Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Column inches

Is it just me that gets slightly depressed to see Blunkett's alleged-perk-slipping intricacies generating numerous more front-page headlines than the steamrolling progress of our new identification system?

Maybe getting more politicians into the Big Brother house would be a good idea after all... ;)

Publication a-gogo!

Well, the Identity Cards Bill is out - you can download it here (along with explanatory notes too).

PublicTechnology.net has the "press release", for want of a better name. It also has a bunch of quotes from the Home Office including the following changes, as a result of feedback (with my comments in non-bold):

  • to extend the remit of the National Identity Scheme Commissioner to cover oversight of the whole scheme, not just issues relating to provision of information from the Register

  • to remove the bar to an individual's information contained in the access records of the Register being made available to that registered individual

    Which sounds good... although the wording seems quite specific, and I intend to check what information being stored elsewhere about me I still won't have access to.

  • to extend the prohibition on requirements to produce identity cards for services so that neither production of an ID card nor a check would be lawful before Parliament agreed the necessary regulations. The absolute prohibition on making it compulsory to carry a card at all times remains

    Hang on, give me a moment to decipher that one... Basically, there are now less scenarios where it would be legal to demand an ID check, at least before the government have decided it would be ok. Will check under what scenarios such a check is still ok, though. Oh, and you won't have to carry a card all the time.

  • to amend the false documents offence in the Bill so that it does not include those who knowingly use false documentation to enter the UK to apply for asylum.

    The meaning of this depends on what the "false documents offence" entails... Looks like it's time to do some bedtime reading.

More to come...

Monday, November 29, 2004

An example, exploded.

Blair presses case for ID cards: "They will help protect civil liberties, not erode them, because people will be able to produce their own identification."

This really highlights the inverted state we find ourselves arrived at, in our modern reminiscence for panoptic panacea - ID Cards are a libertarian boon, as they represent a technically-certified method to prove that we are are who we say we are.

On the surface, this is maybe a plausible pro for the scheme. But if we stop and think a moment, and flip it on its head, we see the true, slithering nature of it. Ask yourself this: If you've done nothing wrong, why should you have to prove it?

This is an important point in the debate, and one we must constantly remind ourselves of. Under an ID scheme, we are no longer considered innocent, until proven guilty. Under the new regime, we are constantly considered suspect, unless we can somehow prove otherwise. Proof, in this case, comes from the biometric labs, but is refracted through a hundred layers of kaleidoscopic government layers.

The key thing, the tour de force, is that having an ID card would only be beneficial to your civil liberties under an ID scheme. And up until the point of display, you effectively have no right to be trusted by the government - that aging hierarchy put in place for our benefit, remember. You are to be eyed suspiciously, watched from afar and treated with brutish apathy. Under an ID scheme, your ability to be free is no longer inherent in your existence as a human being, but coupled savagely with a piece of plastic and the myriad tables of data deep within government storage.

Who do you trust? Who trusts you?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Media Appearances

Catching up with some of Dave's recent appearances on TV and radio...

Spy Blog has a transcript of Blunkett with Jonathan Dimbleby from November 21st, in 4 main sections.

On the 25th (last Thursday), Blunkett also popped up on Radio 4's Today programme. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, you can download it as an audio file. (4.9MB, Mono Ogg Vorbis format)


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Is the UK safer under Labour?"...

... asks the BBC in response to Peter Hain's comments. Bearing in mind that the comments "reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far", but also that such commenting is self-selecting, it's kind of impressive to note that - currently - the comments are about 17-to-1 decidely opposed to ID Cards and the UK foreign policy.

Remember to ask yourself, what is security? If I threaten to attack you unless you "pay" me 50 quid, and you hand it over, does that then make you more secure? (Hey, it works for the Mafia in all them films...)

Are we more secure just by building ever larger walls around ourselves, whilst letting our attitude towards the rest of the world continue to be one of imperialist aggression?

My Return to the Madhouse

Honestly, I go away for a couple of days, the Queen does some yadda yadda, and all Hell breaks loose. Can't I leave you lot alone for just a little while?

Anyway, to keep up to date, a quick scan throws up this equally-quick summary:

I also notice that Liberty have noticed that Labor have a page to add your support for ID Cards. But why bother, if they know they're going to do it anyway and damn the rest of you? I also like the way they want to get the Tories backing the card, but keep them way out of power. Keep your friends close...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Fear and loyalty.

