Leaked UK gov't doc reveals plan to "coerce" Brits into national ID register -- MIRROR THIS FILE!


Phil from the UK anti-ID-register group NO2ID sends in this nugget -- note the call to action there. We've got a sensitive government document revealing the British government's plan to trick us into a database state and we need as many copies as possible, as quickly as possible!

If you mirror this document, please add a link to it in the comments for the post.

UK campaigners NO2ID this morning enlisted the help of bloggers across the world to spread a leaked government document describing how the British government intends to go about "coercing" its citizens onto a National Identity Register. The 'ID card' is revealed as little more than a cover to create a official dossier and trackable ID for every UK resident - creating what NO2ID calls 'the database state'.

NO2ID's national coordinator, Phil Booth, exhorted bloggers, freedom lovers and anyone who gives a damn about personal privacy to mirror the annotated document on their site.

"The charade is over. While ministers try to bamboozle the British public with fairytales about fingerprints, officials are plotting how to dupe and bully the population into surrendering control of their own identities."

"Biometric ID cards are a sham; a magician's flourish to cover the biggest identity fraud there has ever been."

1.2MB PDF Link (mirror this file!)

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  1. I live in a database state, Denmark. Our authorities have no need for dragging around (and losing) CD-rom´s with our bank data. Our CPR id makes it possible to run efficient health databases. The Danish Cancer Registry is unique, not least due to the efficient data mananging, made possible by the CPR system.
    All our terrible databases have logged entries of course, making it possible to track breaches of privacy. Breaches happen everywhere, but in DK, the breacher actually gets spotted.
    Instead of offering us indiscriminate whining, better start laying out a framework for database security.

  2. Felsby, when I met with the CIOs of the Danish ministries two years ago, they explained to me that they do *not* use single numbers across agencies, do *not* log everyday transactions against the national ID number, etc — and then they told me why: “When the Nazis marched into Denmark, they went straight to our police stations and started going through the files.”

  3. Most of the implementation will take place after the next general election in the UK. If you’re from there, vote for a party that will abolish this scheme.

  4. ah, you’ve misread the context that is is in. this may seem a trick and extreme but ‘coercion’ is a major watering down of the original proposal to make them compulsory by law. and it wont come in until 2012 at the earliest (pushed back from this year). further, even if people were still ‘coerced’ into getting them – with a passport for example – they still wouldnt be in any way mandatory; all they’d have is a £90 tea coaster!

    essentially, the UK government doesnt have the political will – the current prime minister is supposedly very much less keen on it than Tony Blair – or capital, after various lost data calamities, to push ID cards on. the change to coercion is essentially the first step in burying the scheme for years or killing it off quietly (without questions as to the needless millions spent on it already!)

  5. What are you British people so worried about? Most European states have national ID cards and we get along fine. I’m from Portugal, we have a national ID card and now we are beginning to get issued a citizen’s card. It’s an all in one health, drivers license, identity, social security and taxes card and we all welcome the convenience. What are you so afraid of?

  6. What are you British people so worried about? Most European states have national ID cards and we get along fine. I’m from Portugal, we have a national ID card and now we are beginning to get issued a citizen’s card. It’s an all in one health, drivers license, identity, social security and taxes card and we all welcome the convenience. What are you so afraid of?

  7. In the future, are we going to use new ID technology only if we want? Are children going to be protected with implants so we always know where they are (my kid would have one)? Do we want to know who is in the country legally, especially now? In the US we are going to have to use our passports when we go to Canada. So what? It’s a modern, complex world and we need new technology to keep track of people. And if the secret police want to find me, well they won’t have to look very far–my cell phone, my pda, my lojack, my driver’s licence, my credit cards…If I use any ID or digital device that’s owned my me or one of my companies, they’ll know where I am. I’m transparent, or so it seems.

  8. Perhaps British sensitivity on matters like this is why, for all its faults, British society wasn’t run by a fascist dictatorship for forty-one years in the middle of the 20th century. Unlike, say, Portugal.

    There’s lots to admire about modern Portugal, a democratic state full of people with living memories of having to fight for it. There’s also a lot to admire about the traditional prickliness of British people about “papers please” regimes, standing armies, uniformed gendarmeries, and so forth. The fact that this strain of curmudgeonly British attitude is being worn away is nothing to celebrate.

  9. I understand your comments, Patrick. But after the revolution we changed a lot of things and I assure you that privacy was on our top list. We still have several outstanding issues, such as with a powerless police force (if a PO shoots a robber after a shooting between both takes place and the PO gets to hit them, then it’s the PO who’s facing court and the robber goes free – Nonsense I know).

    But really: what does a card with your picture and a number on it has to do with privacy? Only authority can ask for it and then again they only want it to clearly identify you and to not mistaken you with another guy with your exact name. I don’t understand how this could be a privacy concern. Your number is your DB primary key to identify you in government services. Constitution then forbids the exchange of personal info between government agencies. So what should I be worried about?

