The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'id card'
Charlie Stross has written up a future history of the British national identity card system, circa 2016:
The National ID Register has been implemented, and (as No2ID are currently predicting) it was a train-wreck. Large scale civil disobedience (accelerating from mid-2006, with the introduction of compulsory interviews for passports, then from 2008 with the opening of the first ID card processing centres) prevented the ID card itself from being made compulsory. Bluntly, people who are agnostic on the idea of carrying an ID card when interviewed in 2005, suddenly turn out to be rather against it when they receive a letter ordering them to show up for processing (and to fork over somewhere between £50 and £150 for the privilege). Even disguising it as a driving license or passport or proof of age in the boozer doesn't make them happy, and the proportion of goats in the population is high enough that beating the problem over the head with a stick is going to cause a crisis rather than making resistance trickle away.
The first law of British government IT contracts is "lowball the first five years", because five years is the event horizon of elected political office -- anything that happens five years and a day from now is some other guy's problem. And the contractors milk this egregiously -- you can read about it every couple of weeks in Private Eye. Unfortunately, the software development life cycle in the IT business is such that costs are always front-loaded (development is expensive, maintenance/support is cheap), and development of a large system is therefore always cash-starved just when it most needs investment. It therefore should come as no surprise to learn that the national identity register was delivered massively over-budget, several years late, and insufficiently flexible to do the jobs it was thought to be needed for.
By way of illustrating how totally bone-headed this is, here's an example. If they don't have time to interview you, they can create an entry for you from existing public sources: your driving licence might be merged with that DNA sample the police took when they arrested you three years ago, along with the money launding disclosure for your mortgage application that proves you're not a front for the Medelin cartel. Except that you were never arrested three years ago -- someone else gave your name in the cop shop. And because they accepted a caution, and your spam filter ate the email from the police, you don't even know you've got a criminal record and a DNA sample on the database.
There are other, more subtle, problems with the national identity register. Biometric identifiers change over time. People lose fingers and eyes. A lot of protesters discovered that atropine eye drops cause their iris to dilate, to the point where it's impossible to digitize. Middle-aged Filipino women have fingerprints that just plain don't work with the recognition software -- there's insufficient variation to tell them apart. 15% of the population have eczema, half of those have it on their hands, and their fingerprints are (in many cases) differently fucked from week to week. Post-operative transsexuals who have received hormone treatments have facial bone structures that mess up attempts at face recognition. Only DNA fingerprinting works, and even that is fallible, with multiple false positives (e.g. identical twins, and even random folks with identical matching sequences).
It looks like, 18 years after killing Australia's national ID card scheme, John Howard is putting it back on the table:
Asked if some of the issues to be discussed at the meeting could curtail civil liberties, Mr Howard said: ''The most important civil liberty you have and I have is to stay alive.'' ''To protect people from attacks is in favour of, not against, civil liberties.''Sounds nicely Orwellian, wouldn't you say. Or perhaps like Margaret Atwood's "freedom from" vs. freedom to".
In 1987, the Hawke government tried, and failed, to push through its national ID card, the Australia Card. Now it looks like the Howard government is considering reviving it:
Mr Howard vigorously campaigned against the Australia Card proposal which was raised in 1987, but today he said times had changed. "That's 18 years ago and it may well be that circumstances have changed."The Tories haven't decided on whether to adopt a national ID card (or, at least, so they say), but if they do, they will be able to get it through parliament, given that (with Australian's rigid party discipline) both houses of parliament are essentially rubber stamps for the Liberal/National Party caucus. Whether or not it would survive mass civil disobedience (the threat of which was instrumental in sinking the original Australia Card).