Tag Archives: ID cards

ID Database Breached Before It’s Even Begun

The National Identity Register, the database underpinning the government’s continuing plans for ID cards, may not have been instituted yet, but one of the three systems which will comprise its core has already been breached:

Nine local authority workers have been sacked after illegally accessing personal details of the public held on the government’s national identity database.

In total, 34 council workers were found to have illegally accessed the Customer Information System (CIS) database, which is currently earmarked to form part of a linked-up network of three systems constituting the government’s national identity database.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has countered, saying:

“IPS will make the systems supporting the national identity service as secure as possible, building on an excellent track record with the current passport database.

“Our proposals for the development of the national identity service seek to incorporate the use of technology supporting CIS to store biographical information. However, such information would be stored separately from any information held on CIS by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and protected by strict audit and access controls.

“It will be a criminal offence to make any unauthorised disclosure of information and our security arrangements will also be subject to the independent scrutiny of both the information commissioner and a new identity commissioner.”

In order for our very identities to be protected from abuse by the government or simply its employees (and these 34 will be just the tip of the iceberg) we’ll need a government ‘identity commissioner’? How’s about no ID cards (no need/easily forged)? How’s about no National Identity Register? How’s about no National Identity Service? Henry Porter looks at the larger question of database security and how our identities will remain under greater threat because of the ID scheme:

A DWP spokesman suggested that the small number of breaches recorded indicated that unauthorised access by officials was spotted quickly. He did not, of course, acknowledge that these cases came from sample checks generated by the system.

This is absolutely critical. For years Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge university and NO2ID have been arguing that by their nature large databases will never be free of such abuse. Anderson’s Rule means you cannot construct a database with scale, functionality and security because if you design a large system for ease of access it becomes insecure, while if you make it watertight it becomes impossible to use.

And yet government presses ahead with the grand scheme of linking database together and allowing access to hundreds of thousands of officials

This addiction to databases and the bureaucracies which underpin them is at the heart of most of our problems. Computers and software may make for an efficient way of handling vast amounts of data, but a total reliance on predictability, standardisation and methods of control are destroying the society they’re supposed to be protecting. As a people we resist being overly rational – the system will keep being breached because idiots in the civil service (or contracted out agencies), not to mention organised crime will simply want to. All the ‘identity commisioners’ in the world won’t be able to stop that. To bureaucratise identity itself is to court absolute disaster.

ID Cards to Protect ‘Identity Rights’

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has created ‘identity rights’! Rejoice! He will continue to introduce ID cards by stealth, but worry not – your ‘identity rights’ will be guaranteed!

The union flag has been left off the final design of the national identity card unveiled today in order to recognise the “identity rights” of Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland.

Instead the ID card design unveiled by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, features a tasteful floral pattern made up of the shamrock, daffodil, thistle and rose alongside the Royal Coat of Arms.

A Home Office spokesperson said today this was because “the card represents all the nations of the United Kingdom and the design reflects themes of Britishness and aspects of UK history”.

The Home Office say that they are clear that the ID card scheme must work in a way that “fully recognises the identity rights of the people of Northern Ireland as laid out in the Belfast Agreement”.

The assessment says that while some symbols have been included within the card’s design to indicate that the document has been issued by the British government they have “sought to design features which can reflect all parts of the United Kingdom, such as the inclusion of the shamrock to represent Ireland within the tactile feature, and we have sought to avoid symbols such as flags”.

The decision means that Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland will be issued with an “identification card” which is a version of the identity card which will differ from that issued to British citizens.

‘Identity rights’? What are these supposed to be? Are they somehow supposed to be more important than human rights (which ID cards are in breach of)? Are we supposed to be grateful that our various ‘identity rights’ are secured by ID cards when our liberty is not? Chris Grayling, most likely to be Tory Home Secretary next year suggests that it’s a smokescreen, that Johnson is desperately trying to come up with a sales pitch for a scheme which he can’t afford and which none of us wants:

what use will the scheme be? How can the police use it when only a few will have the cards? Why should the NHS spend millions on card readers when not everyone has one?

And why on earth will people who are already short of cash rush out to spend their 30 quid at the ID card shop rather than on a Chinese takeaway for Friday night? Or a couple of bottles of scotch? Or a cheap seats ticket at Old Trafford on a Saturday afternoon?

It wasn’t Alan’s idea. He probably didn’t want it. But he’s the poor sap with the job in the sales department who has to go out and persuade you to part with your hard earned cash.