  10. Bruno – what we’re afraid of is paying billions of pounds for a system that we don’t need, won’t work and creates a tantalising target for criminals and other digital ne’erdowells.

    We have a Government and Civil Service with a cavalier/incompetent attitude to data security combined with the controlling instincts of Joseph Stalin. We are the most surveilled society in the Western world.

    Some of the excuses for needing an ID card don’t really stand up to scrutiny.

    Health – our National Health Service seems to be working up until now. The things that ail it will not be fixed by a credit card sized piece of plastic. Does the British public want its billions squandered on ID cards or new hospitals where their families might be safe from MRSA?

    Security – were the Madrid bombers stopped in their tracks by the Spanish ID card? Um, no.

    Illegal Immigration – perhaps ID cards would have stopped the British Home Office from employing illegal immigrants to clean their tippetty-top-secret London headquarters? I would have hoped they’d have sorted that kind of thing out before they turned Britain into a “Papers please!” state.

    And let us not forget that within my lifetime, two great European democracies were right-wing dictatorships – Portugal and Spain. We’re not talking about the dim histroy of WW2 Europe here – I’m sure Salazar and Franco would have been licking their lips at what Britain has planned for its subjects.

  11. Patrick said, “British society wasn’t run by a fascist dictatorship for forty-one years in the middle of the 20th century. Unlike, say, Portugal.”

    Patrick, how we define “dictatorship” can be argued subjectively. While GB hasn’t had an official dictator, it has a history filled with Kings that, for lack of a better word, were Dictorial in their actions. And my family lived under an oppresive government which was guilty of genocide (I’m Irish). It doesn’t take long to find a Top Dog who has abused his/her power (I live in Detroit!). And humans have very short memories. The Spanish and the Portuguesse seem to avoid their past, not review it in detail in an attempt to learn from it (sweep it under the carpet).

  12. So you, my government, who lose and sell what little data you already have, want to put my name and all my details on a database, and want me to trust you will do the right thing? After all the lies and corruption, scandal and conspiracy that is the news every day?

    “Oh, don’t worry, it won’t be mandatory. You’ll only really need it if you want to travel abroad. Or get a job. Or have a bank account. Or visit the doctor. Or collect your pension. You see, it is completely voluntary!!”

    Mirrored here:
    http://www.phillsmiff.com/NIS_Options_Analysis_Outcome.pdf
    http://www.sushidesign.net/NIS_Options_Analysis_Outcome.pdf

  13. Bruno – we’re afraid of the incompetency of our government and the lack of knowledge they display over technologies. They don’t understand how databases work and they have very little idea of security.

    We are afraid that they will use the data incompetently and immorally and that it will be almost impossible the see what data is held about you and be able to correct false data. I am not a criminal and have never had my fingerprints taken – because I object to having my fingerprints taken I have now had to resign myself to never visiting the USA – some of us feel that strongly. I don’t want convenience, I want someone that works and is secure – all the technologies proposed so far are breakable and flawed.

    We are concerned that the government is implementing stealth policies but claiming that any id card will be voluntary when we know that it will become accepted and then compulsory further down the line.
    Forgeries are easy so the criminals will always find ways around any technologies whereas the innocent will be the ones who suffer.
    mirrored here:
    http://www.pri.me.uk/temp/NIS_Options_Analysis_Outcome.pdf

  14. First, I believe we need to bring this document to the attention of Cryptome and WikiLeaks…which I’ll do shortly unless I see a followup which indicates that someone else already has.

    Second, one of the things that those who don’t perceive a problem with this should keep in mind is an apropos quote from author Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novel: “It’s a poor atom blaster that doesn’t point both ways”. ALL governments have long, ongoing, appalling histories of completely incompetent IT security. See the “dataloss” mailing list (via attrition.org) or the PogoWasRight website (http://www.pogowasright.org/) for just two of many attempts to keep up with breaches that have resulted in the loss of private data — and keep in mind that even they, despite their laudable efforts, can’t begin to keep up. There are just too many. Also keep in mind that — as any experienced security practictioner knows — the number of publicly-reported breaches is just the tip of the iceberg.

    So it’s best to presume that any information in the hands of any government will soon thereafter be in the hands of spammers, phishers, blackmailers, other governments, identity thieves, terrorists, etc. All it takes is the next security hole, the next lost laptop, the next misplaced USB stick, the next disk drive discarded without being wiped, or any of a thousand other vectors. (Including disclosure by government employees who may do so for personal reasons or simply to profit.) So even if you are completely comfortable with your government possessing this information (and you shouldn’t be) — how comfortable are you with knowing that the information is/will be in the possession of the scum of the planet? Because it has happened, it’s happening right now, and it will happen.

