ID Cards

I am fascinated by the current debate in the UK regarding ID cards.

The debate is largely focussed on the negative effects of ID cards, but generally it ignores the fact that increasingly, proof of id is a part of everyday life.
Next week I've a couple of taks to do. I'm sitting a networking exam. For this I need to show either my driving licence or passport and some form of signed id (eg. a credit card). The next day myself and my partner are opening a joint savings account - which means both proof of id and proof of address.

Its become not infrequent now to have to carry a passport or driving licence for certain things. Yet there is huge opposition to the idea of an official id card that would eliminate the need for expensive extras like a passport. For example my password expired last month. A new one - even the most basic, will cost me 75 euros, a 5 euro trip to get photos done and possibly another 10 euro to get it done at the post office. Fortunately my driving licence is a 10 year one and I have another 8 years to go - I don't want to even think about what it will cost me by then to renew.

While people decry the idea of being unable to stay in a hotel because you cannot be anonymous, already this is pretty much wiped as a lot of good hotels in the UK already require you to show a passport. Yet few people think of the positive benefits of ID cards. A biometric card pretty much makes fraud highly difficult (as it can only be used by somebody with the appropriate biometric match). And the security is not lax: I worked for part of the company who are doing the ID card pilot before they were bought out by Atos Origin, and I have first hand experience of the extremely stringent security standards in that company. Basically in Atos you can't even get a job there without basic security clearance, and you can't get unsupervised card access into the workplace without full security clearance in some of their offices. To say thats its tight is no exaggeration. A lot of their jobs require a minimum of full clearance. Which at least eliminates some of the risks (though in these days of heady borrowing, a lot of people with debts are finding themselves unable to get clearance, a legacy of the spying past, unfortunately - though ironically, most of the most notorious spies did not do so for the money!) When I was IT Change Manager for what used to be Sema UK a couple of years back virtually every corner of the IT infrastructure was carefully blocked off against potential intruders. The integrity of customer data was a huge concern. I'm sure it still is.

It would be fair on asylum seekers in some ways as those who no longer have passports etc would have some form of official id. And it would eliminate fraud amongst the element of asylum seekers (I believe there is a small element - though nowhere near the tabloid presses suggestions - of fraud that is inevitable) who indulge in it. All in all, there should be no problems. So why the calls of state intrusion?


Anonymous said…
Just a point on the issue of eliminating the cost of passports. My understanding is that there will be a charge for the cards, so this will turn from an effectively necessary cost to a legally required one. The cards will last about the same length of time as passports, and the figures I've seen for the costs indicate that the cost will be significant.

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