I would argue the point a little differently. Johnson clearly doesn’t intend ID cards to remain voluntary – his ‘Safeguarding (there’s that buzzword again, notice) Identity’ paper, the policies belonging to which he is clearly pursuing vigorously, at its core depends on ID cards for all. But rather than deliver with a frontal assault, he’ll make it impossible to get a passport without forcible inclusion on the National Identity Register, he’ll make student loans impossible to obtain without ID cards, and he may have stepped back from an unwinnable battle with airside aviation workers, but he’s bound to impose them on another vulnerable, minority group and then another, and then another…

Most people don’t want them, so don’t buy the cuddly new Home Secretary’s soft soap. ID cards must be stopped completely.

Is Your ID Safe?

Liberty has put up a short film about the government’s propensity to lose the electorate’s data. With them continuing to pursue their National Identity Register, how safe will that data be?

Johnson’s Real Intention for ID Cards

Britain’s new Home Secretary may have a cockney cheeky chappy ‘thing’ going on, but don’t be fooled – he’s just as authoritarian as his mad predecessor:

The introduction of identity cards is a simple means of helping you, and I, protect our unique identity from fraudsters. Identity fraud costs the UK economy £1.2bn on average each year and causes misery for tens of thousands who fall victim. At a cost of just £30, the identity card is a cheap way of helping fight back. So, despite the headlines that would have readers think otherwise, I’m not scrapping identity cards – I’m committed to delivering them more quickly to the people who will benefit most.

I know that some of you have real concerns about the government’s motives for introducing the card. When I announced this week that I would make identity cards wholly voluntary it was because I believe that there are real benefits that will make the card an attractive proposition for many people. I think the case for identity cards has been made, but understand that getting a card will be a big decision for some people. Easy or hard, I think it should be a voluntary decision, one that people choose to take, because they agree and welcome the benefits an identity card will provide.

He thinks the case for ID cards has been made, showing a now typical New Labour disdain for an electorate which thoroughly rejects them. He’s rebranded them a means of protecting oneself from ID fraud, yet doesn’t explain why a governmental National Identity Register is needed to do so, nor how prosecuting those on the register for not updating their details could ever be a helpful move. But of course Alan Johnson is lying when he says they’re wholly voluntary. If you’re a teenager just try to get a student loan (which they’re already poised to devalue) without one. When you renew your passport just watch the administrator’s face crease if you refuse them permission to add you to the ID register – card, or no card (and the card itself was never the issue per se). Henry Porter gets it right when he says:

The ID card is primarily a scheme that enables government to identify you, and that is made clear in a dubious little paper called Safeguarding Identity, produced by the Home Office last week, which describes how the ID card and the transformational government scheme mesh together in one glorious structure where data about the individual passes between departments. That is the prize and why they will use any argument and spend any amount to achieve it. Every case mounted in favour of ID cards has been convincingly knocked down. It will not protect us from terrorism, as Johnson concedes, and it won’t do anything to stop crime. Its effect on benefit fraud is limited.

There is something terribly Foucaultian about this. A government which desperately wants people to think it’s learned its lessons is creating a system of punishment, merely to permit you to be who you are. It’s one of the most authoritarian proposals I’ve ever heard of in the history of the United Kingdom. So because people are stupid and leave their credit card statements in the bin instead of shredding them, I should have my very identity controlled and determined by a state eager to use my data without my specific consent, throughout its framework? That should terrify and appall everyone. A government’s promise of more efficient data protection, but whose track record of data handling and database development is so incompetent, should also ring alarm bells everywhere. Johnson’s little document cited above is an insidious, bureaucracy-driven attempt to redefine the very meaning of identity in the twenty-first century (page 28), and he’s clearly bought into it. If so there is no way he’ll let ID cards remain ‘voluntary’, and we must all resist ‘Safeguarding Identity’ at all costs. Observe why:

3.32. The vision for the NIS [National Identity Service] is that it will become an essential part of everyday life; underpinning interactions and transactions between individuals, public services and businesses and supporting people to protect their identity. The NIS will do this primarily through further ‘identity services’: the processes and tools with which people can prove or check identity.

New Labour’s proscription for the future: all normal human interaction is to be moderated by the government. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I understand a government is supposed to be for. This strategy is a target-driven nightmare, the consequences of which appear not to have been considered by a Home Office completely out of step with the real world.

See? Alan Johnson is a Liar!

My suspicions were all on the money. Home Secretary Alan Johnson defied new Speaker John Bercow and held a spin press conference to announce ID cards were continuing, but were now entirely voluntary. In doing so he didn’t just continue New Labour’s obsession with announcing policy in the press rather than the Commons where it belongs (so much for reform eh Gordo?), but *ahem* lied:

two batches of draft regulations to be approved by MPs tomorrow and next week are expected to include powers to make the passport a “designated document” under the national identity card scheme. This means that anyone applying for or renewing their passport from 2011 will have their details automatically added to the national identity databases.

