Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row

I am surprised at the fuss. No-one believed ID cards would help counter terrorism anyway. Even David Blunkett (what bliss to mention his wretched name now he's gone) admitted as much.

ID cards and the associated database are not about safety. This project is about control. It is hard to know whether to fear more its success or its failure. If it "succeeds", our lives will be tracked by the state on a scale undreamed of in the most totalitarian regimes. Ministers lie brazenly that it will be a "yes/no" identity verification system. That may be true, at least initially, for those other than the security services, the police and their political masters. That seems quite enough intrusion to be going on with - and it will get worse.

Remember how asset seizure was at first an exceptional power to be used only against terrorists? Then it was extended to drug dealers. Now the police can seize and crush your car if you forget to renew your insurance. Or HM Customs can seize it if they don't believe you are personally going to smoke the fags and drink the booze you are bringing back from France. How long did that "function creep" take? It seems to have been more a "function sprint"

I give it not more than 5 years for the tax man to have full access to the database, regardless of which Government is in power. Before long after that the local librarian will be able to track you down to collect the fine on that book you forgot to return. You will be asked to produce the card to cash a cheque, hire a car or check into an hotel. A policeman wiil certainly ask for it if you sleep in a ditch. They will hook it up to their other mad plan - the compulsory satellite car tracking system for "road pricing" and speed limit enforcement.

If you want to be a free man, you will have to travel in stolen cars, live by mugging and spend only your stolen cash. Otherwise, you may as well live in a glass house and walk the streets naked with your net worth tattooed on your buttocks.

As for failure, the insanely-centralised and comprehensive database will be a global top ten hacker target. Breaking into it would enable identity theft so perfect that a victim will need to adopt a new one. Nor need we fear only the technically-minded criminal. Cash to the right official will secure whatever is needed.

As PJ O 'Rourke said " money and power to politicians is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys..." Even if (mysteriously) you love and trust the present bunch, how much imagination do you need to work out what future politicians will do with the control over your life that this database will give them?

BBC NEWS | Politics | Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row

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