Trevor Mendham

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards

Dangers of ID Cards

Functionality creep

Initially the Identity Card database will be used to register identity and - possibly - employment status. This will change.

Once the incredibly expensive infrastructure is in place, do you really believe that future governments will not use it? They will see it as "common sense" and a "prudent use of public funds" to extend the functionality.

Even if "the database" only ever contains identity, its mere existence will allow other databases to be more easily amalgamated.

One proposed use of the cards is for access to medical services, so one of the first things to go on or be connected will be your entire medical history, available at the touch of a button.

The Police Superintendents' Association has already called for a national DNA database, it would make sense to link this to the National Identity Card, allowing countless people access to your DNA record, the most personal thing you have.

What else? The Schengen Information System already holds information on many EU citizens, available to authorities across Europe. How long before this is linked to the UK Identity Card database? Are we on the road to a single Euro-ID Card?

Then there's the non-governmental issue. Once everyone has an identity card, it "makes sense" for people to demand to see them. Publicans have already said they want the cards introduced to stop underage drinking - so for young people carrying the card will become effectively compulsory for using a pub.

Airlines will undoubtedly demand to see your ID card before letting you board. What next, trains?

In London the new Oyster season tickets are based on RFID technology. Each one has a unique ID and is registered to you. Each time you make a journey, this information (who, when, where) is stored centrally. How long before this information is integrated with any new ID Card scheme?

In some other countries you have to show your ID to use a credit card. How long before that is introduced in the UK?

The government will tell us the Cards are just to prove identity in a limited range of circumstances. That won't last long.

Update: 11/11/2003
The official Home Office document (pdf) states that "The legislation will allow the cards scheme to be used by any service - public or private - to establish identity with the consent of the card holder...". In other words, the Government is relying on functionality creep to create a de facto compulsion-to-carry.

Update: 2/10/2003
Evening Standard reports "David Blunkett is poised to strike a multi-billion-pound deal with the major banks which would see compulsory ID cards double as credit cards." More details here.

UK ID Cards - Introduction

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