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[P]
The UK and Identity Cards

By DullTrev in Op-Ed
Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:06:05 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Moves are afoot in the United Kingdom to introduce a national identity card, much like most of Europe. But there are concerns over the plan, some caused by civil liberty concerns, some caused by logistical concerns, and others caused by the worrying way that the purpose, aim, and benefits of the proposed card change as the news and political agenda does.

The Labour government have announced a consultation document about the possibility of "entitlement cards" (identity cards by another name) for the UK. Though billed as a consultation document, it is widely seen as a fait accompli, with the only choice being on the version of identity cards that will be chosen.


This would be the first time identity cards have been carried in the UK since 1952, when wartime identity documents were scrapped as they were considered to be hindering the work of the police, due to the resentment that being asked to produce papers produced. So what are the reasons given for introducing them now?

The obvious reason for introducing ID cards was for them to be another measure against terrorism. However, it is generally accepted that, in fact, ID cards would have little effect against this form of crime. The thrust of the present proposals is in fact to reduce benefit (social security) fraud, and identity theft.

So, how do they plan to do this? The cards are expected to include the basic identification data of a photograph, name, address, and date of birth, but also will store electronically information such as fingerprints, or iris data. It will also contain some form of unique identifier, though whether it will be a new number or the present National Insurance (social security) number is not known.

Proponents

The UK government wishes to show itself as neutral on the issue, but Home Secretary David Blunkett has said "I am not going to disguise my own enthusiasm for an entitlement card system."

The Superintendents' Association, the Police Federation and the Association of Chief Police Officers have all welcomed the scheme, claiming it will help them do their jobs, specifically in relation to benefit fraud. John Abbott, the director general of the National Criminal Intelligence Service agrees, stating it could help in other areas of organised crime.

Opponents

There are a number of backbench MPs from various parties who object to the idea in principle. These include Peter Lilley, a Conservative ex Cabinet Minister and David Winnick, a Labour member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Civil liberties groups, such as Liberty and Charter88 are also firmly against the scheme.

Opinions

So why am I writing this? Well, I believe that despite present public support in the UK for such a scheme, an introduction of it will be impractical, divisive, and either pointless or draconian. The present scheme can be either voluntary or compulsory. A voluntary identity card scheme seems to me to be eminently pointless. It therefore seems to me that any scheme introduced will be either compulsory de jure or de facto, by making it impossible to function in society without a card.

For the system to work as it is intended, there will be a large amount of information on each citizen that needs to be collected and stored in a central database. This may include work status, salary information, criminal record, ethnic origin, etc. I believe that allowing the government to hold this information on all citizens is an affront to the right to privacy, and goes fundamentally against the nature of British society. I believe that allowing the introduction of identity cards will exacerbate differences in the UK society, and cause resentment among many ethnic groups.

The scheme would probably be funded by incorporating into it the present photo driving licenses, and passports. The charges for these would have to rise. The charges would have to rise as the ID cards would be more complex than the passports and driving licenses, and require a more expensive back end system, to allow the storage of biometric data. Also, those who do not have either a driving license or passport will have a new cost. This means the very people who would require the card most, those on benefits, would also be the least able to afford it.

The whole scheme smacks to me of one thought up in haste, that will finally achieve the desires of many civil servants, that of logging and controlling the population of the country. I believe this should be resisted, as the requirement to carry an identity card automatically changes the status of every person from citizen to suspect.

What do other k5ers think? Most countries have some form of id, whether de jure or de facto. Am I, and the British civil liberties organisations, crying wolf? Or is there a real worry?

More information on the scheme can be found at the BBC News site, specifically "Blunkett backs ID card plan", "'State racism' fears over ID cards" and "Q&A - Identity cards".

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Poll
Are ID cards good or bad?
o Good for the state, bad for the individual 38%
o Good for the state, good for the individual 8%
o Bad for the state, bad for the individual 36%
o Bad for the state, good for the individual 1%
o Don't know 8%
o None of the above 6%

Votes: 60
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Labour
o consultati on document
o Home Secretary David Blunkett
o Conservati ve
o Liberty
o Charter88
o BBC News
o "Blunkett backs ID card plan"
o "'State racism' fears over ID cards"
o "Q&A - Identity cards"
o Also by DullTrev


Display: Sort:
The UK and Identity Cards | 101 comments (94 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Most of Europe? (2.00 / 1) (#2)
by Bob Dog on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:48:35 PM EST

So, which european countries have national ID-cards?


Um... (none / 0) (#3)
by DullTrev on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:55:20 PM EST

Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Italy for a start. According to this page, 11 out of the 15 nations in the EU have some form of ID card.


--
DullTrev - used to be interesting. Honest.
[ Parent ]
Not all are the same... (none / 0) (#6)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 05:11:47 PM EST

Not all European cards have the same scope. E.g., in the Netherlands, it's not compulsory to even own one (I don't) and it's generally seen as just a cheaper from of passport (it costs less and can be used within Europe). Many people ID themselves with their passport or their driver's licence, not the ID card.

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]
Scope of card (none / 0) (#7)
by DullTrev on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 05:27:05 PM EST

The scope of the British ID card has not yet been decided. It may be a compulsory scheme, or an opt in scheme. The variations across Europe are similar in some ways to the options under consideration.


--
DullTrev - used to be interesting. Honest.
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#17)
by Delirium on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:50:07 PM EST

Belgium, Germany, Portugal, and Greece, among others, have compulsory national ID cards.

[ Parent ]
Not only EU (none / 0) (#30)
by tftp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:43:02 AM EST

In USSR (and now in Russia and other countries) an internal version of a passport is used. A citizen gets one after his 16th birthday. It is cheap (not in terms of time, though, that one has to waste in lines.) The passport, like the one for foreign travel, has a photograph; however the passport is issued for your entire life (unless you lose/damage it, of course). It has pages for additional photos as the owner grows older. Russia introduces new passports now.

This passport is an important (and usually the only) proof of identity in Russia. The serial number of the passport is routinely used in various forms (such as employment, taxes, business). In some cities residency is restricted, and proof of residency is also marked in the passport. Im Moscow, for example, non-residents are subject to all sorts of registrations, re-registrations and fees. This means that you'd better carry your passport with you wherever you go - because the police has the right to stop anyone, anywhere, for any reason or no reason, and demand his identity papers.

[ Parent ]

Ponder (4.00 / 2) (#4)
by rdskutter on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 05:07:29 PM EST

What happens if I refuse to carry my identity card?

What activities do I need my identity card for?

Can random organisations such as supermarkets refuse to serve people without identity cards?

Will certain orgranisations be required to check for identity cards and notify the main database of each card they check?

Will the goverment make any attempt to track people using their identity cards. If so what will they use this data for?


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE

Further Pondering (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by jgk on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:07:48 PM EST

If it's anything like France not carrying the cards will be illegal. What the punishment is will depend on how quickly the cards are taken up but will never result in anything more than being arrested and made to produce evidence of who you are (of course to refuse to identify yourself is a crime) or a big fine.

You need your card for anything you need to identify yourself officially: Post Office, Social Security, etc.

I'm pretty sure in Europe that no companies can require to see your ID card except as maybe as proof of age or companies that need to see driving licenses like car rental.

Daphne and Celeste are cool.
Gore Vidal is cool.
[ Parent ]
You miss the point (Sig wars) (none / 0) (#51)
by rdskutter on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:04:32 AM EST

Daphne and Celeste are cool.

Daphne and Celeste are ugly talentless mingers. They are not cool and the fact that they of all people can get a song like U.G.L.Y on to the UK charts shows the dire state of the music industry in this country.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

No I didn't! I understood entirely (none / 0) (#79)
by jgk on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:47:06 PM EST

Daphne and Celeste are ugly talentless mingers. They are not cool and the fact that they of all people can get a song like U.G.L.Y on to the UK charts shows the dire state of the music industry in this country.

I couldn't agree more. I hate the music industry. I think anyone is cool who can show the dire state of the music industry as well as Daphne & Celeste did. It's all going to hell.

Britney Spears is cool.
Gore Vidal is cool.
[ Parent ]
David Blunkett said (none / 0) (#35)
by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:39:44 AM EST

that it would not need to be carried at all times. (I think this was to try to put people at ease vis-a-vis 'random' stops by the police which, in the end, are not random).

Of course, the problem here is that:

- we are only at the consultation period and anything can happen between now and implementation;

- organisations will start asking for it because it's there.

