. The tendrils of an official obsession with identity and information-sharing are everywhere: from the helter-skelter attempt by Connecting For Health to suck up 30m sets of medical records during the election period, to the secondary legislation that from this autumn requires pubs and clubs to ask for proof of identity in specified forms when checking drinking age.
No2ID started as a tactical response to a single initiative, but we rapidly found ourselves at war with a Whitehall culture of mass supervision that demands we be forbidden from trusting one another, but must trust official databases absolutely. Though I think their hearts are in the right place, I am waiting to see whether Messrs Cameron and Clegg have the stomach for that war. If they have, then there is much to be done.
Still, bravo to the new administration for taking the first step to protect our privacy and autonomy. Rolling back the database state remains a huge task, but it has started.
That assessment is pretty sharp, and it’s one I’ve wondered about over the last couple of years. New Labour’s ‘Safeguarding Identity’ document clearly came straight out of the civil service and just got fronted by successive, hapless Home Secretaries. It and other strategies smacked of officials presenting solutions for the sake of it, then needing their political masters to develop problems to fit into them. It’s very much a cultural problem in Whitehall, which I’m sure wants to sink its tendrils into the coalition, and it’ll be interesting, given the tensions which will affect the Tories and Lib Dems differently, to see how each party reacts to that over time. We’ve won the biggest battle in the war against the database state, but that war is far from over.
It was one of the many authoritarian disasters visited upon us under the New Labour surveillance state, but the ConDem coalition has just announced it’s over. And when I say over I mean over – even the Register has gone:
Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.
Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.
The question will remain I suppose whether the coalition will tear up New Labour’s ‘Safeguarding Identity‘ document – their insidious attempt to redefine the relationship between the individual and state for the 21st century. If not then there’s scope for the scheme to return, but this augurs well, at least for this area of civil liberties.
The government is pressing ahead with the piloting of the ID cards scheme in Manchester, despite Manchester’s complete and utter indifference:
96% of respondents in a recent Manchester Evening News online poll opposed the scheme. Fewer than 2,000 people in the north-west have “expressed interest” in the ID cards, and that number includes opponents like myself.
Despite lack of interest, the government is still pushing ahead with the scheme, spending £230,000 every day to bring it about. Its current claims are that it is a cheap, convenient way to prove your identity.
An ID card costs £30 initially, compared with £77.50 for your first adult passport – but for now you need a passport to apply for an ID card. Regardless, the ID card scheme costs every taxpayer about £300. It would save money if the government instead gave everyone a free adult passport when they turn 16. The passport cost has also increased from £42 in 2005, only £8 of which can be justified for meeting international standards for the insecure “e-Passports”.
I don’t need to carry about vast quantities of paperwork with me on a daily basis to prove my identity or address. I rarely need anything more than my bank card to talk to my bank. A card that lives in my wallet is something I’m more likely to lose – and risk the fine for not reporting a lost ID card..
Clearly, I don’t want an ID card and shouldn’t register. But why am I protesting against it? It’s a voluntary scheme, and people can take it or leave it, right?
Well yes. It depends though on whether or not you want ever to leave the country on holiday or on business again. It’ll depend on whether or not you want to end up at university. And with function creep already driving the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), that’ll only be the tip of the iceberg. Voluntary yes, but compulsory by stealth. It strikes me that Manchester though has already moved beyond those arguments – the city both doesn’t know the pilot is taking place and doesn’t see the need for it. And why should they? As Home Office minister Meg Hillier said to them:
“But another real benefit is that once you have registered no-one can steal your identity” and “the databases will be very secure – think Police National Computer. No-one will be able to download information and it will not be on PCs on people’s desks.”
Except haven’t I read they’ve already been cloned? And since when are government databases secure? People’s information won’t be safe on ID cards, and given that abundantly clearly innocent people are being accused of terrorism merely for taking pictures of sunsets or high streets, how can anyone have any faith in why the government needs this scheme to succeed? Of course the reason why they need it to succeed is quite sinister: they want to recast the entire nature of identity for the 21st century. ID cards are a vital component for how these people see people’s relationship with government in the future, and they will use any argument, threaten every punishment, conceal every truth in order to make it happen. It must be resisted at all costs, not just ignored. Hillier went on to say:
“The penalty charges are really an encouragement to keep info up to date – this only actually affects your address. The main beneficiary of up to date address is the card holder so we don’t envisage many people not complying.”
See? ‘We’ll punish you for your own good.’ It’s authoritarian and quite quite despicable.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested that ID cards will be abandoned:
Only another 20 minutes to go. The hall is almost full now. The latest reports are that Brown is going to announce plans to allow voters to “recall” MPs found guilty of misconduct (an idea first floated this year by Nick Clegg).
And I’ve just heard that he’s also going to announce the suspension of the ID cards programme.
Alan Johnson has already said he was opposed to making them compulsory, and so it’s not clear what practical impact this new move will have. But it’s bound to go down well with ID-sceptics – a fairly large proportion of the Labour party.
Clearly though, as DigitalID points out:
The identity cards will be compulsory if you want to get a job and to travel in Europe. The Criminal Records Bureau and the Home Office wants to make the livelihood of the people dependent on this system. Lastly, these ID cards would be directly linked to the police stations and this scoring system will decide the suitability of their jobs.
What a colossal fraud. The Home Office has a whole identity strategy which is entirely dependent on ID cards; they won’t abandon the scheme. They are indeed manoevering to make getting a job dependent on having an ID card. They have already made your addition on the National Identity Register immediate, upon renewing your passport. And of course skilled migrants coming to the UK with a job offer will be forced to carry ID cards from the beginning of next year. Not compulsory? Great rhetoric, but it’s yet another lie.
The government, dissatisfied with public indifference to ID cards has decided to patronising us into allowing our identities to be privatised:
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will unveil animated fingerprint characters this week to promote the scheme to businesses, ahead of a consumer campaign in early 2010. The first wave of activity aims to build recognition among those businesses that will be regularly presented with cards by consumers. These include those in the retail, finance and education sectors.
‘The government is wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money on the scheme,’ said shadow home secretary Chris Grayling. ‘Instead of marketing the scheme, it should be scrapping it.’ The Conservative Party has pledged to axe the cards if it wins the next general election.
It’s really shocking that a government which a) doesn’t have money to spend on needless projects and b) needs a big idea which works to catapult it into the next general election to give it a snowball’s chance in hell of winning should be continuing with its ID cards adventure. But it’s also not surprising. Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s committed the Home Office to a wholesale redefinition of identity for the 21st century (one defined by government, surprisingly enough), so despite his attempts to have us believe ID cards are dead, we still have a fight on our hands.