The regulations also include powers to levy a fine of up to £1,000 on those who fail to tell the authorities of a change of address or amend other key personal details such as a change of name within three months.

Did that really imply compulsory addition to the register and the penalty for not keeping it up-to-date would be pushed through by statutory instrument?! The expenses scandal and the transitory demand for constitutional change have clearly taught this rotten government nothing. They’re prepared to spend tens of millions they don’t have on a scheme they don’t need, which the people don’t want, sidestepping the Commons to do so, and lying to the public. This government fails to comprehend who it’s answerable to and must be reminded.

Johnson Spins Away on ID Cards

Apparently new Home Secretary Alan Johnson is an ‘instinctive’ supporter of ID cards. Strange then to give the impression he’s walking away from them:

A compulsory identity card trial for pilots and 30,000 other airport workers due to start in September has been abandoned by the new home secretary, Alan Johnson.

But he intends to accelerate other elements of the scheme including plans to issue £30 voluntary ID cards to young adults across north-west England. Johnson is also looking at making ID cards free for over-75s.

Longer-term plans to make ID cards compulsory for critical workers at rail stations have also been dropped.

British citizens would not be forced to carry ID cards, insisted the home secretary. Johnson said: “Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport.

Hmm. He pulls the compulsory scheme from airside & rail workers, yet continues with young people and the national rollout? Ok so if there really is to be no compulsion will he confirm people won’t need one for a student loan? Will you not now be forced onto the National Identity Register merely by renewing your passport?

No compulsion my ass, this is classic New Labour spin. So maybe he does harbour leadership ambitions after all.

It’s Time To Abandon ID Cards

Are you listening, Alan Johnson?

I bear in mind that countries, such as France and Germany, and other western European countries have ID card systems in place. This is due to different historical and cultural developments from our own. Our heritage is different. In one of his English letters Voltaire said that the civil wars of Rome ended in slavery, and those of the English in liberty. He wrote that the English were jealous of their liberty. So they are. The commitment, by and large, of the British people to European constitutional principles and ideals does not require us to adopt an ID card system.

In my view a national identity card system is not necessary in our country. No further money should be spent on it. The idea should be abandoned.

Lord Steyn is right and he points out the appropriate historical comparison to boot. There is quite simply no need for them and the new Home Secretary (who can’t afford them now after all) must announce now that the project is defunct. I’m confused why it’s still in limbo – some novel New Labour spin in preparation maybe? Waiting for a bad news day to sneak it under the radar?

Liberty Annual Conference Liveblog

Liveblogging from Liberty’s 75th annual conference.

(edit: Some content remains on my Twitter feed but will be added to a write-up which I’ll work on in a few days)

All in all a brilliant day – notable in the three way disagreement between Jack Straw, Dominic Grieve and Lord Bingham over the Human Rights Act and the impending battle which even Shami Chakrabarti herself notes is likely to be the next big war over civil liberties and human rights in this country.

Click the link for the full liveblog. Full of drama but also some very current and relevant politics. This wasn’t a talking shop – with the Secretary of State for Justice, the former Home Secretary Jack Straw, this mattered. Read and comment if you are so moved. Continue reading

Manchester to ‘Trial’ ID Cards

So despite the government being essentially broke, despite their suppression of dissent in tatters, despite there being no case made for ID cards whatsoever (at least a believable one), mad Jacqui Smith is still going ahead with the plan:

Manchester will this autumn become the first city where people can sign up for an ID card, Jacqui Smith has said.

Anyone over 16 in the city with a UK passport will be able to apply for a card from the Home Office.

The home secretary’s speech signals her determination to push ahead with the cards, which will initially cost £30, despite opposition.

So here’s the question: why? Well look at this:

The home secretary was speaking during a visit to Newall Green high school in Wythenshawe, a deprived part of Manchester.

She took part in a workshop with pupils to discuss the benefits of ID cards.

Smith said: “I think, having talked to young people this morning, that having a safe and secure way of proving your identity is something they want and something they need.”

She said that there would be no government help towards the £30 cost of the cards, which would be issued to people aged 16 and over on a voluntary basis next year.

The home secretary said: “We’re saying: if you think it’s got benefits for you, for only £30 you can register with the scheme and you’ve got a card to prove who you are as you start out in life.”