[ Parent ]

So, (5.00 / 2) (#49)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:45:07 AM EST

"that it would not need to be carried at all times"

What would be the point then? You stop a suspected terrorist, or criminal, or fraudulant `asylum seeker`, or suspected benefits fraudster, and say `wheres your card`, and they reply `lost it sir` or `dont have one sir`. Now what? What have you gained for the millions of pounds its just cost?

I thought they still have crime in parts of Europe where they have to carry them by law?

I dont get it. What do I get for my money?

[ Parent ]

Any improvement is better than none (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:39:32 AM EST

I have a feeling the rationale is that current identification is extremely lax (as per remarks about collecting a parcel) and any improvement, although possibly ending up short of a full identity card, would be worth doing.

I have some sympathy with that point of view, although I can't imagine Royal Mail depots installing fingerprint and iris scanners any time soon ;)

On asylum seekers ... they already have cards with encoded fingerprints. The notion that this was a dry run for something bigger is hard to resist!

[ Parent ]

Possibly not (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:51:00 AM EST

The problem with having one thing that really, really says you are who you say you are, is that should somebody find a way of faking it, identity theft becomes so much easier. At the moment you really need to develop a bit of a 'paper trail' to assume an identity, which takes time and effort.

[ Parent ]
Well, (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:51:11 AM EST

I'm often asked to present some mail sent to my current address within 2 months, plus some id with my photo and signature. A passport is pretty handy here (I dont have a drivers license). These things can be handled much more cheaply by non-governmental bodies. (The government says as much all the time as justification for privatising utilities.)

In Denmark it's common to be asked to go to your police station to get proof of ID from the police, which is used for such tasks as renting property.

In fact, there are any number of ways of getting around the problems that some people suggest ID cards will solve, and none of them involve having to carry an ID card on pain of prosecution.

I can imagine `can i see your ID card` replacing `i'm going to search you for drugs` in areas with high numbers of coloured people, especially for when cannabis is made Class C.  Will you still be able to complain to the police for harassment if they stop one person more than 3 or 4 times without charging them with anything?

[ Parent ]

The way to fight this (3.80 / 5) (#5)
by rdskutter on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 05:11:41 PM EST

The way to fight this bill is to use a FUD campaign. Tell people that the government are going to require that people present identity cards everytime they go to the supermarket, everytime they use a car park and everytime they fly, catch a train or buy petrol.

Create confusion - use FUD tactics. I want to see Mr Tony Blair having to make a public statement to say that these identity cards will never be required for the above activities.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE

They already present it (4.50 / 2) (#40)
by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:23:55 AM EST

Many (in some parts of the country, most) people already present an 'identity card' - a debit or credit card, plus possibly Clubcard or similar - when performing these activities.

However, I would guess that not one in a thousand thinks of the identity issues therein (I note that an online review of the Clubcard gives a 95% approval rating!) so a FUD campaign might well work.

This could only ever be a thought experiment, but it would be interesting to see the reaction if new debit/credit cards had 'IDENTITY CARD' quietly printed under the logo and no other changes :)

[ Parent ]

Loyalty Cards (none / 0) (#91)
by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:49:49 PM EST

As most of us know, Supermarket "Loyalty Cards" are just ways of collecting customer data. NTK had a great idea at their last meet: http://www.xcom2002.com/press020530.php
Swap your loyalty cards as often as possible. Okay, so you've "earned" £2 worth of discount, maybe the one you get has "earned" a £4 discount, maybe not.

As low-level civil disobedience goes, this one really lights my candle. As thay say, "Imagine the data- processors' bafflement when a healthy-eating family of 4 suddenly turns into a single 33-year-old male who consumes nothing but satsumas and ready meals."

There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

I heard an attractive rumour ... (none / 0) (#95)
by thebrix on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:31:57 AM EST

... that, for about the first 3 years of its existence, the Clubcard data collected was worthless because:

  • the card was much more popular than Tesco intended and masses of data piled up;
  • the data mining software intended to process it was late and, when it was ready, the backlog of data was too great to handle at the same time as processing new data;
  • there were various mixups involving the data format.

    No idea whether this is true or not, but it's a nice story.

    [ Parent ]

  • Nice to hear... (none / 0) (#100)
    by sgp on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 09:24:43 PM EST

    I still have a clubcard (and occasionally present it) which has my old address associated with it. I hope someone gets free coupons from time-to-time.

    I was involved in the roll-out of the current Tesco tills back in 1997/8, had all sorts of fun with that (more from the Siemens-Nixdorf end than Tesco's though).

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Bunch of fascist pigs... (2.08 / 12) (#11)
    by Demiurge on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:17:33 PM EST

    In bed with their corporate whores.  Now that Fuhrer Bush is done shredding the Constitution, those arrogant USians in Amerikkkka can....


    What?  Not in America?  In that case, I'm not sure whether I support the measure, but what's needed is level-headed discourse.

    Classism (4.85 / 7) (#13)
    by Nick Ives on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:29:56 PM EST

    I was watching The Record on BBC Parliment and saw a most insightful comment made in the Commons by the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, it was something along these lines.

    "Entitlement cards" would be as good as compulsery for all lower class citizens as they have to interface with the welfare state to survive. Wether your in between jobs and claiming JSA, on income support or just generally claiming some other benefit, under the governments proposals for an "opt-in" scheme you would be forced to have one of these cards. Rich people, on the other hand, would be free from the entitlement cards. They would have a truly free choice as to wether or not to opt-in and could weigh that choice against any benefits they may provide, such as use of the NHS, against any negative consequences, such as potential abuses of the system by bored or generally evil civil servents, or which there are more than a few.

    You could say "so what?", but I feel its an important point. If the government introduces ID cards in this way, which it most probably will if it does at all, then it will mean that it can keep track of as many people as possible without annoying anyone in the upper middle class or above. New Labour has always been obsessed with trying to please the upper middle class Daily Mail reading "Middle England" voter, but at the same time they are also massive control freaks, so the "opt-in" choice appears to be the classic NL compromise. Of course, any ID scheme would eventually become completely compulsery, I recall seeing a Minister on Newsnight say it was his personal opinion that if introduced they would eventually become compulsery. When even our leaders are admitting this is a slippery slope, how long away shall we expect it to be a crime to step outside of our house without our bit of plastic?

    --
    Nick
    gah

    Is that such a bad thing? (4.00 / 1) (#16)
    by MightyTribble on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:23:35 PM EST

    Slight Devil's Advocate here:

    What's the problem with benefit claimants needing a special photo ID card to get cash from the government? It couldn't be used by the Police as a de facto ID, since only claimants would have one. If you don't print ages on it, it can't be used by pubs to prove your age (that, plus there aren't many 16 year olds eligible for benefits any more), so its social use outside of the benefits office would be minimal.

    It's only real use would be in the DHSS office, when you need to identify yourself to the agent to get your benefits cheque.

    Of course, this is assuming a sensibly-enacted benefits card system, which is not a given.

    [ Parent ]

    The problem (4.83 / 6) (#21)
    by Nick Ives on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:22:51 PM EST

    The way I understand this "entitlement card" system is that its required to claim any benefit irregardless of wether or not you actually have to present yourself in person. In that manner its very much like the NI numbercard that everyone gets sent, which to me is a little confusing because this new card would seem to make that card useless. If it gets enacted I should imagine that they'll tie your NI number into it somehow, as the actual numbercard itself is a fairly useless bit of plastic.

    Anyway, the details on the card would have to be added to any benefit claim. That would go for everything from disability to child support to when you present yourself at the Job Centre. In many ways it would be as good as a de facto ID and if they put your age on it then pubs would start asking for it. After all, I remember trying to get served when I was 14 and being told to come back with my passport, if I was really 18, I'm not entirely bothered about it being used as an age verification tool though, I mean, you either look old enough or you dont and if you get knocked back at the bar enough times then just make a point to carry something to verify your age.

    My only real problem with the actual bit of plastic itself is that I see it as a foot in the door, once they've introduced this I just see it as inevitable that one day, be it 2 or 20yrs down the line, we'll all have compulsery ID cards. Once people are used to having to present a bit of plastic everytime they want to interact with a government service they wont think twice about being forced to carry it around all the time and I just think that goes against the spirit of this country. It also makes identity theft easier, all someone has to do is steal that bit of plastic or hack that particular database and wham, they are you.

