Identity cards, the national database and EU fundamental rights

The government’s unlovely and unloved Bill for the introduction of (eventually compulsory) identity cards, and of the even more objectionable national database which will track all our movements and transactions from cradle to grave for the convenience of the security services, is about to be presented to parliament. The irreplaceable Bob Marshall-Andrews, back in the House of Commons by a providential whisker, has pointed out that the Bill – already estimated to involve public expenditure of nearly 8 billion pounds (yes, that’s billion with a b) – contains no provision for citizens to find out what information about them is held on the monstrous database, no way of checking that it’s accurate, and no way of getting it corrected if it’s not, as most of it assuredly won’t be. It will be interesting to see how ministers square this with the provisions of the European Union ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights’, as signed and proclaimed by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the EU Commission at the European Council meeting in Nice on 7 December 2000 (the Charter was to have been incorporated as Part II of the ill-fated EU draft ‘Constitution’, now efficiently despatched by the French, but it remains a valid EU instrument accepted by the EU governments, including that of Mr Blair):

Article II-8: Protection of personal data

1. Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her.

2. Such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.

3. Compliance with these rules shall be subject to control by an independent authority.

(My emphasis)

Even if the Bill is amended to incorporate these safeguards, such as they are, the whole scheme will remain a gigantic white elephant. No-one has so far succeeded in explaining what benefits it will confer to justify the enormous expenditure, and the home secretary has already dropped the pretence that it will somehow help to catch terrorists or even do anything much about benefit fraud. As for ‘identity theft’, the growing number of electronic transactions not involving the physical presence of participants will make the ID cards largely irrelevant. Already the cost of each card is estimated to be close to £100 a head, with some recent estimates two or three times this amount – and a condition of Gordon Brown’s acceptance of the scheme is that it must be self-financing. So it will be in practice both an onerous poll tax and also a gross intrusion into the privacy of British citizens, details of whose private affairs will be available to the government and all its agencies without the citizen’s consent and at his or her expense.

Fortunately there will be some protection against this Snoopers’ Charter in the extreme improbability of the government succeeding in setting up such an enormous computer system that actually works: it will be far larger than any of the catastrophic computer schemes that have failed successive government departments so far, and that much less likely to function, any more than most of its more modest predecessors have done. If it actually comes to full term (which will be many more than nine months!), the waste of public money involved will make the Dome look like a financial triumph and the poll tax an electoral bonus. However, even if Messrs Blair and Clarke succeed in getting their bastard baby past the massed objectors in both houses of parliament and onto the statute book, with a little luck the first thing that Gordon Brown will do on entering No. 10 will be to cancel it. It won’t be a day too soon.

Brian
30 May 2005
http://www.barder.com/brian/

4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Brian,

    A while since you posted – so you may not get this —–but oh dear I came across this at the Rockall Rimes – is this where we are going?

    Cheers

    Matt

    ———————————–

    How Tenji, our man of the future, reports on ID cards:

    In the Post Office

    Rockall Times
    Hello, I’d like to renew my car tax.

    Post Office
    Certainly Sir, would you like to speed things up by using your new identity card.

    RT
    Why yes, that would seem to be a jolly fine idea.

    PO
    Let me just rub it on my jumper and swipe it… Mr. Tenji… is this the tax on the rusty Astra?

    RT
    Yes.

    PO
    Bit of trouble with the MOT this year I see, coo that wasn’t cheap! Still at least the speeding points come off your licence in August that’s something to look forward to. Six months or twelve?

    RT
    Twelve.

    PO
    How would you like to pay?

    RT
    Barclayard.

    PO
    No, you’re up to your limit on that, what about the Capital One Card?

    RT
    I don’t have one.

    PO
    Says here you do… oh hang on… no the bloke using that is in Glasgow at the moment buying DVD players, he’s run up quite a bill for you there mate. Try the Switch card.

    RT
    Here you go.

    PO
    No, something wrong here, wont let me complete the transaction. Lets have a look… ah… yes… you’re TV licence has expired. Are you going to pay that too?

    RT
    Well, I thought I would leave it till next month.

    PO
    As you like, and the fishing licence?

    RT
    Er, yes I’ll do that now I’m going next week.

    PO
    Right, there you go. Have a nice day Sir.