So we’ve got indoctrination to start with. What does it say about the national identity register and ID cards that a government minister would have to go into a school in order to push them onto those without fully developed critical faculties? She won’t mention for a minute that they’re about as easily copied as passports. She won’t teach people to use the internet more safely or to buy shredders to protect their private information. She won’t let on that she won’t let you have a passport and leave and return to the country at will, without signing up to the register. She won’t let the kids know that they can’t have a student loan in the future without signing up. Pilots aren’t buying this garbage:

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa ), which represents more than 80% of commercial airline pilots, is to mount a legal challenge to Home Office plans to use “critical” airside workers as the first compulsory “guinea pigs” for the scheme.

MPs are shortly to be asked to approve the powers to compel the pilots and other airside workers at the two airports to register for the national ID card scheme as part of their “pre-employment” checks. The £30 fee is to be waived as an incentive for them to sign up.

The pilots’ union has protested to ministers that the £18m scheme cannot be regarded as voluntary when they are being told they will not qualify for an “airside pass” without them: “ID cards will have absolutely no value as far as security is concerned. This is nothing other than coercion and promises that ID cards would be voluntary have been broken,” Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, has told ministers. “We will resist.”

It’s certainly proof that ID cards are indeed being introduced by stealth. The Home Office is trying to preempt coordinated dissent by marginalising group after group, minority after minority, to make a take-up by the majority an inevitability. She says it’s about protection from ‘criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists’, but for that to make sense you’d have to have some evidence that the Home Office’s obsession with databases actually works. It doesn’t. The government’s handling of sensitive private information has been lazy at best and criminally neglectful at worst. Their obsession with including indefinitely the DNA details of everyone arrested by the police has had no impact at all on the solving of crime, and they have failed to explain to anyone how compromising the privacy of everyone improves the security of anyone. All we’ve seen from this government is multiple means of aggressive control, and why? To look strong on illegal immigration terrorism crime, and both placate the red top tabloids which they so fear? Or to further their ultimate obsession with ‘protection’? It’s time this government realised you can’t protect anyone by controlling everyone. It has to stop.

Cancel ID Cards! Cancel Them Now!

It appears the government (and by government I do not mean Gordon Brown or Jacqui Smith) is starting to worry about the message they’re sending out by holding on to their hugely expensive projects to control the population, at a time when they can’t afford to do so. Inevitably this has now come round to ID cards:

Senior cabinet ministers are privately discussing a plan to scrap the Government’s £5bn identity cards programme as part of cuts to public spending, The Independent has learnt.

The ministers believe that some “sacred cows” will have to be sacrificed in the effort to reduce Britain’s debt mountain. They are raising fresh questions over the future of the ID card programme as the Cabinet faces renewed pressure to find economies beyond a promised £9bn in “efficiency savings”.

“My sense is that ID cards will not go ahead,” a senior Cabinet Minister said. “We have to find savings somewhere, and it would be better to shelve schemes like this that aren’t popular.”

A ComRes poll for The Independent today finds 55 per cent of voters favour public spending cuts to reduce Britain’s debts, against 38 per cent who want taxes to be increased. It also finds that the Tory lead over Labour has widened from 12 to 19 points since the Budget.

Issuing ID cards will cost more than £5bn over the next decade while scrapping the scheme now would leave the taxpayer with a relatively small compensation bill to pay.

Cabinet sceptics are preparing to use the public spending crunch to push for the scheme to be abandoned before the first cards are issued to British nationals this winter.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has said the programme will be scrapped if his party wins the election expected to take place in May 2010.

But Gordon Brown has so far proved immovable on the issue, with Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, insisting last month that the Government was “on track” to introduce ID cards.

The country must realise that at a time when the government simply can’t afford to push on with ID cards, if they do so regardless it really is because they are desperate to control us, that the control element really isn’t an unfortunate by-product of an otherwise good idea. They can save £5 billion? Why not? ID cards won’t help against terrorism or ID theft, would be an obscenely nationalistic device to access public services, and their implementation would contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself. Refuse to sign up? You won’t be issued a passport, so won’t be able to leave and return to this country – a fundamental human right the government doesn’t have the political or moral authority to restrict under any circumstances. Refuse to hand yours over? Straight to jail. Fail to update information which isn’t their business to know? Get a large fine! Conscientiously object, but need a student loan for university? Denied!

Oh and to those who say if you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide? Did you see those police batons at the G20 protest? The victims were all of us – getting beaten without breaking any laws or having anything to hide. What do you think? Should the government spend £5 billion on this or say community centres, state pensions, youth clubs, prison improvements, roads or any other infrastructure we actually need?