    As for actually interacting with a civil servent at the Job Centre or the DSS, well, I dont think they ever give away giro's anymore. They mail them to you, and even that's being phased out in favour of direct balance transfers. Most benefit fraud is simply lieing about your circumstances, such as working cash in hand whilst claiming JSA. Claiming several benefits at once or lieing about legitemate income is actually very hard to pull off because they've got everything integrated together now. Claiming income support? They check against your tax history to make sure your earning what you say you earn and that there isnt any chance of you having enough savings not to qualify. Tax, benefits, your work history, its all on some civil service computer and this, I feel, is what we really should be objecting to; the massive centralisation of our personal details into these giant civil service databases where they can run all sorts of automated checks and if you fall afoul of any of them then they'll start reviewing you personally which can take ages, were talking suspension of benefit claims for months and months whilst they pry through every aspect of your financial history in the name of stopping benefit fraud.

    Man, I went a little offtopic there =). Even so I think that highlights whats underneath this debate, to a large extent the IT systems in the civil service have become extremely centralised which leads to this pressure on the government to just give everyone a card so that whenever you interact with them they can punch up all your details on demand. Sure, its effecient, but its also damned scary. If the government is effecient then it can get things done and to be honest, the government, all governments even, they scare the crap out of me.

    --
    Nick
    phew

    [ Parent ]

    Offtopic? Who knows? (none / 0) (#81)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:59:39 PM EST

    Man, I went a little offtopic there =).

    At this stage, it seems difficult to know what is and what is not offtopic. I have a strong feeling that this is deliberate - Blunkett has thrown this idea out, with no absolute details, we all get petrified, he then says, "Look, it's only this, that, and the other", and we all calm down.

    The privacy advocates then say, "So why does this smartcard have 20x the storage capacity it needs?" and that gets sidelined by the press as "too technical".

    The rest of the data we all feared then all gets put in over the following decade. </paranoia>

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    No issue? (4.00 / 1) (#36)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:46:37 AM EST

    No matter what is, or isn't, implemented 'lower class citizens' will, perforce, have more dealings with central and local government.

    There's no getting away from this; as a middle-class person my dealings are extremely slight - PAYE (income tax and National Insurance automatically being taken off salary), tax return once a year and payment of council tax once a year being about it.

    The point about 'rich people being free of the cards' is, I believe, wrong; the cards, if eventually implemented, will be issued to everyone although, as you note, they will be differentially used.

    [ Parent ]

    Rich people (2.00 / 2) (#50)
    by FredBloggs on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:47:30 AM EST

    "Rich people, on the other hand, would be free from the entitlement cards"

    Rich people wont be asking for any money! Rich people are the ones paying more tax to provide the money for the poor/welfare claimants. So it makes sense to me. I`m all in favour of narrowing the gap between rich and poor (indeed - i`m hardly loaded) but this just sounds like jealousy.

    [ Parent ]

    Other Avenues of Opposition (4.50 / 4) (#14)
    by bc on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:47:24 PM EST

    The Identity Card issue is a devolved matter. This means that Blunkett has no power to introduce the card in Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament is by no means remotely enthusiastic about the idea. The Justice Minister, Jim Wallace, is bitterly opposed to the whole idea and the lib/lab coalition may well reject it.

    It looks as though the cards will not be introduced in Scotland, especially as labour will doubtless be weakened in the elections next year (there is a definite possibility of a Scottish Socialist Party/Scottish National Party or SNP/Tory coalition, then, and regardless they will have fewer MSP's).

    Of course, this means Blunkett has taken to scaremongering like nobody's business (blah blah, Scotland a "haven for fraudsters" and that there'd be a massive flight of criminals there - why would there be, if it is voluntary? Hmm?) and seeding threats on a devolved matter everywhere.

    More details here.

    ♥, bc.

    An interesting issue (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:51:18 AM EST

    I live in England but intend to go back to Scotland eventually.

    If this all comes to pass, will all details held about me in England be destroyed when I move? And, if I were to move back to England, how would the authorities know where I was to supply me with a new card?

    (Note to people reading this outside the UK; there is no compulsion, unlike many other countries, to register changes of address with the police, for example, something which I found much more offensive than any identity card!)

    [ Parent ]

    Benefit fraud is a real problem in the UK (4.00 / 2) (#15)
    by MightyTribble on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:14:28 PM EST

    I can't recall the exact numbers, but I think it's several billion pounds a year (out of a total benefit budget of 90bn UKP or so).

    A compulsory identity card for all UK residents would be a problem. But remember this :

    The UK is moving to the new EU / US style driver's license, with pictures and smart cards. This will provide a de facto picture ID for the majority of adults in the UK.

    If, in addition to this, they added photos to existing National Insurance cards (or introduced a new benefits card with a picture) they could fight benefits fraud and (hopefully) increase the stygma of being on the dole. This would achieve the stated aim of reducing benefits fraud while at the same time not introducing a compulsory ID card (after all, you may not drive or claim benefits - in which case, good for you!). Together with strict controls governing who could ask you for ID, and under what circumstances, this could work.

    I doubt UKGOV would be this enlightened, though.

    The government claim benefit fraud is a problem (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by jgk on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:54:14 PM EST

    The government cannot know the REAL cost of benefit fraud and have many resons to inflate the figure.

    The ID card would be inefective at removing many kinds of benefit fraud unless other information about the person could be determined from an official database which they are required to regularly update. The main reason for benefit fraud is that departments do not cross check.
    (after all, you may not drive or claim benefits - in which case, good for you!).
    See Nick Ives comment "Classism" on this story.


    Gore Vidal is cool.
    [ Parent ]
    Benefit fraud (5.00 / 3) (#26)
    by Nick Ives on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:08:53 AM EST

    Benefit fraud is estimated to be somwhere in the order of £2bn/yr. Contrast that with corporate tax fraud which is from memory, some 10 times worse than benefit fraud and you start to wonder why there isnt a corporate tax fraud hotline. If you put "benefit fraud UK billion" into Google you get Targeting Fraud straight off. No such luck when you try searching for anything to do with corporate tax fraud in the UK though. The socialist in me sees the bourgeoise clubbing up together to hide their scandals whilst trying to break apart our solidarity by painting anyone who so much as dares to claim benefit as a possible fraudster.

    That last point is actually quite pertinent. The whole "evil benefit fraudsters!" campaign gives benefits in general a bad name. Just about anyone who gets benefits is seen as mooching off the state and some people honestly seem to believe its possible to live a life of luxery on the dole. £42/wk is not a lot of money, not by a long shot, and stigmatising the dole is just bad bad baaad. The dole (or Jobseekers Allowance) is a fundamental right, its one of the lynchpins of our welfare state. If there was no dole then a lot of people would be in serious trouble, maybe not so much now while the economy is doing so well, but there will be a bust one day, hard times will come and when they do lots of people will need the dole.

    Anyway, the majority of benefits fraud is based on people lieing about circumstances, such as working cash in hand and claiming JSA or being self employed, fiddling the books and claiming income support (i.e. both tax & benefit fraud). ID cards wont fix any of that, the solution to the first one is to clamp down on employers willing to pay cash in hand, I'm not so sure about the second.

    --
    Nick
    researched.

    [ Parent ]

    Ever filled in a tax form? (4.00 / 1) (#39)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:10:47 AM EST

    The reason there is fraud is:

    - there is only a small chance an individual form will be checked;

    - in the form itself there is a great deal of elision, grouping items together (for example, all my capital gains are represented as one figure!) All manner of things could be slipped under the radar, or just left out, that way.

    More probably needs to be done to combat both types of fraud including - I regret to say it - a much more detailed (thus more intrusive) tax form.

    I remember a fascinating Radio 4 programme some time ago which seemed to have uncovered evidence that small frauds were more likely to be uncovered because they were relatively artless; the big ones involved all manner of obfuscation such as trusts, offshore dealings and so on.

    [ Parent ]

    Cost of fraud (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by mr nutter on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:49:29 AM EST

    Introducing and maintaining a system of ID cards has been estimated at over three billion pounds/year and though I can't recall the source, possibly a politician on the Today program, this is considerably more than the two billion or so lost to benefit fraud in the same time.

    I'd be much happier if governments ostensibly dedicated to preserving Freedom(TM) were not busy constructing advanced machineries of oppression, both legal and technical.

    -david

    [ Parent ]

    Fantasy (3.50 / 2) (#65)
    by bob6 on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:39:49 AM EST

    The UK is moving to the new EU / US style driver's license
    Does it mean that you will be driving in the right side of the road ?

