Lots more reasons not to bring in ID cards

I haven’t blogged since the 25th - that’s probably the longest I’ve been for a while without a single entry. The reason is, quite simply, long working hours. I just have not had the time, due to going out early in the morning and coming back in the late evening after driving frozen Indian food in a not very manoeverable (if I’ve spelt it right) Japanese truck.

Anyway, now that the ID card bill is coming up for discussion, a lot of commentators have come out in fierce opposition. Personally, I find the scheme a nightmare - it’s highly likely to be used to harrass ethnic minorities and Muslim women. Matthew Parris in the Times yesterday (Saturday) gives voice to a lot of people’s suspicions about the whole scheme:

Fear of control, suspicion towards the State, and a jealous guarding of privacy and the right to hide, runs very deep in human nature. It is, however, extremely difficult to express in a manner which sounds rational. People will therefore grasp at other planks for their argument. “ID cards will cost too much”, “the technology will fail”, “villains will always be able to cheat” and “the time is not ripe” will become the banners that we who oppose the measure will bear aloft, but is that really what has drawn us to the march? Answering for myself I must say no, and I doubt I am so very different from my countrymen. I want the project not to work. Part of me hopes the machinery for implementing it proves beyond the Home Office’s wit. I just don’t want to give government — any government — that much control.

In the New Statesman this week, Christina Zaba has a wholly different reason to oppose it: the fact that it offers enormous potential for security breaches - quite apart from the unpleasant fact of leaving an “audit trail” the state (and whoever else it chooses) can access, but that the person who left it can’t - as a number of computer experts have been saying. It seems that you can’t design an identity system which is fool-proof and which makes it impossible to generate fake IDs. She interviews a professional cracker she identifies only as Jamie, who describes a way of generating a false ID from scratch involving using the birth certificate of someone who died young, and laundering it through a temp agency. He also alleges that “the off-the-shelf systems they’re using are easy to break”, and that people are likely to try and break the system for its own sake.

Bear in mind, Government computer systems have a history of not working very well (the Child Support Agency is a notorious example). Quite apart from the civil liberties objections, the project is likely to be yet another costly disaster.

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