Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Stealth ID strikes again! Education cards this time

The Guardian reported yesterday that the Government wants to introduce an identity card for everyone involved in education. This would carry a Unique Learner Number and a wide variety of information: "such information as a person's qualifications, course aims, employment situation and possibly income details." Income details? It gets worse: "The most sophisticated system would allow any agencies permitted to do so "to track what happens to people, matching what work they end up in, what their earnings are"...Employers might be able to buy data equipment to read details of individuals' qualifications and previous periods of employment and unemployment, which would help defray costs." Isn't this just a little bit intrusive? Especially as it would link up with a national ID scheme nicely.

This is one of several pseudo- or stealth-ID schemes currently active. There is the planned national Unique Child Number, and the associated database as blogged here. Like that one, it would throw off a large database covering a chunk of the population almost completely - after all, practically everyone goes to school, and a lot of adults take on further education. As there's no mention of the data being deleted when you turn 18 or leave, it's a database that can only grow. Much of the information involved would parallel that proposed for the national ID scheme, but these sub-IDs would also bring in much more, like those income details. It seems that the government is doing its level best to launch as many expandable, mutable ID schemes as possible in the hope that even if some are shot down, enough will get through. After all, the only other justification Charles Clarke could give for this massive invasion of privacy was that it might stop people applying to be further education lecturers under false pretences. Even he couldn't say that this was a problem, though. But who needs excuses when we've got civil servants like this one:
"Our view is that we can do this without a national ID card. It doesn't mean we're anti it - we're not particularly pro it either, but if we're going to have one we'll bolt all this on," said the civil servant. "What we're saying is that ID cards could be helpful in terms of some of the things that we are going to do anyway."

Well, that brings up the possibility of a whole range of new abuses no-one had ever thought of. Hell, you could use an ID card "security check" to keep people below a certain income out of - say - an upmarket shopping centre or gated community. Or alternatively, you could block a certain educational profile...I'm told that during the 1970s, German government anti-terrorist ads on TV said that reading Kant was a risk factor for being a terrorist. Wouldn't it be great if our cities ended up like Manchester in the time of Friedrich Engels, the rich and poor not architecturally but electronically segregated this time?

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