Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reid on ID cards

John Reid has been peddling the usual claptrap about ID cards over at the Guardian today.

"This is not about control, Big Brother or the loss of liberty.

It is about enabling the public to feel safe, secure and confident in their daily lives. As our society changes, so do our liberties...

Secure identity cards, incorporating fraud-proof biometric identification like fingerprints, will benefit every individual. They will make travel easier, proof of age more convenient and proof of identity more secure. And they will give you peace of mind when dealing with your bank or shopping online. They will protect that increasingly precious asset - our identity...

And for society as a whole, the prevention of crime, the pre-emption of terrorism and the protection of liberty will have untold benefits.

Every civilised country is recognising these benefits. Out of 27 EU member states 24 already have identity cards. If we do not take this step we risk exploitation, fraud and terrorism."

Give me strength! One more time - it is how a system fails that you need to be concerned about. How it fails naturally e.g. because the technology is unreliable (i.e. anything but fraud-proof) or people using it make mistakes. And how it can be made to fail by people with malign intent. It is also about needles and haystacks - you don't make it any easier to find the few plotters/criminals by drowning your police and intelligence services in mountains of useless and unreliable data on every member of the population rather than allowing them to focus their already limited resources on effective crime prevention and detection activities.

People like John Reid understandably drive people who do know about these technologies, like Kim Cameron, nuts.

"It drives me nuts that people can just open their mouths and say anything they want about biometrics and other technical matters without any regard for the facts. There should really be fines for this type of thing - rather like we have for people who pretend they’re a brain surgeon and then cut peoples’ heads open."

There's an idea - fine the Home Secretary every time he lies about biometrics.

Update: ID card costs rise above £5bn That's in terms of the government's own estimates. I guess this is why Dr Reid has been peddling ID snake oil at the Guardian and you'll notice they tried slipping the bad news out on the day Blair announces he's stepping down.

Further update from Kim Cameron:

"But on the news today I saw a story about a drug manufacturer showing the consequences of making false technical claims like those I objected to here in other walks of life:

NEW YORK ( — The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma LP, agreed Thursday to a $600 million penalty as part of a plea deal with the Justice Department on a felony charge of misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers, the government said...

There should be accountability and penalties for those who consciously mislead people like the Marlin County school board, convincing them there is no risk to privacy by preying on their inability to understand technical issues. It should be mandatory, when selling technology with potential privacy implications, to explain the threats and mitigations in an objective and public way."


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