    Cheers.
    [ Parent ]
    It's not us (none / 0) (#77)
    by rdskutter on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:42:51 PM EST

    It's you.

    We drive on the right side of the road. You drive on the wrong side of the road.


    If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
    [ Parent ]

    Yes sir (none / 0) (#78)
    by bob6 on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:42:26 PM EST

    Sorry, I keep forgetting.

    Cheers.
    [ Parent ]
    Well, (none / 0) (#89)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:43:12 PM EST

    so long as we can still go around roundabouts the right way:)

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Together with strict controls (none / 0) (#88)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:40:03 PM EST

    Together with strict controls governing who could ask you for ID, and under what circumstances, this could work.

    That is exactly what we have not seen.

    All I have heard so far, is a huge list of Govt. departments which can ask for this ID.

    Without such controls - and provable ways of enforcing them - the idea is a non-starter.

    Of course, there are certain laws about National Security which would override these anyway, and since the RIP bill has gone through (ab)using these already, I have no faith that they would not consider all data under these regulations ("in these security-conscious times", of course), and store all kinds of crap, and simply forget to tell me they were doing so.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    identity theft (4.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Delirium on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:53:42 PM EST

    I'm not entirely sure that these will be successful in stopping "identity theft," unless more thought is put into that aspect of their use. In the United States, state-issued driver's license cards and federally-issued social security cards are used as de facto ID, and have in fact facilitated identity theft, as often possessing these will prove to anyone's satisfaction that you are the person you claim you are. This makes identity theft a simple matter of stealing someone's wallet and replacing the photo on the card.

    Using biometric data may make this harder, but it would have to be consistently checked (an expensive proposition) to be successful.

    Sadly, this sort of thing is inevitable . . . (3.00 / 4) (#22)
    by acceleriter on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:27:36 PM EST

    . . . as the generation of folks who actually remember having been on the receiving end of demands for "your papers" dies off and is replaced by the ones who only saw it in the movies.

    Open Questions for the UKians. (4.00 / 1) (#23)
    by ti dave on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:50:48 PM EST

    So that I have a better perspective on how this "entitlement" card
    may really impact you, I ask the following questions:

    1. What government-issued documents do you typically have on your person?

    2. What identifying documents have you been issued, that you normally keep at home?

    3. If you require medical attention, are you required to present your "health benefits" identification, or can you merely offer your number from memory?

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    Answers (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Nick Ives on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:00:45 PM EST

    1. Passport, just in case I ever need to leave the country at short notice =P.
    2. I should keep my passport at home, so mention that here aswell. Birth certificate and National Insurance numbercard too.
    3. No. Health care is free, they ask you questions like your name and where you live if you go into A&E (presumably to make sure your at least a resident of the UK) but thats it.
    Basically, the only peice of "ID" that everyone in the UK has is a birth certificate and a NI number. If you want to leave (or at least get back into, there are no passport checks travelling out to the EU) the country you need a passport and if you want to drive you need a drivers license. Any form of compulsery government issued ID would be a major change for the UK, and that includes these so called "entitlement cards" which, if they go ahead, will be necessary to transact with the government thereby making them pretty much compulsery.

    --
    Nick
    liberal

    [ Parent ]

    No Driving License? (4.00 / 1) (#25)
    by ti dave on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:20:08 PM EST

    Is your Birth Certificate your Taxpayer Identification as well?

    When you give the Hospital your details, are they immediately verified against a database?

    Is Health Care free for Resident Aliens?
    Do RAs pay a surcharge for Medical Care?

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    More answers (4.66 / 3) (#28)
    by Nick Ives on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:35:56 AM EST

    No, they use your national insurance number for tax. There is a database already that has people's name's, DOB's, NI number and maybe other misc information like last known address, but you dont have to tell the government where you are. You dont useually pay tax yourself, you only have to do self assesment if your a small business owner or otherwise self-employed. Most people pay tax through Pay As You Earn, you just have to give your employer your NI number which makes it all a lot simpler for most people although I think it just shifts the burden of sorting out taxes onto the employer who then have to fill out loads of PAYE crap.

    When you go into A&E you get a nurse who asks you what's wrong and they take down your details onto a form. I dont think they are immediatly verified, although they do put what they write down into a computer so I imagine it gets checked eventually. Medical records arent shared across the nation, I do know that much.

    I'm not entirely sure about health for RA's. Basically, if your living and working here then I would imagine paying National Insurance, and if your paying NI then I dont see any reason why you shouldnt be entitled to use the NHS. To be honest I dont see any reason why anyone should be stopped from using the NHS at all, I mean, its not all that good but its what we've got. Come along and join the queue. In fact, I'd like to take this oppertunity to invite the world to come and live in the UK, I'm sure we'd all have a fantastic time of it and make lots of new friends along the way. If anyone wearing a uniform tries to stop you just tell them I said you could live here.

    It'll be cool.

    --
    Nick
    Hurm.....

    [ Parent ]

    Reciprocal agreements (5.00 / 2) (#57)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:18:54 AM EST

    Citizens of countries who have such an agreement with the UK (such as all EU countries) have free health treatment here, and vice versa. Those who don't, I presume, are advised to take out insurance before coming here for business, study or pleasure ...

    [ Parent ]
    Forgot to mention, I dont drive =) (n/t) (3.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Nick Ives on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:47:39 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    As a resident alien... (none / 0) (#73)
    by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:36:08 AM EST

    Health care is free for me. Well, kind off. Somebody is taxed of course. In this case it is me. Heavily. But I guess it is just fari.
    ---
    _._ .....
    ... .._ _._. _._ ...
    ._.. ._ _ . ._.. _.__

    [ Parent ]
    Documents (4.50 / 2) (#27)
    by ukryule on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:34:58 AM EST

    1. What government-issued documents do you typically have on your person?
    None. There's no strong reason to carry any. Very occasionally you need some 'proof of identity' - but it's usually for something like opening an account, where you know before you go out that you'll need something. And even then it's pretty open what you use (e.g. utility bills to prove your address, and any sort of ID with a photo on it to prove you are you).
    Note that you don't have to keep your driving license with you when driving - but you do have to display a tax disc (i.e. proof you've paid road tax). The one time I've been stopped by the police while driving, I had to go to a police station within a week to show my license/insurance docs (and proof that my car was now road-worthy).

    2. What identifying documents have you been issued, that you normally keep at home?
    Passport, Driving license, National health insurance card. Your 'national insurance' number is probably the most important (for pay/tax), but you don't have a card for this.

    3. If you require medical attention, are you required to present your "health benefits" identification, or can you merely offer your number from memory?
    For non-emergencies everyone is (supposed to be) registered with their local doctor - who has all their details. In Emergency you are supposed to give a name & address & local doctor - but they'd still treat you if you give them "M.Mouse, Disneyworld". It's generally easier for them to find out your National Health Isurnace number from name,address,doctor than asking people to remember it.

    [ Parent ]

    Interesting. (4.00 / 1) (#29)
    by ti dave on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:05:37 AM EST

    Note that you don't have to keep your driving license with you when driving

    Very interesting, as we in the U.S. must carry the license while driving, or pay a fine.
    What is the police procedure if you're stopped while driving and can't be (let's say you're a criminal and lie) positively identified?

    Your 'national insurance' number is probably the most important (for pay/tax), but you don't have a card for this.

    So you don't have to provide identification to a prospective employer?
    How is tax fraud avoided if one doesn't have to confirm their identity?

    What documents are considered adequate for the purpose of verifying the bearer's age when purchasing restricted items?

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    Police Procedure (5.00 / 3) (#32)
    by Nick Ives on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:49:21 AM EST

    If you get stopped for anything then you have to report yourself to the police station within a couple of weeks. The officers will take down your number plate and a brief description of what you, the driver look like. Most police cruisers on traffic duty have cameras in them anyway, so they'll most likely get a nice clear mug shot. They check if the car is stolen as a matter of course, so if you give a fake address then they just go see the registered owner of the car and have a chat with them about where they might be able to find you.

    If your a big time criminal on the run then sure, its quite easy to slip through the net on several occasions, but if the worst your doing is running the odd red light then its not like your a major risk to society, and if you did something that bad the coppers will catch up with you some other way anyway. No reason to go around opressing normal people for the sake of the odd criminal...

