too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence
So says the London School of Economics in their Identity Project Report published today. Much has been made of the LSE’s disagreement with the government over the cost of the scheme – but the report’s unease goes far further than cost issues. It also raises concerns over the plain legality of the proposals – both under our own laws, as well as European Human Rights legislation.The government is determined to steamroller this bill through Parliament, despite the fact that there is no confidence in:
- The viability of the technology
- The security of the data which would be held
- The ability of government departments to manage major IT rollouts without creating huge backlogs to the detriment of their customers (I’m thinking of the CSA here)
- The ability of government departments not to make monumental cock-ups (like paying families too much tax credit – and then clawing it back at rates that leave families unable to manage their family budgets)
All this from a Blair administration that promised to ‘listen’ after the greatly reduced mandate at the last election.
Legislate in haste – repent at leisure.
Charles Clarke is trying to sell us the insidious ID card scheme again. Basically the message is along the lines of ‘it’s not that bad – it’s not compulsory and we’re not going to include too much data’. Mr Clarke, the detail is almost irrelevant. Once you have an ID card in place you can easily:
- Increase the scope of data held
- Make it compulsory
- Increase the cost
- Make the data available to other groups or agencies
All on the basis that ‘it’s in the national interest’. The only way to guarantee we don’t end up with an intrusive compulsory scheme is to not launch a thin-end-of-the-wedge voluntary one. If we do end up with an ID card scheme I make two predictions
- The first convincing forgeries will surface within months if not weeks
- It will become as good as compulsory because of all the things that you cannot do, get or access without one within two years
We don’t need it. We don’t want it. Spend the money on something useful
So the PM tells that he has listened to the electorate? So what is there in the Queen’s Speech to show that he heard us? There’s a whole plethora of new legislation, but no sense of a change of direction that I can discern. And there, centre-stage, is our old friend, the ID card. Nothing symbolises the increasingly authoritarian nature of this administration more than expecting British Citizens in peacetime to carry identity cards. I think Blair may have his way in the end, although not without fierce opposition. But I think this particular piece of ill thought-out knee jerk law making might just turn out to be Blair’s lasting epitaph – in just the same way it’s impossible to debate the Thatcher legacy without thinking ‘Poll Tax’. Come on Tony, if you want to be remembered for somthing worthwhile and lasting, there are plenty of open goals. How about a replacement for the dismally inefficient Child Support Agency? Or what about Electoral Reform – that would be a real lasting legacy for a historic third term. Instead, all we’ll ruefully associate the Blair years with is the smart card in your wallet that it will soon be impossible to function without. The Big Brother years are finally arriving.