Reckless ID card plan will destroy nation’s freedom

THE Government has embarked on its most reckless policy to date in pursuing the idea of national identity cards. The initiative will fundamentally change the nature of government and the character of the nation.

This is inevitable because the modern ID card is no simple piece of plastic. It is the visible component of a web of interactive technology that fuses the most intimate characteristics of the individual with the machinery of state.

It is the means by which the powers of government will be streamlined and amplified. Almost every national ID card system introduced in the past 15 years has contained three components with the potential to devastate personal freedom and privacy.

First, each citizen is obliged to surrender a finger or retina print to a national database. This information is combined with other personal data such as race, age and residential status. A photograph completes the dossier.

In addition, its introduction must be accompanied by a substantial increase in police power.

The most significant, yet most subtle, element is that the card and its numbering system will permit the linking of information between all government departments. The number is ultimately the most powerful element of the system.

Such a system, linked through tens of thousand of card readers to a central database, is the conventional means of dealing with the problem of counterfeit cards.

But the technology gap between governments and organised crime has narrowed so much that even the most highly secure cards are available as blanks, weeks after their official introduction. Criminals and terrorists can move more freely and more safely with several fake identities than they ever could in a country with multiple forms of ID. buy fake ids

To make sure people are who they claim to be, the new generation of cards, such as those introduced this year in Malaysia, incorporate a chip containing the “biometric” a fingerprint, retina or hand scan of the holder. The card and the finger are placed into a reader, and the person is “validated”. This validation process can be done anywhere on the streets, in airports, schools, banks, swimming pools or office buildings.

You will not hear any government emphasising these aspects. Instead, the new ID systems are benignly promoted as “citizen cards” that guarantee entitlement to benefits and services.

Five years ago, the Government quietly buried proposals for ID cards when it discovered that they would cost billions of pounds more than expected, would do little to prevent crime, and might become wildly unpopular.

How much more unpopular will they be when people learn that a scan of their body parts will be required?

If an ID card was unworkable five years ago, why would it work now? The short answer is that it would not unless the biometric were added and the whole system verified through a national database. Scannable Fake ID That is not a card: it is a national surveillance infrastructure.

If such a scheme is introduced in the current climate, three outcomes are inevitable. First, a high security card will become an internal passport, demanded in limitless situations. (Don’t leave home without it.)

Second, millions of people will be severely inconvenienced each year through lost, stolen or damaged cards, or through failure of computer systems or the biometric reading machinery.

Finally, the cards will inevitably be abused by officials who will use them as a mechanism for prejudice, discrimination or harassment.

No one has been able to identify any country where cards have deterred terrorists. To achieve this, a government would require measures unthinkable in a free society.

The Government thus faces a choice. Either it introduces a high security biometric card that will challenge every tenet of freedom, or it introduces a low security card that will soon be available to criminals and terrorists on the black market.

Or, of course, it can scrap the whole idea and concentrate on more proven measures to deal with terrorism. Fake IDs

Simon Davies is visiting fellow in the department of information systems at the London School of Economics and director of the watchdog group Privacy International

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