    --
    Nick
    it all makes perfect sense

    [ Parent ]

    National Insurance number (4.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Cloaked User on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:27:18 AM EST

    Well, I can't speak for ukryule, but I do have a card with my NI number on it, as does everyone that I know (at least, no-one I know has ever said that they don't).

    As for giving your number to your employer, yes, you do have to. I suspect, however, that if you're going to them more or less straight from a previous job, that you can just give them a copy of your P45 (an official form given to you when you leave a job or are let go from one), which would have all your details on it anyway. I don't know for sure, though, not yet having changed jobs.

    ukryule was correct in the other points, though - there is no requirement nor need for UKians to carry any identification at all. If you're pulled over in your car, the police officer will note down the registration number, so unless you've stolen it/have a fake plate on it/haven't registered it properly, they'll get your address that way.

    As for purchasing restricted items, my only experience is of alcohol, cigarettes, and videos, in which case merely looking old enough is generally good enough. Otherwise, it would probably depend very much on the seller - the only official documents that can be used would be passport, birth certificate and maybe National Health card. There is also a "prove it" card scheme aimed at youngsters to let them prove their age when buying such things, but I've never actually seen one. (It's been a while since anyone would question my age... :-) )

    Cheers,

    Tim
    --
    "What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
    [ Parent ]

    Two Points. (4.00 / 1) (#43)
    by ti dave on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:52:55 AM EST

    you can just give them a copy of your P45 (an official form given to you when you leave a job or are let go from one), which would have all your details on it anyway.

    If I steal your P45, can I then assume your identity at another job?

    If you're pulled over in your car, the police officer will note down the registration number, so unless you've stolen it/have a fake plate on it/haven't registered it properly, they'll get your address that way.

    If I have stolen the car, how will the cops positively identify me?

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    Two replies (3.00 / 1) (#47)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:15:45 AM EST

    If I steal your P45, can I then assume your identity at another job?

    What good would it do you? Tax is deducted by by the employer, so you are unlikely to gain there.

    If I have stolen the car, how will the cops positively identify me?

    If you have a stolen car, the odds are you have a stole/fake ID as well.

    [ Parent ]
    reply (4.00 / 1) (#48)
    by ti dave on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:21:46 AM EST

    Working while posing as you reinforces my theft of your identity.

    Also, since no ID is required to operate a vehicle, why even bother to carry any ID during the commission of the crime?
    Would the criminal rot in a cell until admitting his identity?

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    Not really (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:54:56 AM EST

    Working while posing as you reinforces my theft of your identity.

    Not really, if you already have a P45 and a bank account in my name a payslip is hardly going to help a lot.

    Also, since no ID is required to operate a vehicle, why even bother to carry any ID during the commission of the crime.

    In the unlikely event that I stole a car, I would much rather carry fake ID than no ID. After all, if you have no ID the police know that they know nothing, if you have a fake ID the police think they know who you are.

    [ Parent ]
    I'm not sure... (5.00 / 1) (#87)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:35:32 PM EST

    I think if I were to steal a car, I'd make sure I had nothing at all on me (well, clothes, of course, but no house keys, or anything). Simply say, "Sure, I'll check in to the police station next week".

    As another poster has mentioned, the police will do a spot-check that the car has not been reported stolen. If it hasn't been reported stolen, I'll get away with it. If it has, I'm in a mess.

    But if I give fake ID and they spot it, I'm in a mess automatically.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Great idea! (none / 0) (#86)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:32:44 PM EST

    You go and do my job, I'll collect the salary, you do the work. Fine by me:)

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    National Insurance card (5.00 / 1) (#93)
    by ukryule on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:48:17 PM EST

    Well, I can't speak for ukryule, but I do have a card with my NI number on it ...
    Oh dear - sounds like i've lost a document :-). However, what I would say is that the number is more important than the card. I guess I must have been sent something with my new number on it when I started working - but I haven't used it (or seen it!) since. Your NI number is printed on every pay slip, tax form, etc., so there are plenty of copies of the number around.

    I'm sure every employer does some checks to see you are who you claim to be - but they'll probably be more worried about you faking your qualifications than your tax number!

    As to someone else using your number - they're very likely to get caught. Either I'm also working (and so I or the fraud office will notice the number is being used twice), or I'm unemployed - and so will notice when I get refused unemployment benefit because the system thinks I'm working.

    [ Parent ]

    NI cards (none / 0) (#97)
    by jlm on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:49:01 AM EST

    are a relatively recent introduction, in view of the fact that you are only issued one on your sixteenth birthday. ukryule might just be too old to have been given one. Also note that those cards are for information only: you are not required to have one and they aren't proof of your identity. If you like (and you can remember your number) you can cut it up and throw the bits away.


    "He who sleeps is a looser" -- John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress.
    [ Parent ]

    Answers 2 (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:01:39 AM EST

    1. None.

    2. Passport; birth certificate; NHS registration card (showing my GP); National Insurance number card. (I do not drive, and do not have a television licence). Apart from the passport these have not been touched in 10 years or more.

    3. None; at some point you or the person accompanying you is asked for your name and address and everything goes from there.

    Generally, 'identification' is extremely wide; if, for example, you collect a parcel at a Royal Mail depot, there is a list of about 20 items (ranging from credit card to passport) which will do. If you sign up for a utility (say a mobile phone service) or open a bank account the usual identification is two recent utility bills with your name and address.

    As I remember, technically you are supposed to provide your National Insurance number to any doctor providing treatment and, if you don't or can't, you're charged then can claim back the payment on providing the NI number. In practice this never happens.

    [ Parent ]

    Bank Accounts (4.00 / 1) (#41)
    by ti dave on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:42:49 AM EST

    So, what you're saying is that someone can open an account, in your name with
    a mere two pieces of stolen mail?

    Once the bank account is opened, then a CC (further "proof" of identity) can also be obtained for fraudulent purposes?

    That sounds like a weak link to me.

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    No (4.50 / 2) (#46)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:10:54 AM EST

    Opening a bank account requires slightly more than that, a passport or birth certificate normally. However there are ways of obtaining other peoples birth certificates....

    [ Parent ]
    Two online banks didn't (4.50 / 2) (#56)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:06:22 AM EST

    They asked for the two utility bills only last year.

    However, I presume background checks were done both on identity and the legitimacy of the bank accounts that money was being transferred from.

    [ Parent ]

    What if there's no donating account? (4.50 / 2) (#62)
    by miller on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:09:15 AM EST

    It's a perfectly reasonable proposition to open a current account and not tranfer any money into it immediately. That said, the majority of current account application forms I've seen require details of another account to be filled in even if you're not planning to move any money from there. However, it must be legitimate to leave this blank if you don't actually have an existing current account, and other than relying on your honesty when you sign the declaraion, no way to check if this is true.

    --
    It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
    [ Parent ]
    Credit checks (5.00 / 1) (#85)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:23:57 PM EST

    From your name and address, various central credit agencies will store details about you.

    So if you say, "No, I've no credit cards, no debt, give me an account", you sign a declaration that this is true, and that they can run credit checks on you. If these come up with bad credit ratings, you probably won't get the account.

    Name/Address is enough for this. Why not?

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Well, ... (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by Simon Kinahan on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:07:49 AM EST

    1. My driver's license photo card, and my national insurance number card.

    2. The other bit of my driver's license, passport, national health card, TV license.

    3. I don't remember ever needing to. You need your NHS card when registering with a new GP. After that, everything requires and appointment, and you only need to give your name and/or appointment card.

    In answer to your implicit question as to why this matters, given that I have all this ID anyway, there are two concerns:

    1. It gives the government the ability to coalesce all these different interactions I have with it into one identity. There might be some marginal benefits to that, but there is no clear need. Given that governments sometimes pass laws that are unjust, and government officials sometimes abuse their powers, I don't much fancy giving them the ability to do this.

    2. A voluntary scheme could rapidly evolve to the point where it becomes a criminal offense to be unable to identify yourself when stopped by the police. Given the police have been known to abuse their powers, and the British police have no shortage of spurious offenses they can arrest people for already, this too seems like an unnecessary power.

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]

    I fail to see the problem (4.00 / 3) (#33)
    by Betcour on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 02:59:47 AM EST

    Many countries have ID cards, there's no specific problem with. And I'm talking democracies here (most European countries and quite a lot of other ones as well).

