UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)
Should the UK introduce Identity Cards?
The United Kingdom last had compulsory National Identity Cards
during the Second World War when they were introduced for security
purposes. As with most forms of state control, they remained in
place well after the threat had passed.
Wartime ID cards were finally withdrawn by the Churchill government in
1952 because of the tension they created between the police and
innocent citizens. There is no reason to believe such tension
would be less today.
The last person to be prosecuted for refusing
to carry an ID card was Clarence Henry Willcock. Latest polls
suggest that current Government plans would create
three million new ID "refuseniks".
In recent decades the idea of re-introducing ID cards has been
floated by various governments, possibly because of the advances
in technology. The threat now under New Labour seems to be the most
serious yet. Home Secretary David Blunkett began the process to introduce such cards
and Charles Clarke seems determined to follow his lead. When Blunkett's arguments
were shot down he descended into personal abuse and called those
who dared to disagree with him
The exact nature of the proposed new compulsory National Identity
Cards has not been announced. One thing is certain: they will not
simply be a piece of cardboard. They will be high-tech creations.
As well as a photograph, the cards will carry biometric information,
for example fingerprints and/or iris scans. There is also the
possibility of other information being added at a later date.
The new cards are also likely to be machine readable, if not
immediately then in the near future. With a single swipe your
presence at any place and time can be recorded in a central database.
It's important to remember that the Cards per se will just be the
tip of the iceberg. They will be supported by a massive database - the
unpleasant sounding "National Identity Register" -
containing an unprecedented amount of information on every British
Technology also exists
the government decide to use it (*), to scan the cards without needing
to swipe them. Simply walking past a hidden sensor whilst carrying
your card could cause your movements to be recorded. This technology
is already being used on the London Underground to track the
movements of season ticket holders. Of course Underground users know that their RFID
ticket is being scanned. The problem with RFID is that it can also be scanned
without your knowledge or consent.
These high-tech ID cards will not come cheap. The citizen will be
expected to pay - an estimated £40 a head. You will have to pay this
when you first get a card, when it needs to be renewed and every
time it is lost or damaged. For this reason compulsory National
Identity Cards are being referred to as Blair's Poll Tax.
Identity Cards are not simply an idea we can experiment with for a
year or two. If they are introduced it will take decades if not
generations to get rid of them.
Maybe I'm wrong about the dangers of the Card. But what if I'm right?
Unless there is an overwhelming case made for their introduction,
can we afford to take the risk?
(*) There are no proposals for RFID to be included on the first ID
Cards. Who knows what will happen in the future - it would be technically easy to do.
UK ID Cards - Introduction
Contact Trevor Mendham