Friday, January 14, 2005

Government....Computers....Identity Cards!

On the one hand, we have the announcement that the FBI has scrapped its huge new computer system because it's already obsolete (as well as late and overbudget) and doesn't provide the features they want. This comes, let's not forget, a day after BA Flight 175 was turned back mid-Atlantic on the basis of one of those "security alerts" we heard so much of at the beginning of last year. A good moment, then, to thin k about ID cards! In yesterday's Guardian Online supplement, deep in the news-in-briefs, lurked the following key paragraph:
Work has begun on the first government-wide IT strategy, Ian Watmore, head of the Cabinet Office e-Government Unit said this week. The strategy, due to appear in autumn, will include plans for a system of national identity numbers. In what Watmore described as a "convergent approach to identitification and authentication", the current mixture of different ID numbers will be reduced to either one or a handful, including the new national ID card number. The strategy will also contain plans for "citizen driven" e-government programmes. He also revealed plans to reduce the toll of government IT disasters by recruiting a team of "heavy hitter" project managers to be based centrally in government and to trouble-shoot projects going wrong.
Did you all spot the batsqueak there? Yes, that's right - either one or a handful including the new national ID card number. In other words, yes, they do want to link up all the information they have on you with the identity card system. It's not the card, it's the database, or to be more accurate the database key. Even if the information stored "on the card" (in reality, on the national identity register) is restricted by the Bill, that doesn't prevent them adding the ID number to all the other records. Which would be equivalent to putting all the other information on the ID database.

If they don't want that, then why don't they take a lesson from Germany, and include a legal provision preventing the use of the ID number in this way in the Bill?

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