    So what's the big deal ? You have a card that says who you are, where you were born. When asked to proove your identity, you just show it instead of trying to find passport/driving license or less reliable proof of your ID that you have to deal right now. Being from a country where ID cards have been around almost forever, I don't really what's all the fuss about. A ID cards is definitely not a threat to privacy or "giving in to The Man". You are already in the governement databases anyway.

    Centralisation (none / 0) (#84)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:18:47 PM EST

    Yes, it's all stored anyway (or most of it, at least). The cross-referencing of all that data is not there, though, and would cost megabucks to reorganise all of the Govt. departments to integrate all their databases.

    By simply handing over an ID, I'd be doing all that work for them.

    Of course, there's no reason for a policeman checking my driving license to know my employment status, so my driving license doesn't list it. Under this scheme, it would. That gains the individual nothing, and the state gain increased surveillance.

    The word "Government" is supposed to mean that they govern the running of the country, not that they are my Guv'nor.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Not really (none / 0) (#94)
    by Betcour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:14:35 AM EST

    In France (which has had ID cards for eons) there's no central database (or any "primary key" that would let one link governement database together). Actually the ID card has no number that could be used as a key to link databases (unlike, say, your social security number...). So I think it is very much possible to have ID cards yet no centralised information (or the opposite as well).

    [ Parent ]
    And it's socially divisive... (4.50 / 2) (#44)
    by Mr Tom on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:00:45 AM EST

    Of course, since ID cards will be required to claim benefits from the state, those members of society who are so wealthy that they have no need of state benefits won't need one.

    This will have the effect of making it easier to track and control the proletariat, whereas the bourgeoisie will be in an even stronger position from which to exert control.

    That and it's extremely doubtful that an ID card will actually help solve any of the issues that are being placed in front of it...


    -- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

    I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.

    The day ... (4.50 / 2) (#45)
    by vrai on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:03:18 AM EST

    ... I get stopped by a policeman demanding to see my ID card (and arresting me if I refuse) is the day I pack my bags and take my productive, tax paying self to another country. It's bad enough that the government sees fit to steal vast chunks of my income for 'services' I'll never use (or be allowed to use in some cases); but to force me to prove I have the right to be in the country of my birth is a step too bloody far.

    If the government were trust worthy then I'd have no problem with insisting people receiving state benefit (and assorted services like the NHS and education) prove they are eligible for said benefits. After all, if they're going to steal my incoming I at least want it to go to the people its supposed to.

    However the government cannot be trusted, and these 'entitlement cards' are simply a badly disguised trojan horse. They will allow the government to setup the infrastructure for a national ID card and iron out the problems. Then the government will announce that it was such a success at preventing benefit fraud / stopping crime / defeating terrorism / protecting the children that the scheme will be expanded into a compulsory ID card for all British 'citizens'.

    I pay tax, buy goods and services (also taxed), and pay for my own housing. That's all the proof the government should need that I'm a legitimate resident of the UK. If benefit fraud is such an issue then scrap benefits and simply provide government subsidised jobs; but don't impinge on my freedom just to protect a broken system.

    The big question (5.00 / 1) (#96)
    by Ceebs on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:16:19 AM EST

    When faced with the politician who wants to put this in place there are two questions to ask.

    1. 'Why is this piece of technology going to prove unbreakable / unforgeable' as if it is breakable then it won't perform the job it was intended to do. if it is forgeable then it is compleatly pointless

    2. do you trust the opposition. If youtrust the opposition then you are'nt like the rest of us. It is all well and goodputting these powers in place but don't you just see that you're putting all the tools in place that a police state would need?

    [ Parent ]
    A view from a foreigner in UK... (4.50 / 2) (#54)
    by jrfonseca on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:37:47 AM EST

    I come from Portugal - one of those EU contries with ID cards -, and I'm currently doing my PhD on UK.

    The abcense of a compulsory ID card on UK was already subject of some discussions with colleagues of other EU coutries. The general feeling is always of a little surprise and wondering why the fuzz against ID cards. I even confess that I feel a little insecurity imagining how could policement determining the identity of people in a conflict on the streets or something.

    I've never looked to the ID card as some way of government control over the citizens. It's a easy (although not 100% reliable for sure) way of determining who you or the next person is who they  claim to be, and their signature as well. I feel my privacy invaded alot more everytime that I have to fill in a form (online or on real life) asking every imagineable detail of my life - thing that happened on the UK too.

    I also have no problems in being forced to supply my ID card when asked by a law enforcer agent, since he too is forced to supply his identification and officer number when asked by me.

    German saga (none / 0) (#58)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:26:40 AM EST

    A friend of mine who came to live here had to be (gently) told umpteen times before he realised that his German identity card could move from a table near the front door to a bottom drawer. I have to say I found this whole saga rather creepy :/

    I note from BBC News Online that Portugal appears to have a relatively extensive scheme ('private security guards' ... ?)

    [ Parent ]

    private security guards (none / 0) (#101)
    by jrfonseca on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:39:56 AM EST

    I suppose that 'private security guards' referred in the article is about the requirement to present the ID card (if asked) to enter public places but of private onwership. Basically that means that you must show you ID if the big guy in the entrance of a disco thinks that you look too young for the night... ;-)

    [ Parent ]
    Identity isn't the point - it's machinery (4.50 / 2) (#59)
    by fridgemagnet on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:35:21 AM EST

    I think some of the comment on this misses the point. It's all very well to point out that the government already holds a lot of information on us, quite true. But the creation of a centralised ID card will require a vast amount of (expensive) centralised machinery to administer, and it will all be linked - otherwise, what's the point of an overall card?

    Given a number for one purpose, government will then be able to access and cross-reference information on people with great ease. (And while it may be claimed that there will be strict data security and no leakage between departments, with the existing pitiful record of the UKG in this area said claims deserve nothing more than sarcastic laughter.) You may find yourself denied benefit because you're suspected of being a fraudster - why? well, you've been on a protest, a cop took your ID, and demographic information suggests that protestors are more likely to be fraudsters.

    It's this increased efficiency of existing surveillance that worries me. Yes, they already have the information, but it tends to be restricted to the areas where it's actually relevant (medical records to the NHS etc) because the data just isn't tied together. It can be cross-referenced but in general it's too difficult, unless you're the subject of an MI5 investigation or something. A working ID card system would be misused, and if it didn't produce this sort of integrated database, it would just be a colossal waste of time and money.

    Not that I think it will happen in this country anyway. It gets trotted out by Home Secretaries every now and then when they think they need to look a bit more right-wing, and the cost-benefit analysis always kills it in the end.

    ---
    "bugler of incongruity"


    Much ado... (4.33 / 3) (#60)
    by cyberdruid on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:39:01 AM EST

    So you'll have a card with your name on it in your wallet. OMG, won't somebody pleeeease think of the children!

    I frankly don't see the problem. An ID card is not any different from a driver's license. It is a laminated card with a recent photo, your name, your social security number and your signature. What is the problem here? You don't like lamination in the UK?

    In the discussion, I have seen rants on the possibility of an eeevil central database and the eeeevil government logging and controlling people. In what way are you logged and controlled because you have a plastic card in your pocket? Unless logged means "Damn! The cops will know who I really am". Why on earth would they need to collect "work status, salary information, criminal record, ethnic origin, etc" to implement this, as the article suggests?

    I have seen the strange argument that "the rich won't need them since they don't deal with the government for welfare - it will create a class divide". Look at the other zillion countries who have a national ID, has it actually promoted any class divisions? I can't remember the last time that I had to show my ID card (I live in Sweden) to any government officials. I have however had to show it recently when getting a package at the post office, when renting a DVD, when paying with a bank card, etc (when I was younger, I also used it frequently to prove my age). This cannot be used to keep track of me in any significant way. There is no way to collect every time I have shown my ID in any central database. I would be more worried that a society that primarily relied on driver's license for identification would create a divide between drivers and non-drivers (such as myself). My passport is big and bulky, I certainly would not like to carry it around.

    If your cards are supposed to be more high tech than ours, and store some biometrics - good for you! It will make it harder to forge your identity. So, unless you think that forging others identities is your god-given right, how can this intrude on your personal liberties?

