Monday, April 26, 2004

Twenty years down the line

The United Kingdom has launched a trial of what is ultimately intended to be a national ID card, using 10,000 volunteers. So reports the BBC today.

The argument, to what I expect is no one's surprise, is that it will deter terrorism. Home Secretary David Blunkett warned darkly that without them, Britain would become a "soft touch" for terrorists.

But of course such cards do little if anything to prevent domestic attacks.
Terrorism expert Professor Paul Wilkinson, of St Andrew's University, said he was not convinced ID cards would aid the battle against terrorism.

He said: "The majority of the 11 September hijackers were travelling under their own names, so they wouldn't have been picked up by an ID system and, of course, the al-Qaeda network is particularly good at finding ways of getting people across borders."
Even Blunkett knows this, admitting that only 35% of accused terrorists used false identities.

So what's the real point? The same as always: control. The biometric data to be included on the cards, to the extent that it actually works as intended, enables you to be tracked pretty much through anything you do:
By 2013 - when ministers are due to decide whether to make the ID cards compulsory for everyone - 80% of the population is expected to hold either a biometric passport or driving licence.

If they are made compulsory, cards will have to be produced to access a range of public services including the NHS and benefits.
Ministers have also talked about the card helping to crack down on ID fraud (which would mean attaching it to all license applications and bank and credit card accounts, at minimum) and illegal working (job applications) - with areas such as schooling an obvious and logical extension.

The opposition has largely focused on the cost, whether it will work, and whether the government could effectively manage a database containing identifying information about 60 million people

How about that this is something that supposedly free nations simply don't do?

George Orwell was British, you know.

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