In April I wrote a post called “Identity cards by the backdoor coming to the UK shortly?”. You can find it here. In it I concluded:
So no longer will it be necessary to battle the libertarian instincts of so many Daily Mail-reading Middle Englanders. By simply passing legislation designed, according to its proponents, to fight organised crime and terrorism conducted on the Internet, the function creep Meacher mentioned in his piece will be enabled from a design-of-concept point of view into the laws themselves to allow them to also create the figure of virtual ID cards.
For you have already bought and paid for an identity card: it’s called a mobile phone; it costs you maybe £400 over a two-year period; its functionality, call-centre provision and contractual relationship is already outsourced to a private provider; and it will allow governments everywhere – but in particular here in Britain – to spy on, collate and structure all your most personal information as individual profiles are legally created about every single voter in the country.
This is ID-card paradise for entirely amoral command-and-control agendas.
Or, for the rest of us, a civil-liberty hell on Planet Earth.
Today, the Independent confirms that this is what the government now proposes: a full-scale programme of a nationwide virtual ID card via the legislative backdoor. I wonder how many of the tens of thousands of security professionals who attend security expositions as described in my previous post will now get to lap up the ill-gotten gains from this terribly ill-advised proposal.
In essence, we rejected New Labour’s own ID-card proposals for two reasons: a) the cost of the system they proposed was ridiculously exorbitant and b) most people in Britain are against the idea in principle anyway.
So as befits a Coalition government with the privatising hunger of the rapaciously capitalistic, we now get a clever game of smoke and mirrors where we will focus on reason b) – the lesser of the two preoccupations – and generally ignore reason a). But the cost, not only in terms of contract price but also in terms of the potential for identity theft once the idea of using mobile phones is in place and functioning, is not inconsiderable.
I would, however, add a third reason not to proceed: I simply, frankly, don’t want to access government services using a privately contracted device I use in the rest of my life. That is to say, for me the real issue is the privatisation of a virtual ID card system. That companies such as, for example, Facebook – with all its manifest privacy issues – should seriously be considered a partner in such a scheme is indicative of why so many social media sites now want us to use real identities. For there’s real money in them thar hills for owners of real-identity databases.
The really long-term business plan becomes evermore clear, doesn’t it?
Information creep was bad enough when governments suggested real-time Internet snooping. Knowing the efficiency of the private sector in extracting personal data from us to generate private profit, the Lord only knows what might happen when corporations get officially involved – and what’s more, with the full force of the law behind them in their every act and deed.
My call to arms then? “No to a backdoor privatisation of virtual ID cards!”
And once we’ve prevented this creeping privatisation, perhaps then it’ll be time to talk about the real issues to hand.