    In conclusion, can somebody show me a (somewhat likely) scenario where this card could be abused in a way that for example a credit card or a driver's license could not? Can someone explain why this particular card would be abused, when the ID cards in other countries have not?

    logging is easier than you think (4.00 / 1) (#61)
    by fridgemagnet on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:51:47 AM EST

    In what way are you logged and controlled because you have a plastic card in your pocket?
    Because having that card means you are logged somewhere. Uh, what's the point in it otherwise?
    This cannot be used to keep track of me in any significant way. There is no way to collect every time I have shown my ID in any central database.
    Sure, Blockbuster are unlikely to feed your information automatically to central government databases - though look at the amazing amount of cross-referencing of purchasing patterns that can be done with credit card numbers. But when you use your ID card to access government services, they will record that. And I have no faith whatsoever in their willingness or ability to prevent data from leaking everywhere. If I get picked up by the police I don't want them knowing my medical records. Hell, I'd probably end up getting spam.

    ---
    "bugler of incongruity"


    [ Parent ]
    Confusing (3.00 / 1) (#63)
    by cyberdruid on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:30:25 AM EST

    Because having that card means you are logged somewhere. Uh, what's the point in it otherwise?
    The point is that you get a nice standard way to prove your identity. Instead of having to keep in mind the different kinds of identity that different services accepts, you just have one. This is the whole idea and the whole point - standardized identification. What does it have to do with centralized logging?
    Sure, Blockbuster are unlikely to feed your information automatically to central government databases
    Blockbuster cannot automatically feed any information to central government databases, neither can anyone else who looks at it. They just look at it to see if the name on the card matches the name that I gave them and if the photo looks remotely like me. It is not like they put it through some kind of machine or anything.
    But when you use your ID card to access government services, they will record that.
    You already have some sort of social security number that you have to use when dealing with the government, do you not? Why don't they cross-reference on that? Or is that actually the point that I have missed, that you are not tied to any identification digits? What does the actual card have to do with anything? You can't just magically "cross-reference on a card", you have to do it on some unique identifier string on the card, right? Is this identifier the problem?

    [ Parent ]
    Not really (4.50 / 2) (#66)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:45:09 AM EST

    The point is that you get a nice standard way to prove your identity.

    Why do we need a standard way of proving identity? The country has made it through the last 50 years without one.

    This is the whole idea and the whole point - standardized identification. What does it have to do with centralized logging?

    Unless the card is checked against a central register it is pointless, almost anyone can fake a photo ID.

    [ Parent ]
    You are very conservative, right? (2.00 / 1) (#70)
    by cyberdruid on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 10:34:33 AM EST

    Why do we need a standard way of proving identity? The country has made it through the last 50 years without one.
    Why do anybody need anything new? By definition of the word "new", we have made it through the previous times without it.

    Unless the card is checked against a central register it is pointless, almost anyone can fake a photo ID.
    In other words, people can already fake their identity, so you won't be worse off. Standardized identification might even increase security slightly (if faking is really that easy, how come I am not disgustingly rich on my money forgery scheme, which should be much easier than ID faking) because the looks of the ID card would be more well known than the alternative identifications. But why would that be the point of the card? The point is convenience. If you need higher security use the biometrics mentioned in the article. Biometrics might help, but I don't see how a central register would stop faking. If I put someone else's number on my card, what could the central db do?

    [ Parent ]
    Not at all (5.00 / 1) (#72)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:32:18 AM EST

    I think that's the first time I have ever been called a conservative.
    I am not against an ID card because it is new, I'm against it because I don't trust this govenment at all (or, for that matter, the party most likely to replace them).

    [ Parent ]
    The identifier (none / 0) (#67)
    by thebrix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:45:10 AM EST

    The National Insurance Number already ties together rather a lot of things (despite the weak 'not proof of your identity' disclaimer); a danger is that data 'creeps', with information not currently associated with it becoming associated with it over time (through cross-referencing of databases and similar).

    If a scheme goes ahead, what safeguards against this creepage are proposed will be interesting.

    [ Parent ]

    the unique identifier (4.50 / 2) (#75)
    by fridgemagnet on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:23:43 PM EST

    You already have some sort of social security number that you have to use when dealing with the government, do you not? Why don't they cross-reference on that? Or is that actually the point that I have missed, that you are not tied to any identification digits? What does the actual card have to do with anything? You can't just magically "cross-reference on a card", you have to do it on some unique identifier string on the card, right? Is this identifier the problem?
    Basically, yes - that and the setting up of the machinery to do the checking. I have an NI number to pay NI and tax with; I have an NHS number (although I very rarely need it, except when registering with a new doctor) and so on. What I don't have is a cross-system identifier. While it would be possible to cross-check these things as is, it would be very difficult, but this would make it extremely easy - in fact, I think it's one of the main reasons for doing it which is rarely taken account of in discussion.

    I hate being profiled by credit history etc already, and I don't want to add another set of people who have enough data processing ability to compile a profile, but not enough to make sure it is right. The things that can happen to you from poor assumptions and mistakes in your credit record are bad enough.

    ---
    "bugler of incongruity"


    [ Parent ]
    You are asumming a benign goverment. (5.00 / 2) (#71)
    by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:16:12 AM EST

    It never stops to amaze me how some people living in Western democracies become so complacient about their freedoms.

    One quick example: the Socialist Party in Chile used to have a fairly detailed list of their membership. Of course members did not object because it was good to know who the comrades were.

    Comes Pinochet. He did not have to think much about how to track the members of the Socialist and Communist parties: went to their offices, got the listings of members and then they payed personalized visits to whoever they wanted to, humm, disappear.

    Think: what stops the goverment to harras people making use of that data? Here in the UK there were examples a few weeks ago of Labour people trying to dig political allegiances of pressure groups members that have been bothering them.

    If I knew all the imaginative ways a goverment, democratic or otherwise, would make use of this information, then I could say, yes go ahead, who cares.
    Something else you have to keep in mind is the context: the goverment that is asking for this is the same one that has been working over-time passing legislation to snoop electronic communications, they are the same ones that have to retreat in shame when they were trying to quietly approve that a bunch of goverment agencies (including local authorities and the Post Office) would had have acces to the logs of your electronic whereabouts (including mobiles phone calls, email and websites visited). Would you not be at least midly concerned?
    IDs is not a matter to makes things easier, it is a matter to exert control. An example: visit Vietnam, your passport has to be shown in the hotel, form there it is taken to the closest police station, in other words you are suspect of something, what? Who cares, but everybody is supect of something. The handling of your passport, the request to show it for no good reason to every single peety police officer you encounter, is a clear signal: we are watching you, better be careful. Do you like that? Not me, thank you. I did not even mention Nazi Germany and the IDs for Jews. I should have, but just to mention it in a passing fashion should be enough to instill fear in any democrat.
    ---
    _._ .....
    ... .._ _._. _._ ...
    ._.. ._ _ . ._.. _.__

    [ Parent ]

    What does Nazis have to do with anything?!? (2.00 / 2) (#74)
    by cyberdruid on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:55:16 AM EST

    In what way is the current proposition similar to IDs for Jews?
    what stops the goverment to harras people making use of that data?
    What data? Why would your ID card state what religion you have or how you vote?
    If I knew all the imaginative ways a goverment, democratic or otherwise, would make use of this information
    Once again - What information? It reminds me of the profit-from-stealing-underwear-thing:
    1. People use ID cards as proof of identification instead of passports, driver's license or whatever
    2. ?
    3. The evil government gets information on you that they already did not have
    You make a bunch of flawed examples, like:
    visit Vietnam, your passport has to be shown in the hotel, from there it is taken to the closest police station
    You have to see the difference between openly abusing something (as in this case) and managing to do it quietly. When a government is openly abusing the rights of the people, the IDs are not the problem - the government is and everyone knows it. The question at hand is how, concretely, can your government abuse this? This the same question I put forward in the original post.
    Something else you have to keep in mind is the context: the goverment that is asking for this is the same one that has been working over-time passing legislation to snoop electronic communications
    Aha! So instead of crying wolf over a normal ID, making the general public think that you are a bunch of loonies, you should be busy making sure that the government don't make it anything more than that. No magnetic storage on the card, no automatic handling by machines and most importantly no information about race, religion, politic views, etc.

    [ Parent ]
    You are very trusting (4.50 / 2) (#76)
    by OAB on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:30:12 PM EST

    It's not a 'normal' ID, we currently have nothing like it, therefore it's not 'normal'. The card is useless if it is only for what the govenment says it is for, so I object to large amounts of my money being wasted on it.

    [ Parent ]
    It's all stored already (none / 0) (#83)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:13:15 PM EST

    Let's face it, anything they could store on there they probably already have stored about me. And most of it is pretty boring.