  15. Makes it kind of handy for people who wish to steal identities .. they only have to forge one card, not a whole battery of interlinked documents (passport, NI number, other proof of address, bank statement, Driving Licence .. )

  16. Bruno, the card is a red herring. The meat in this meal is the database. And that is more than a picture and a name. Read the document: it will have my name, photo, all ten fingerprints, other unspecified biometric data, financial details, personal specifics, addresses, everything. Every last piece of data they can wring out of me, they want it all in one place.

    And not only the ‘authority’ of the government can demand the card, and the database access it permits. Banks, employers, even retailers will, the document suggests, be able to ask for your ID card or refuse your account / employment / sale.

    Constitution forbids the exchange of information between government departments? Maybe over there, but even if we in Britain had a written constitution, which we don’t, I don’t think for a second that that would stop the sharing of information. Our government encourages it, eg: UK Government Knowledge Network.

    Privacy is its own end, and even that is not the sum total of this issue: The imposition and mandating of an ID card is the government stating that without their permission, I am nothing.

    Which, I might add, I am not.

  17. Grom said, “because I object to having my fingerprints taken I have now had to resign myself to never visiting the USA -”

    So I guess an iris scan is also out of the question? Give me a break, I’ve never been bullied anywhere like I have been in Amsterdam–Security up the ass. So, you worry about being identified do you? Does your dentist keep x-ray records of your mouth, so if you die in a wee accident someone might be able to sift through the rubble and find a few of your teeth? And know it’s you? Or do you just dislike the idea of people knowing who you are while you’re alive? This ID issue seems Luddite to me. And too bad about not visiting the USA. There is a lot more good here than bad.

  18. I see an identity card as a plastic proof of my ID (Primary Key). If you live in the UK uour name is already on dozens of British DBs, so what’s the big deal on them sharing a common primary key? The data they collected is already there. Granted, you have a few issues with security breaches with full DBs. If you had a common primary key data exchanges would only mention those keys and nothing else. But since you don’t, all of your data must be ported across, making it MORE susceptible to theft.

    I’m currently living in the UK. I know we’re in constant surveillance but I don’t mind since I have privacy inside my house. I don’t mind surveillance on the street since I’m not doing anything wrong.

    What I feel is that British people think of this as something close to a dictatorship of sorts. Now, let me give you proper context for the use of a National ID card in Portugal: if I get stopped by police driving dangerously for instance, I give them my ID card and drivers license. With my ID card they can see if I have any outstanding warrants on my head. Next, I go into an hospital and they need to identify me, so I give them my ID Card and they check it against the national health number, since the card has my picture. Otherwise someone could be posing as me and charging the account in my name. So yes, I feel safer knowing that nobody will steal my identity when dealing with gov issues.

    Heck, a few weeks ago an UK convicted paedo was arrested, gave a false name and they let it go. That could never happen in Portugal.

    An ID card is just proof that you are who you say you are. If you go abroad and need to book a room you need to show your passport. So how is it any different from this?

    Citizen DBs always existed and always will, so how is a Primary Key going to impact your privacy? The data is already there!

  19. Also remember – never say never. In the UK we’ve not YET had a fascist/dictatorship. But times change – and if a pro-white, anti-(insert belief) Party does suddenly get into power, I’d hate for them to have ready access to not only all my habits, account details, etc.

    But also my fingerprints and a strip of DNA, So much easier to round up the undesirables.

  20. Philsmiff: let me give you a bit more detail about our new citizen’s card. Maybe this will give the UK gov some ideas. The new ID Card has your gov primary keys printed on the outside and an encrypted key saved onto it. Whenever I go into a gov agency they read my card, the key is signed against their key and then they have access to my personal info. When the card is removed the session is closed.

    Personal info on the card is: your registered address, height, photo and right pointing fingerprint.

    So if I go into an hospital, by giving them my card they can access my medical history but if I go to police they can only access my convictions. So I think it works pretty well.

    More info here: http://www.cartaodecidadao.pt/index.php?lang=en

  21. I grew up in the United States, and have immigrated to Denmark, which as mentioned by user FELSBY in the first posting to this discussion, is a state in which each resident has a “CPR Number” which uniquely identifies them in a state database. This unique ID is used in a variety of ways, and is employed by both private and public institutions for linking information to an individual. Contrary to Cory’s posting above, it is used in different government agencies, for example, one’s doctor uses the number, as does the civil registry of marriages, as does the university. Guess what? All is well here in Denmark. As for the US, I recently had a nightmare situation that could have been avoided if the federal government had a central database that contained either my physical or email address. My taxes were audited, and the notices were sent to the last address they “had on file” and these never reached me. Misery ensues. Keeping a database of individuals who reside in your country is a basic requirement for organizational efficiency. Employers, universities, charitable organizations, gyms, even BoingBoing all keep track of their users with unique IDs. Since we pay taxes and reside in a state, why shouldn’t the state keep track of its citizens using standard methods? Conspiracy theories aside, a national database and ID card has great merits. In my opinion, the Danish example shows that equating national ID system to RFID implants, fascism, or some type of New World Order misses the point entirely.

