Friday, March 25, 2005

This is about us and us, not us and them.

No links. Instead, a thought just struck me, like a heavily-laden seagull smacking into a glass window.

All along, I've been thinking that ID Cards are a tool to challenge the existing lines of trust between the public and the government. This is still true, but (I've realised) more importantly, the real deal, an ID system will change the lines of trust between ourselves. Think about it for a moment. Here we have presented to us a method of "proving" that we are who we say we are. Its primary purpose, no matter what the "secondary" effects - disrupting terrorism, catching illegal workers etc - are, is to act as a single, unequivocal means by which the person looking at the card can be sure that we are who we say we are. Without this, the database behind it and all the associated "entitlement" schemes fall down. It is a Trust Card, first and foremost.

In effect, it is a system designed to replace the many informal ways of doing this that we have established already. It is a system that turns our social aspects into technical ones. Many say that this is more efficient, that we can only prevent disaster and crisis by having such a foolproof scheme in place, and to some extent (i.e. a theoretical extent and ignoring many other factors) this could be true. But in thinking this, we lose sight of what we will begin to lack as well.

Take a moment to reflect on the ways in which trust is built up. Do you trust your doctor? Does your doctor trust you? How about teachers, parents, the person in the local housing office, your estate agent, your bank manager, your local police? Why do you trust them to the degree that you do? ID cards, intent on providing proof, act formally. Under an ID system, you are only considered "trustworthy" if you can show something that was given to you by someone you've probably never met. Up until then, it would be fair to treat you as suspicious, just because everone else has their card, so why don't you? Whether or not the cards prove anything in reality is beside the point.

OK, so it's not like our human instincts are being completely over-ridden here. Just because someone presents their card to you, it doesn't mean you're forced to trust them... does it? Maybe not, but then you were never likely to in the first place. The damage is done to all those people who you had no reason to suspect of anything really, but were just suspicious of because they hadn't proved their ID yet.

First impressions count.

1 comment:

Alassra said...

I don't trust my estate agent as far as I can throw him, which isn't very far.