Trevor Mendham

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards

Dangers of ID Cards


Some people welcome Identity Cards because they will make wallets and purses lighter. Most people today carry several different pieces of ID for different purposes. Wouldn't it be convenient to combine them all together?

Convenient, perhaps. Dangerous, certainly.

Almost all the current pieces of plastic are optional. Passport? Lots of people never leave the country. Driving licence? Not everyone drives. Credit cards? Many people don't - or can't - use them.

Today's ID is optional, you can choose for yourself whether the benefits justify the loss of privacy. You carry the cards you need as and when you need them. You consent to giving the relevant information. With 's ID Cards there will be no choice and no consent.

Today's ID cards are also dedicated to specific purposes. The government, the credit card company, your doctor, etc all hold different pieces of information about you. In general they know what they need to know in order to provide a service. This is a fundamental concept of data protection.

The introduction of a universal card - or even simply the National Identity Register - threatens this "need to know" principle. It opens up the prospect of all this information - your "data shadow" - being combined and made available at the push of a button. We will all have one universal identifier which will be entered on every public and private database imaginable.

Every time you use your card, details will be recorded in the National Identity Register in the form of an "audit trail". That's a lot of information about your private life, even before combining it with information on other databases that now conveniently use the same key. Convenient, yes - but for whom?

What happens when you lose this convenient super-card? According to the Government's own figures, over a quarter of a million passports are lost or stolen each year - and not everyone has a passport. The figure for ID Cards is bound to be higher. When your Identity Card is lost or stolen, it won't seem so convenient. As Mark Oaten of the Liberal Democrats said:

"We are all familiar with the hassle of losing a wallet full of cards. The cost and inconvenience of losing your ID card will be much worse. You will effectively be a non-person until the card is replaced."
And what happens when the entire system goes down - something that seems to happen to every Government computer project. The National Identity Register is a single point of failure. If - when - the ID Card system goes down, what will be the impact? What will be the cost to British business? Who will bear this cost? The taxpayer?

In many ways "the card" itself is less dangerous than the centralised database behind it. It is the central database that the Government plans to build first.

The Home Office has admitted that every single use of the ID Card will be recorded and tracked centrally. See:,3605,1175638,00.html

UK ID Cards - Introduction

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