A couple of BBC articles to note...

Following Blunkett's concern over supermarket loyalty cards, there's a more in-depth follow-up on just how much they do invade our privacy. While they note that they currently only target particular demographics on a broad basis (e.g. "women aged 20 to 30"), I see no reason why, given cheap enough technology, they wouldn't extend this to target individuals. With the right blend of time and motivation, this isn't so unfeasible. But see previous posts as to why loyalty cards are different to ID cards.

Secondly, Charles Kennedy is kicking back against terrorism as an excuse. Good for him, although the image caption leaves the details out, I notice. Turns out it's actually quite easy to frighten people into doing whatever you want them to do, once they're completely dependent on you for how they live.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Blunkett concerned about loyalty cards

Interesting, Blunky's comparing ID cards to supermarket loyalty cards, the big fat BBC quote being: "It is a really good opportunity to start debating what is know [sic] about us, by whom, who supervises it and how we can get a grip on it"

Start debating? Maybe if he hadn't been so eager to chase down terrorists and immigrants, he would have noticed that these kind of discussions have been going on for years. Maybe if he hadn't simply swept the arguments aside in favour of promoting his own top-down, proud decision-making abilities, then we could have broached the subject of privacy, the state and liberty together with the government, from the start.

And for the record, the answers to the Spot the Difference competition, between Nectar cards and proposed ID cards were:

  1. I'm not forced to have a Nectar card (and, indeed, don't).

  2. I don't have to pay for a Nectar card

  3. I can stop using it whenever I like (if I had one)

  4. There's no inherent coupling between the card and a person (I believe - comment if wrong). I can give my card to someone else, who can "attach" their shopping behaviour to it.

  5. Sainsbury's, Vodafone, et al, aren't in a position to decide my fundamental freedoms based on the card. Admittedly they could attempt to spot "unusual" behaviour based on data associated with the card, and perhaps restrict my ability to shop at their shops based on it, but a). that's not good business for them, b). I can always shop elsewhere.

Yes, let's have this privacy debate, here and now. Open the doors, and hey - why not put the whole IDatabase on hold while we're at it, huh?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Blunkett Whispers...

A bit of a side issue today, although vaguely related to Blunkett. As you may be aware the media have been announcing Blunkett's new plans for policing reform. As an example see here at BBC News or here at the Observer.

BBC News states quite clearly "People could be given the mobile phone number of their local bobby under an overhaul of policing in England and Wales unveiled by David Blunkett."

Now this sounds like a bloody stupid idea, possibly one of Blunkett's worst yet. The potential for abuse is enourmous, in distracting the local officer by calling them or sending them on a wild goose chase while your mate burgles somewhere.

So I downloaded the three consultation documents and did a search for "mobile". In the two smaller documents - nothing. In the bigger document a few instances of mobile criminals, and mobile communities, and one instance of Police doing their beaurocratic paperwork with mobile technology to save returning to the station. So I checked the press release. Instances of "mobile" are strangley absent there too.

So I repeated the search with the word "phone". A few things relating to the new non-emergency number "311", otherwise nothing.

So, where does this story come from. It certainly doesn't seem to come from Blunkett (for which we must be grateful since the idea is totally daft). It seems to be entirely an invention of the media. They appear to have managed to confuse the new "311" non-emergency number with the mobile numbers of officers on the beat.

Inspires great confidence in the media doesn't it?


Petition Time

Quick, you've only got 10 days left to add your name to the NO2ID on-line petition against UK ID cards. Normally I'm sceptical of the impact of petitions (and am somewhat in this case), but if NO2ID's latest newsletter is correct, "Cabinet Office rules mean that e-petitions with more than 300 signatures are listed on the Number 10 site, along with a Government response." i.e. there will have to be at least some minimal amount of feedback on the issue.

Hopefully I'll chase this up, but I can't (currently) find any up to date info on this on the Cabinet Office site, even with a search. That may be just me being lazy. Anyway, spread the petition link to friends and enemies alike.

Also, Phil Booth of NO2ID will be speaking at the Cowley Club in Brighton, this Thursday the 11th from 6 to 8pm. It's on London Road, and here's a map.