    Tesco Checkout

    Rockall Times
    Hello, can you sell me a life insurance policy?

    Tesco
    Yes Sir, let me have your ID card… thanks. Do you have any current health problems?

    RT
    No, nothing.

    Tesco
    You sure, Sir?

    RT
    Yes, why?

    Tesco
    Well it says here you were at the doctor’s last week.

    RT
    Oh, that was nothing serious.

    Tesco
    Let me just… Oh yes, touch of the farmer Giles… No that wont be a problem. Probably sitting on cold river banks done that Sir… Oops pressed the wrong button [picture of the ‘farmers’ appears on every plasma screen in the shop complete with name, address, telephone number and e.mail].

    Old Lady in Queue
    Ooo they look sore dear; have you tried Anusol?

    Tesco
    I see your car had a bit of a struggle with the MOT. Are you sure its still worth this much? Our insurance is not going to pay out top dollar if you go round speeding and write off some rusty old crate you know.

    RT
    Can we just do the life insurance, and these frozen peas.

    T
    Very good sir. Next please.

    At the Bank

    Rockall Times
    Hello, I’d like to open an account please.

    Bank Clerk
    Can I see your ID?

    RT
    Do I have to?

    BC
    Well it will speed things up and prevent identity theft.

    RT
    Here.

    BC
    Right… Mr Tenji… How may I help, would you like a cushion?

    RT
    Sorry?

    BC
    Oh, I just thought… the frozen peas helped then?

    RT
    Can we just do the bank account.

    BC
    Of course Sir. Lets have a look… Oh dear this Capital One Account is all over the place and your Barclaycard is at the limit. I see you’ve opted to pay the television licence a month late and your car is on its last legs. You don’t look like a very good risk to me, Sir.

    RT
    Hang on. The Capital One Card is nothing to do with me. That’s some bloke buying DVD players in Glasgow.

    BC
    You seem to know an awful lot about him, Sir.

    RT
    But its not me, the chap in the Post Office told me…

    BC
    Lets look at the biometrics… yes your right its not you…

    RT
    Thank goodness for the ID card eh?

    BC
    Indeed Sir, just as soon as you get the Capital One Card paid off we will be glad to welcome you as a customer.

    RT
    But its wasn’t me!

    BC
    No, but you seem to have known all about it since 0943 this morning and haven’t bothered to notify your card issuer.

    RT
    Every bugger else seems to know about it; why didn’t Capital One do something?

    BC
    Steady sir, there is the civil liberties angle, we can’t just go round invading peoples privacy willy nilly you know. Oh crikey, I’ve just seen you’ve taken out life insurance. You wont do anything silly will you? Crash the car at speed, throw yourself in a fishing lake?

    RT
    I’ve had enough of this; I’m off home.

    At Tenji Towers

    [Doorbell rings]

    Travelling salesman: Mr Tenji? I am the local distributor for Anusol and…

    TV licence enforcement: [Arriving behind the salesman] Mr Tenji, I’m James Doherty of the TV licencing authority. Here’s my ID card.

    Instant credit salesman: [Arriving behind TV licence enforcement] Our records show that you’re a bit strapped for cash at the moment. If you’d just sign here I can offer you £5,000 right now at just 1,375,893 monthly repayments of £11.37.

    Anti Terrorist Squad: [Arriving behind instant credit salesman] Can we have a word Mr Tenji? We gather that you lied this morning to a Post Office operative about the period of time you spent in 1992 as a member of the Young Communist party. I have to caution you that under section 12 of the…

    Travelling Salesman: [Snatching card] Hold on, I was here first. You’ll all get a chance to swipe… Oh yes, Mr Tenji, those are clearing up nicely. Now, do you want me to give you something for that pea allergy?

  2. Brian says:

    Matt — Yes, I have indeed seen it, and enjoyed it enormously. It says it all.

    Yes, I’ve been remiss about posting lately — too many other things on at the moment. And I’ll be away from next week until the end of July, and posting even less. I’ll hope to do better in early August. Meanwhile keep those posts and comments coming in!

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/brian/

  3. Anonymous says:

    Brian,

    Enjoy your summer break…..
    this may interest you
    http://www.no2id.net/

    Cheers

    Matt

  4. Usted realmente ha hecho un buen trabajo en esto. Gurdelo para arriba!

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