  22. Bruno, “I don’t mind surveillance on the street since I’m not doing anything wrong.”

    Only until someone decides you ARE doing something wrong. (I mean, honestly, have you read 1984?) What about toll booths with RFID readers being used to hand out speeding tickets because you’re going a couple miles over the limit? What if you pop over to the neighbor’s to borrow a cup of sugar carrying the baby monitor while the baby naps? In my state, that’s child neglect. How convenient it must be for the department of children to have it all on Big Brother’s surveillance video. Criminalizing cake-baking.

    Citizens shouldn’t be monitored in a free society for the convenience of the government or police. Citizens shouldn’t be treated like prospective criminals. And nothing, NOTHING in the world is scarier than a government saying, “Papers, please.”

    These things creep. They always creep. Right now I’m in a battle with a local government body who won’t pay me for work I did until I give them personal documents that I am not required by law to give them. They keep demanding it for their record-keeping. I keep refusing.

    I know it’s an idea that’s stronger in Anglo-American thought, but I truly don’t understand why other countries (particularly those that suffered under the Nazis) don’t shudder when a government suggests “identity papers” as a good idea.

    (And for those of you not visiting the US because of our utterly moronic and invasive treatment of foreign tourists, I’m so sorry we’ve decided to suck and I hope one day we can have a tourist industry again, when we stop abusing them.)

  23. Eyebrows said, “(And for those of you not visiting the US because of our utterly moronic and invasive treatment of foreign tourists, I’m so sorry we’ve decided to suck and I hope one day we can have a tourist industry again, when we stop abusing them.)

    I do not share the opinion that “we” suck. We don’t suck. We suck because of our security? Tell that to the familys and friends of people that died on 911. Go ahead, do it.

    When I was in Israel I remember all sorts of security. I had to answer questions over and over again, and that was with my USMC ID. Governement security. That’s what happens when your culture is under attack. Maybe Israel should just calm down and not worry so much? Anyone from Israel want to chime in? Maybe we should all be happy when the big, bad, evil government doesn’t do anything when the enemy comes over the hill and kills us or worse. After all, you can own a gun and protect yourself, right? Work for a more ethical government, not a castrated one. Security is painfully important. Not having it has been shown to be even more painful.

  24. @Cory: Is there time to get a column into the Guardian? This needs a little more main-stream publicity than it’ll get even here…

  25. The Portuguese card sounds sensible, if it gives you common credentials to access different, separate databases, to which you as a citizen have access. Likewise, if the Danish system has audit, oversight and limitation, it could be seen as sensible in modern society.

    However, the breadth and depth of information to be gathered and shared among public and private bodies without oversight is much greater in the proposed UK system.

    Whether or not you accept the potential benefit of some kind of national ID scheme, the problem is that *this* scheme does expose the individual to risk of fraud, erroneous data entry and its consequences, as well as giving the state enormous potential for data-mining over the individual.

    I don’t have anything to hide, but that doesn’t mean I think a government should pwn my identity.

  26. #48: Do you live under the assumption that the British Government doesn’t already have the power and the resources to data-mine the brains right out of your head if it needed too? When a government goes bad it sometimes happens with public encouragement and support. And when a government turns bad without the support of the public, that public has the right to take arms and take the goverment back. Oh, but not if your government has already disarmed you. My government hasn’t done that, has yours?

  27. So, let me see.

    The real problem here is´nt really the ID. The problem here is that brits does´nt seem to trust their government. Or more accurately their DB system.

    And, yes, the Spanish ID didnt prevent the Madrid bombings BUT thanks to it we tracked all the terrorist down in less than 24 hours, and they are in jail now. Can the UK or the USA argue with that?
    National ID is just a matter of TRUST. All of us leave information on every web we visit, on every shilling we move on our bank accounts, on every call we do with our mobile phones.

  28. Jeff, our bumbling, half-assed security system isn’t keeping terrorists out, it’s keeping tourists out and harassing, oh, Scottish exchange students trying to get back to the US for the 14th time. One of my students was searched down to the skin. It happens at least 50% of the time he enters the country. Because he’s foreign. White, Scottish, British citizen with parents living in the U.S. and working for a U.S. company, but “foreign,” so apparently threatening enough to be strip searched four times a year. (And note the utter lack of sense present here in that he’s been stopped dozens of times but they’ve never bothered to run a full background check and stop wasting resources on him, either by putting him on a “safe” list or putting him on a No-Fly list.)

    I have no beef with legitimate security measures. But the US-VISIT system? Sucks. Harasses innocent tourists and resident aliens, does little to locate terrorists. Wastes lots of money that could be used for legitimate security and intelligence purposes, and further alienates our allies.