    This is a centralisation of all that data, which as the death of non-relational databases has shown, is a totally different ball-game.

    Sure, the DSS could get my name and address, maybe they could get my driver's license number from the DVLA using that data, from that get my driving convictions, or whatever else they fancied doing because they were bored.

    There are various things in place to stop this from happening at the moment (as a DSS worker has no entitlement to be reading about my driving convictions). The DVLA would want a decent reason for the DSS employee to request the data.

    If it were all on one card, the DSS employee could just read it all.

    Why, you ask? What if your wife's ex-husband works for the DSS and wants to get some dirt on you? There are a lot of organisations involved in this proposal (the Fire Service, for fsck's sake - why do they need any of this?!), and a lot of people working for them. If all this information is available to all these people, how would it not be abused?

    Compare positive / abusive use of this system, and there are few (if any) positive uses, and millions of examples of abuse.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    Nazis have to do everything with this. (5.00 / 1) (#90)
    by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:46:13 PM EST

    How do you recognize a German from a German Jew?

    They both speak German, they both look similar to each other because both groups of people have mixed with each other for many hundreds of years, they may even have similar family names for the same reason. Do yu get it? No? OK: they get IDs, once says Jewish, the other says Aryan or whatever. I guess during the early days of Nazi goverment IDs made a lot of sense...

    You are asking about how this could be possible abused, I gave you two examples: in one, a benign democratic goverment becomes a hideous dictatorship. You don't want your information in the hands of a dictatorship. You may have a democratic benign goverment today, what about tomorrow? Why in the name of goodness do you ned to make things easy for a bad goverment?

    I gave you another example with Vietnam, that althoug extreme, exemplifies why IDs are bad: it gives leeway to people in positions of authority to screw you with the excuse of wanting to see your ID.

    Guess who is going to be requested his ID: will it be the middle class white person? Nope. It will be the black people, the Pakistanis. You get the idea. Without IDs, black people in the UK are stopped by police officials on the street in  a proportion of 10 to 1 compared to white people.

    Once police officials (that work in an institution that after a public official inquiry has been deemed "institutionaly racist") get the ID excuse, who doubts that black people will suffer even most arrasment with any excuse related to the ID?

    Please notice that in Vietnam they don't have the means nor the willigness ot have a detailed database with your data, nevertheless IDs (including passports) become a means of control and harrasment.

    Slipery slope.
    ---
    _._ .....
    ... .._ _._. _._ ...
    ._.. ._ _ . ._.. _.__

    [ Parent ]

    Smartcard (none / 0) (#82)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:05:11 PM EST

    The idea being discussed is a Smartcard.

    So you may not even know what is stored on it. Some things are National Secrets, after all, which cannot be disclosed to the public for reasons of National Security.

    Under these conditions, we have no way of being sure what would actually be on the card. I know what's on my driving license, I can read it (2xSP50 speeding convictions, FWIW). To be obliged to hand over a card containing details I cannot read, which were written by a party I cannot control, to be read by another party I cannot control (under the aforementioned National Security regulations), feels very much like Russian Roulette.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    A few insights from Radio 4 listeners (none / 0) (#80)
    by sgp on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:55:13 PM EST

    Finding this idea repulsive, but also finding myself unable to clearly articulate my fears, may I quote some thoughts from BBC Radio 4 listeners aired on Saturday afternoon:

    • While the homeless are currently caught in a Catch-22 situation: no address -> no bank account -> no job -> no chance of getting an address, this will create a new underclass of the "non-existant", in a society where everyone has an ID card, those without (for whatever reason), will drop below the horizon. As for the reasons for not having one (assuming it is compulsory), a simple example would be: if you are homeless and someone stole your card, how do you apply for another copy? How do you prove you are who you claim to be with no paperwork and no ID card?
    • If the card is not compulsory, it is pointless - cardholders can choose to say, "I don't have one" when they feel like it. Proof of absence is difficult.
    • Cost - If every time a person moves house, changes job, marital status, or changes anything else which may be stored on the card (passes an HGV Drivers Test?) they have to get the card updated (and details verified), this is an additional burden to the individual, and an enormous administrative cost to the government.
    • Much has been made of "It can contain data vital in medical emergencies - such as blood type, whether you're an organ donor, or have specific medial requirements". Apart from the fact that the proposed format is smartcards (who has a smartcard reader in an emergency? If a lot of people, what privacy implications does that have?), all this information is already stored on donor cards, etc (not an emergency issue), and for specific medical requirements, a bracelet is worn - visible, readable without special equipment, and not likely to be left at home in the other purse.
    • A few listeners also asked "What have these wishy-washy liberals got to hide?". I guess if I'm summarising, I'd better include that, for forms' sake.
    Not to say I don't have opinions of my own, but with little data, I don't have well-formed views yet. I must admit, though, that there seems to be zero benefit to the individual (other than the maintenance of existing rights via other means), much scope for abuse, and little chance of reducing benefit fraud, terrorism, or other crime.

    I also supsect that the final view ("What do you have to hide?") will be prevalent enough in society to turn non-cardholders into outcasts, if the card catches on sufficiently. Also, I can easily see it being a requirement for Government workers / contractors to hold an ID card - not for identification purposes, but just to ensure that all that data has been collated, even if much of it is not necessary (why would you have to check a Town Hall cleaner's driving license?)

    Steve.

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    It's the protocol, not the artifact (4.00 / 1) (#98)
    by jolly st nick on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:02:54 AM EST

    The fact is, anyone who travels by air, or drives an automobile, or uses a credit card has to have some form of verifiable identification. Driver's licenses and passports have a biometric on them (your picture), as do credit cards in the US (your signature).

    The mere fact of an ID card is not a problem. Nor is having a central database which verifies the authenticity of a ID card and provides some simple facts about the bearer.

    The real issue has been touched on by people who have raised the scenario of police stopping people and requesting their ID card. The issue is this: how will the ID card be put to use in practice? Specifically, when can an official demand to see your ID card, and what is he allowed to do with this information? Compiling a database of basic biographical facts is not a problem so far as I can see, but if officials routinely demand the card and then record the place,time and circumstance of its use, then a database of your movements is established, which may not be a good thing.

    It is important to get a hold of these issues now, because technologies are coming down the pike which will allow widespread and unobtrusive surveillance. Security cameras will eventually be able to scan thousands of faces per minute, and establish the presence and movements of people in a central database. Politically will neatly take care of the apparent problem (the hassle of being asked for your ID), leave the underlying problem intact (the tracking of your movements), and compound it with new problems (the unobtrusiveness of the surveillance).

    It may be argued that your appearance in any public place is a public fact. That is true. But the assembly of all such facts about you creates a qualitatively different situation, one which is in particular open to political abuses. Heretofore it requires significant resources to tail somebody. In the future it will be a simple matter of entering your name into a computer, an act that could be done by political enemies, rougue intelligence personnel, or potentially even unprincipled maintenance technicians or outside hackers. Oversight of the overseers, and mechanisms to uncover unauthorized or counter-policy uses of the system will be needed. And almost certainly such security measures will be tacked on as an afterthought when nations begin to acquire this capability.

    Nations that have ID card systems that have worked out protocols to preserve privacy will be in a better position than ones where the capability of ubiquotous and unobtrusive surveillance is simply dropped into the hands of government officials with no public oversight or debate. Britain is particularly at risk in my opinion because it already is deploying a widespread system of security cameras; intrusive tracking of any person's movements will only await invisble "back end" infrastructure. Now would be a good time to have the debate over how the uses of any system of tracking individual movements will be limited and monitored.

    Nor should the possibility of private entities developing surveillance capabilities be ignored. If there is transparency of our movements to others, there should be an equivalent transparency of their collection and use of such data.

    Misconceptions about security cameras (none / 0) (#99)
    by thebrix on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 04:43:21 AM EST

    I keep having to correct people outside the United Kingdom over this :/

    What a lot of people don't realise is that many security cameras are lobbied for by residents; the one at the end of my road (part of a line of cameras up the main road at right angles to it) was installed following letterwriting campaigns, petition drives, visits to councillors etc. etc.

    In any case there is little central government involvement; it may put up funds from time to time, but it's up to local authorities to bid for those funds.

    (There are some exceptions, such as the huge British Transport Police installations on London Underground and the railways, but most initiatives are local).

    [ Parent ]

    The UK and Identity Cards | 101 comments (94 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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