June 28, 2005

Guardian prints some good sense on the folly of ID Cards

The area of the blogosphere that I inhabit does not noramlly have many kind words for the Guardian. But it appears that today they have printed something that we can all agree with, ID Cards are folly:
"Yet for a textbook illustration of the place of folly in British politics, it is unnecessary to look further than the government's preoccupation with the identity cards legislation that returns to the Commons today. That there is a case for identity cards is no more in doubt than that there is a case for the invasion of Iraq or for closing your eyes and wishing for poverty to disappear. The problem - as in these other cases - is that the case is simply not strong enough and that the government has not made it.

"It is difficult for an independent minded person to argue with the approach put forward by David Davis on this subject when the government first began to paint itself into a corner in support of an ambitious biometric ID card system more than a year ago. Any proposal, Davis argued, had to be measured against four criteria. Will it work to achieve the stated goals? Is the government capable of introducing such a system? Is it cost effective? And can civil liberties be safeguarded?

"With the best will in the world, it is hard to answer yes to any, never mind all, of these questions as things stand."

This is not just in one editorial, but two, the second on Surveillance creep and the ever extending reach of Big Brother and the New Labour project for forging an authoritarian Surveillance state:
The report from the academic team is not just based on their own expertise. They consulted widely across the world with over 100 industry representatives and other experts. They identified six potential flaws. The most obvious was that no government in the world had undertaken a scheme on such a scale. More worrying was that the best ID systems were clear and focused, but the British plan had multiple purposes.

It was on this last point that yesterday's two indictments overlapped. Richard Thomas had given an earlier warning of how Britain could be "sleepwalking into a surveillance society". But yesterday's statement was much more detailed. He expressed two deep concerns. The first was that the government was collecting and retaining too much information, ranging from all the addresses where people had lived to logging and recording every use of the ID card. The procedures would allow governments to build up a detailed picture of how an individual lived which was both "unwarranted and intrusive".

His second concern, like the LSE team, was the broad sweep of purposes: national security, crime prevention, immigration controls, ending illegal working and delivering public services. If there were to be ID cards, they should be a tool within the individual's control. Instead the proposals risked "an unnecessary and disproportionate intrusion into individuals' privacy". He urged MPs not just to look at the desirability of the cards, but the acceptability of governments holding such surveillance powers.

Perhaps this is one case where the proposition is so appauling and unjustifiable that it is impossible to craft a compelling arguement even using the Guardians sometimes flexible approach to logic.


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