    But way to Godwinize the conversation there. 9/11 is the new Godwinizing tool, I guess. God forbid you disagree with government policy, that must mean you want the terrorists to win. (Oh, no, wait, I’m pretty sure disagreeing with government policy is the most American action possible.)

  29. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Ben Franklin.

    Of course this could spark debate about the definition of liberty, but that in itself is disturbing.

  30. probably a stupid thing, but i believe in this kind of stuff so johngibby.com/NIS_Options_Analysis_Outcome.pdf

    i’ll have to monitor my bandwidth which isn’t much so i’ll probably take it down today.

  31. Eyebrows said, “But way to Godwinize the conversation there. 9/11 is the new Godwinizing tool, I guess. God forbid you disagree with government policy,..”

    Is that what I’m doing, using a tool (invalid?) to argue a possition? You don’t think using history is a good tool? And of course we can protest government policy and we do all the time. If you argue an issue from several different sides, one can usually find a middle ground. These are complex issues and different data are required to make the best choice. I think history has a way of influencing our choices, don’t you? The fact that my country was attacked is valid, and that event changed a lot of people. Don’t try and discount it, please. I’m someone who lost a friend, a man who was turned to dust by an act of pure evil. Better security might very well have have prevented this from happening.

  32. The databases won’t help.

    They won’t keep the data private. It will be for sale on the open market. (We know this because it’s already for sale.)

    They won’t detect competent Bad Guys, because competent Bad Guys will do whatever’s necessary to blend into the background.

    They won’t help the myriad of ordinary citizens who are caught up in false positives. (See “no-fly list” and similar for examples.)

    They won’t substitute for effective, clueful, diligent police work. (See “group of people learning to fly planes but not to land them”.)

    They won’t tell you what anyone intends to do.
    (See “Timothy McVeigh” and similar examples.)

    They won’t stop identity theft, extortion, blackmail, or phishing — instead, they’ll facilitate more of it.

    They won’t stop the insertion or propagation of errors (whether accidental or deliberate). It’s very likely that an entire underground industry will arise that profits by deliberate manipulation of these databases.

    They won’t keep you safe.

    One would think that anybody who’s read “1984” or who has studied history — google “Stasi” and start reading — would already know all these things. Would already know that the mass compilation of data has zero security value. Would already know that it will be abused far more often and earlier than it will be used. Would already know that when citizens of a nation are asking other citizens “May I see your papers, please?” that whatever freedom or liberty is purported to exist is merely an illusion. Would already know that one of the surest ways to hand victory to an opponent is to destroy yourself from within. Would already know that the self-imposed institution of surveilled, indexed, cataloged society is one of the key strategic goals of the adversary.

    And it is very foolish to implement an enemy’s strategy for them at one’s own expense.

  33. If safety is what you desire above all else, build yourself a little bunker under a hill and live there for the duration of your life.

    “national security” is a weak excuse for treating any foreign individual to come to our borders as a criminal. It simply furthers our reputations as bullies and a heartily dislikeable presence in the world community.

    There has got to be a better solution than punishing the innocent and/or forcing citizens to turn over information that SHOULD be private. Fear must, by no means, be the driving force of any policy, for when negative emotion over intellect drives legislation, things don’t end well.

  34. as an aside, if you scroll a little down boingboing mainpage you’ll come to an article entitled “Security vs. Privacy is really Control vs. Liberty.”

    This seems pretty relevant.

  35. “Fear must, by no means, be the driving force of any policy, for when negative emotion over intellect drives legislation, things don’t end well.”

    What happens when fear is the logical conclussion? Do we fear the spread of Avian flu and try to head it off with an effective vacine? Do we fear global warming and try to change our ways? Do we fear insane people sneaking into our country and harming us? “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” is meaningless in some situtions.

  36. I want to start with a question; do you trust the government? Got an answer? Okay now answer this one. Do you trust the next government? How about the one after that? Of course you can’t answer the last two because you don’t know who will be in power… (From MSN -Why ID cards are dangerous)

  37. Jeff, in your first example, I imagine you’d have to consider the possible side effects of the vaccine. Would it, for example, have a 50/50 chance of causing cancer somewhere down the line? Or of rendering the patient sterile?

    Hyperbole, certainly. But the point is: sometimes the supposed cure or prevention can come with some severe side effects. These should be examined and alternatives considered.

  38. Not to be cynical, but coercion is something that governments do, all of them, by varying degrees up to and including deception and force. In the end, if the Blair government was able to take the country into a war it didn’t want, then coercion to accept an ID card will be more or less trivial.

