Thursday, September 25, 2008

The first ID cards

It's a big day for the Home Office, though it seems to be getting lost in the news cycle with all the panic about the banking system.

"The Home Office has unveiled identity cards to be issued to foreign residents in the UK.

Example of what a foreign ID card will look like.The plastic wallet cards show the holder’s photograph, name, date of birth, nationality and immigration status. A secure electronic chip holds their biometric details, including fingerprints, and a digital facial image.

First cards roll out in autumn

The first cards are scheduled to be issued 25 November. Within three years all foreign nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK will be required to have a card.

By 2014, 90% of foreign residents in Britain should have identity cards.

The introduction of national identity cards for foreign residents will be followed by the first ID cards for British citizens, targeting workers in sensitive roles - such as airports - from 2009.

Then from 2010 ID cards will be available to young people who want them.

From 2011, cards will be available to the general population."

There's the usual wild claims from the Home Secretary about how brilliant the cards are - as I said in my talk at GikIII yesterday, yet again we are to suffer the effects of scientifically and technically illiterate politicians having to make decisions about information systems they don't understand in depth.

The NO2ID folks are, needless to say, unimpressed:



Desperate to shore up support for the ID scheme, the Home Secretary this week brandished a new plastic card to be issued to some foreign residents from November, calling it an "ID card" for foreign nationals. This cynical branding exercise with its sly appeal to xenophobia should fool no-one.

Having failed to convince industry and employers, the unions and the public at large that ID cards are necessary or desirable, the government has resorted to picking on soft targets - anonymous individuals seeking marriage visas or education - those who have no choice but to keep quiet and comply. And if the statements of junior minister Meg Hiller at Labour Party conference are to be believed, they also intend to target children as young as 14.

Ministers try to give the impression that their National Identity Scheme is inevitable It is not. All the opposition parties are committed to scrapping it and, without the National Identity Register (the database at the heart of the scheme) and with the repeal of the Identity Cards Act we can - and shall - go back to being a free country...

What just happened?

Government spins ID scheme by re-announcing "ID cards for foreigners"

Today the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith closed the Labour Party conference by re-announcing "ID cards for foreigners". In fact a system of biometric visas is being introduced for some foreign residents from November but it is not really part of the National Identity Scheme which hasn't been built yet! This fact has not stopped the government using the words "ID cards", together with a sly appeal to xenophobia to drum up support for its unpopular scheme. It seems the BBC knows a thing or two - halfway down an item 'Foreign national ID card unveiled' on its website, there is a video box labelled "How an identity card will work". Knowledge-hungry surfers who clicked the little arrow were confronted with a black screen. It bore the words "This content doesn't seem to be working. Try again later."

NO2ID has an identity crisis at Labour conference

NO2ID's national co-ordinator Phil Booth was unable to get into a Labour Party conference fringe meeting this week because he couldn't get an ID card! Phil was due to debate the ID scheme with Home Office minister Meg Hillier but Labour's pass office in Manchester told him there had been a problem with his application and it would cost him £600 for a temporary pass to enter the conference for an hour! If this is how they organise ID for their own party conference it makes you wonder how the are they going to organise ID cards for 50 million people.

They're coming for your kids - Part 2

This week Meg Hillier told a Labour party conference fringe meeting (the one Phil Booth couldn't get into) that she saw no reason why ID cards couldn't be given to children as young as 14. The Identity and Passport Service has since denied that plans are afoot to lower the age from 16 (as laid out in the ID cards act). Hillier also hinted at attempts to fetter future governments when she said: "There isn%u2019t an easy way to unpick this [ID] scheme", and going on to claim, "quite rightly because it is invaluable". Meanwhile Action on Right for Children has put in a Freedom of Information request for the full security review of the government's children's database Contactpoint, following publication of the executive summary and the recent controversy over problems with "shielding" records of vulnerable (see last newsletter)."

So much of this falls into the "couldn't make it up" category that it makes you wonder whether we are actually living in an alternate reality.

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