August 19, 2004

Kiss your freedom goodbye

Posted in Totalitarianism at 1:23 am by David Gould

Sign the No2ID petition against ID cards now. It will force the government to reverse their lie about how popular the scheme is.

This is the fourth draft of a letter to my MP – please leave feedback.

Dear Ms Davey,

Michael Moore pointed out that we are bombarded with threats of impending doom: global warming, mega-tsunami, asteroids, biological/chemical attack etc. The normal response is to become anaesthetised, as the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” found out.  How then are we to react appropriately to real, impending dangers?

The ominous threat I’m writing about is regarding the Home Secretary’s proposal to compile a database of every single UK citizen, which already requires them to submit their current & past addresses, photograph and even iris scans and fingerprints.  Worse yet, it contains a public unique National Identity Number which corporations can use to link up every bit of information about us already stored on computer (banking, phone, internet & shopping records).

Let me first assure you, I am personally happy to disclose my identity to trustworthy people.

What concerns me is the potential for every aspect of every innocent citizen’s life to be collected in one database… and how easily that information could be abused, not just in that person’s life, but in their children’s lives too.

Even the Home Affairs Select Committee made serious criticisms of Blunkett’s draft bill, predicting that ‘Identities may soon be checkable on the national register from CCTV pictures.’

‘The report warns that once the cards become compulsory it is conceivable that private companies will be able to demand access to the full information held on an individual on the register as a condition of providing a service.  The access is “well in excess of what is justified in the fight against serious crime or terrorism.”‘ Front page, Guardian 29/7/04

Sadly, Mr Blunkett failed to address any of these crucial issues.  Surely any government that supported individual freedom would want to preserve civil liberties rather than decimate them?  Shouldn’t our priority be for legal protection against potential abuse of collected information?

The EU Data Protection Working Party expresses concern about biometric data stored in a centralised system.

In August, the royally-appointed Information Commissioner, David Thomas felt the need to go public via The Times and warn us against “sleepwalking into a surveillance society.”  He adds: “I don’t think people have woken up to what lies behind this”  and: “Some of my counterparts in Eastern Europe, in Spain, have experienced in the last century what can happen when government gets too powerful and has too much information on citizens.”

When our most respected authorities tell us in such candid terms that we need to stop and think, only the most dangerous and unaccountable governments would continue to try and sneak such plans though.

And yet that is exactly the behaviour of this government.  It has already been criticised for ignoring the overwhelming majority of those replying to the so-called consultation, who stated that they did not want national identity cards.  It has refused to justify such an infringement on our personal freedoms.  And it is apparently refusing to allow any kind of debate or free vote in the House of Commons.

The Home Office is already spending hundreds of thousands of pounds recruiting a PR team to sell the benefits of compulsory identity cards.  Considering that the government’s own polls say that 48% oppose the card, I am truly scared by this government’s lack of accountability.

Should the government manage to spin this legislation through Parliament, none of the protagonists will be around to take the blame for the inevitable technical failure.

Every major government IT project has been a monumental failure.  The NPfIT, whilst a much simpler project than this database (no biometrics, predictable patterns of usage), is now expected to cost 30 billion.  Ask any independent IT contractor whether the Home Office’s budget is realistic…
It is for all these reasons that I am requesting your support on this issue.

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