  39. Do I trust the Government? That’s like asking if I trust humanity. Yes and No. So, if the government of your fantasies came true, and President Feelgood asked you to use your computers to hold onto to some governement info for him, and the good of the nation, would you do it?
    And then would you go out onto the web and tell everyone (who cares to look) that you have infact done as your trusted president asked and helped spread the meme? Why did you do it? Because you you were asked nicely by someone you respect and trust? Or just have a fanish-fixation on? Don’t you think that nice people ever end up being President? What if Cory Doctorow got involved with politics (maybe the Greens or Libertarians), would you Boingers vote for him? So, President Cory wants you to put stuff on your computer and you say, “I’m sorry, Cory, but you’re now THE GOVERNMENT and we don’t trust you at all.”

    Also, some very smart people I know continue to make mistakes. They work for the government. I still trust them with my life.

  40. The point — okay, one of the many points — made by framers of the (US) Constitution is that it should not be necessary to “trust the government”. They tried very hard to architect a system that would alleviate the need to do that, because they’d already seen what could go wrong.

    That’s why there are so many checks and balances included; that’s why principles of transparency, redress, access, and petition are found throughout it. That’s why things like habeas corpus are so important.

    It’s not perfect — but it’s a magnificent attempt at building a structure that is resilient enough to keep working even when dishonest and corrupt people wind up in positions of power. And as we’ve learned over the past few centuries, our best course of action when we find ourselves tried by crisis is not the retreat from those principles, but to embrace them. (On those occasions when we’ve failed, we’ve come to regret it. See “WWII interment camps”, for example.)

    In my opinion, if we’re going to “trust”, we should trust that sticking to Constitutional principles will get us through whatever temporary difficulties we’re having. It hasn’t failed us yet — unlike many people, who have on occasion, failed us miserably.

    That may not be easy. Some of us might die for it. But that’s the price we’ve paid in the past and no doubt will again in the future in order to defend something far greater than ourselves. I think it’s worth it — and if you listen to their words, I think you’ll find that the framers did too.

  41. Note to American liberals like myself: This is what happens when they take your guns away. Don’t fall for it.

  42. Jeff,

    What happened to you? You used to be a compassionate sort of guy, buy you’re raging now. I invite you to go back and re-read all of your comments on this thread and see if that’s the person that you really want to be. I don’t think that what you’re writing really represents you.

  43. Apologies for such a long post, but this scheme is so obviously a Very Bad Idea to anyone who has looked at it in any detail I get a bit wound up. Needless to say, I will never sing up for one, no matter what they do to me.

    They will not stop terrorism. They didn’t stop the Madrid bombers. They wouldn’t have stopped the London tube bombers or the 9/11 hijackers; both were in the country legally (the London bombers were UK citizens even) and I don’t think either are particularly concerned about the authorities tracking them down later.

    They will not stop ID fraud, they will probably make it easier. Only needing to forge one piece of plastic is a lot easier that the current system.

    But the real problem I have, along with most of the opponents of the scheme, is with the database. People have pointed out that most of the information they’re after is already on other databases (not my DNA or fingerprints though). True, my bank has my bank details, the NHS has my medical records, My university has my academic record. However, in order to get a complete picture of me you would have to break into dozens of separate databases. Pooling it together just makes it so much easier. Not to mention the fact that my bank only lets a few privileged individuals have access to my bank details. Under the proposals everyone you showed your ID to would have access to this database (I read somewhere the government planned this to include 44,000 private companies). Even if the terminals were designed to prevent anyone copying this information, readers of boingboing should be well aware no DRM works. with such widespread access it is inevitable someone would find a way of skimming this information.

    As for the thought that police would use the DNA or fingerprint data on “fishing expeditions”, it is really scary. The odds of a DNA test being wrong are often given as one in 10 million. Pretty low odds, especially if there is other evidence linking you to the crime. There are, however, 60 million people in the UK. You would therefore expect 6 false positives each time you trawl through the database. What happens when yours is the only DNA to match? What if your photo is splashed all over the front page of the News of The World as a “pervert”? Even if you were never charged it could still ruin your life. Think Robert Muirat, it doesn’t matter if he took Madelaine or not, he will forever be haunted by the accusations (not to mention that NOTW readers have in the past assaulted paediatricians as “peados”)

    Ok, rant over, I can go back and do some work…

  44. Jeff said, “The fact that my country was attacked is valid, and that event changed a lot of people. Don’t try and discount it, please. I’m someone who lost a friend, a man who was turned to dust by an act of pure evil. Better security might very well have have prevented this from happening.”

    We can argue about the “might haves” and “might have nots” all day. The point is that it didn’t help, and it still doesn’t help. We stop 5-year-olds and their grandmothers at the airport because of some ludicrous “no-fly” list. And yet reporters can sneak onto planes with explosive materials and swords…and this is after the “security increase”. The problem is the same with computer security – whenever you build a lock, someone is going to find a way around that lock. There is no stopping that.
    No matter how strong you make the lock, or complex you make it, someone is going to find a way to get past. Making it more complicated isn’t going to stop the bad guys, its just going to stop the casual people who weren’t really going to try hard anyways.

    So – we caught a dude with explosive shoes (that experts even said would have never exploded), a bunch of idiots trying to take down a military base with the gas line (experts also said their plan was so flawed, they would have never made it inside), and some crazies in Florida who were given money and weapons by the FBI to bomb the Sears Tower (also, would have never worked). So I guess that’s America: 3, Crazy People Who Are Kind-Of Terrorists: 0.

    The point is, this is a really bad idea. Database breaches happen very often – even to sensitive and closed systems. We just had a meth dealer in possession of classified weapons designs from Los Alamos for goddess-sake. A hacker stole data from the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons agency. And a hacker used a freely-downloadable program to hack the FBI.

    If you want to give your biometric information to a central database that can be easily hacked or used by a possibly (probably) corrupt future government – go ahead. That’s your decision. My decision is to keep urging everyone I know (and all their representatives) to fight against this threat to our country. You might think its ‘awesome’ to have to use one of these IDs to cross state lines when you want, or have to have one *and* be on a “fly-list” to move around the country on planes – but most people I know don’t.

    Hopefully you someday realize that the government isn’t working to preserve your personal way of life – its working to preserve the society that feeds its gaping maw.

  45. And then there is the relationship between the Cheney gang, Halliburton, KBR, SAIC ety etc ad nauseum.

  46. This is about risk versus safety.

    Unfortunately, our ability to evaluate these trade-offs in a balanced way has been completely lost since 9/11.

    Neither incredibly evasive government ID / DB systems, nor limiting the amount of liquid you can fly with to 3 oz is worth their safety to freedom ratio.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozten/2228776547/

  47. The problems with the proposed database, aside from the fact that it makes no one safer:
    1. As evidenced by companies like Experian (credit reference agency in the UK – private, but you can’t get a mortgage if they don’t like the look of you, plus, if you want what they have on you, you have to pay), the information isn’t looked at as being “owned” by the individual (Gov: “Can I have your data please?”); it is looked at as being the property of the Government (Gov: “We reserve the right not to tell you what we have on you”), and something they have a right to “coerce” from you.
    2. The British gov have no idea how to secure a database (“Here kid, go and burn the entire child benefit database onto a couple of CDs and chuck it in the post would you, there’s a good boy”). This is the main reason the database of all the children in the UK (ContactPoint) isn’t such a good idea and why the NHS centralised record is an even worse idea (the posters from Denmark and Portugal have had other experiences but one strongly suspects that in the UK it will be nigh on impossible to find out who has been accessing “your” record: “Sorry sir, madam, you are not entitled to that and besides, we have no idea”).
    3. The FaceBook model – it may be ok for a few photos and emails but for your DNA, address, bank details? Nah, think I’ll pass.

  48. I fear a system in which large unified databases can be crossbred to yield data we’d never voluntarily give up — for instance, combining banking and credit card records, phone records, medical records, and a centralized government database. The bigger and more uniform the databases, the easier they are to cross-compile.

    I don’t want the government checking my known banking activities and credit card use against my declared income on my tax return and concluding that I’m doing some of my business in cash. I don’t want some nosy bureaucrat going through my medical records, deciding on their own untrained say-so that an ailment of mine is a matter of concern to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and getting my driver’s license pulled until I can somehow “prove” I’m not a hazard on the road. I don’t want them to track my known locations against my credit card records, observe that certain kinds of purchases match up with certain locations at certain times, and start making shrewd guesses about what I’m doing there and who I’m meeting with when I do it.

    I most especially don’t want to have masses of coordinated data about me fall into the hands of people like George Bush and his cronies. You can argue that Britain doesn’t have that kind of government. We didn’t have one either, until we did.

    When you think about government information security issues, always imagine that the scariest people you know are running things. Once info is in a database, it stays there. Five or ten or twenty years from now, the monsters really could be running things.

  49. “I want to start with a question; do you trust the government? Got an answer? Okay now answer this one. Do you trust the next government? How about the one after that? Of course you can’t answer the last two because you don’t know who will be in power… (From MSN -Why ID cards are dangerous)”

    I am opposed to UK ID cards. I don’t trust this government. Recent history (I did not trust the last few governments either) suggests I won’t trust the next few.

    But I do acknowledge that the Danes and Portuguese appear to trust theirs. That they don’t talk about any abuses of ID cards by their govts – is this because there are none? Can’t speak for Portuguese but Denmark seems to come across as so much more civilised (as in civil society) than UK or US societies. Why is this? Is it because it is a smaller population with closer links to those individuals in power?

    If we really want to understand how to oppose not just ID cards, but seek to prevent the EFFECTS of ID cards that we fear, we really must study places like Denmark to find out if they suffer the same effects, and if not why not. Then we might learn something we can use in the debate about UK ID cards. Just trading “we do this, they do that” “Oh no they don’t, oh yes they do” “it didn’t stop Madrid” “It found them quickly” exchanges serves nobody. We need to get beyond this.

  50. It sounds like many of you have never heard of Pandora’s box. In a debate like this it is important to weigh the actual and potential pros and cons. I’m not really seeing a lot of actual OR potential pros to having a national database system. All I see are potential abuses.

    I think it’s great that the citizens of Denmark and Portugal and other democratic countries voted for representatives who could institute these changes that they didn’t even know that they needed. That doesn’t mean we all need to do it. And what’s next? A global ID card? Slippery slope, anyone?

    I live in the US, and they already have a federal unique identifier for me. It’s my social security number, and everybody already uses it. My government, my employer, my bank, my credit card, my investment bank, my gas and electric provider, my ISP, my cell phone company. They all know my SSN and they all use it to “identify” me when I call to inquire about my accounts or make changes, etc.

    So I ask you, what, REALLY is the benefit? Besides wasting more of my money and more of my representatives’ time that should be dedicated to things like ending the Iraq occupation and impeaching Bush.

  51. @Jeff:
    I would argue that tackling fear-inspiring problems dispassionately and with a level head is usually the best approach.
    Solving most serious problems – developing a vaccine for avian flu, for instance – is something that takes time and intelligent deliberation. Scientists don’t go running around like chickens with their heads cut off and expect to cure cancer. However, that’s exactly the type of thing that happened to the US government post-9/11. Look at hastily-crafted legislation like the PATRIOT Act, and asinine policies like the banning of liquids on flights.
    Moreover, throwing technology at a problem usually just makes the problem more complicated, especially when a large bureaucratic body is involved.

    Getting back on topic, it troubles me more than a bit when a secret government document discusses tactics for the coercion of citizens into providing information for this sort of comprehensive, centralized database. Doesn’t do much to foster trust, does it?

    http://pieps.org/NIS_Options_Analysis_Outcome.pdf

  52. The moderator said, “I don’t want the government checking my known banking activities and credit card use against my declared income on my tax return and concluding that I’m doing some of my business in cash…”

    If you are a US citizen, the IRS can do that. The gray ecconomy represents tens of billions of dollars that should be taxed.

    Antinous, I’m the same as ever. I work very hard to see issues from different angles. My life experience has shown me that the Government can be a monster, but I try not to overly generalize. And I have been a victim of government corruption. I’ve seen it from the inside (when I was in the military) and from the outside. Our government has a lot of room for improvement, but just hating it all isn’t the answer.

  53. ‘Coercion’ is a red-flag word indeed (unless you’re reading political philosophy, in which case it gets tossed around like nobody’s business), but I can’t really make sense of exactly what is so ominous about the cited passage. They’re going to ‘coerce’ citizens into getting these cards by making them compulsory in order to get certain other government documents? That doesn’t seem like a totally huge deal on the face of things: certainly, as one poster commented above, it’s not as big a deal as if it was actually legally compulsory for every citizen.

    It’s not this odd term ‘coercion’ that’s a sticking point for me. Two things stand out as making this especially problematic: this really *isn’t* overt coercion in the same way as a nationwide law would be, as a politically unpopular move which would certainly mobilize some resistance. Rather, it seems like a way of surreptitiously sneaking this ID card system in by a back door – far worse than if it was simple and obvious coercion. So it’s really great that this government sneakiness has been exposed for all to see.

    The other big red flag for me is the vocabulary of the document. It’s kind of telling that it needs all the notes that have been added… It would be very, very difficult to figure out what’s even going on in this document without the benefit of captioning. I’ve always known that government spoke in the tongues of business, but this seems to be taking it to a new level. All in all, it’s very, very Orwellian – not in the ‘1984’ sense (yet), but in the ‘Politics and the English Language’ sense.

  54. http://www.no2id.net/news/pressRelease/release.php?name=IDCardCoercion

    I didn’t RTFA quite as deeply as I needed to, and now that I’ve read the site above this begins to make more sense. The usage of a term like ‘coercion’ in this document literally contradicts assertions by numerous UK politicians on the topic of whether or not there would be ‘compulsory’ registration for the ID program. Polemicists that they are, the NOID folks seem to think that there’s a pretty unambiguous contradiction here. Which is certainly true in a sense (coercion is practically the same thing as legal compulsion), but what I said above also holds true: the politicians’ bullshit avoids being an outright ‘lie’ insofar as this is not ‘compulsion,’ pure and simple. Instead, it’s really the bundling of a so-called ‘service’ that citizens may really *not* want into a service that they not only want, but more or less ‘need’ (ie. drivers’ licences and such).

    So I guess it’s a lot like DRM on a grand scale. (You might, of course, say we don’t ‘need’ cultural productions, but there’s a lot of idiots who read Pitchfork daily that might disagree with you)

  55. The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its rightful purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the very evils it is supposed to punish!

    If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

    http://www.constitution.org/law/bastiat.htm

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