The NO2ID online petition opposing the UK Government's plans for a National Identity Register and Biometric ID Cards has now had an official "response" from the Government.
This petition is on the Prime Minister's Number 10 Downing Street websiteis still open for more signatures. It had already collected 3230 signatures when it was submitted in November 2004.
Please excuse the tone of our comments on the official Government's response to the NO2ID petiton, as it insults our intelligence:
tec"Response to the NO2ID Petition: against identity cards and the National Identity Register
Proposals for a national compulsory identity cards scheme,"
So the pretence of this being a "voluntary" scheme has finally been dropped then.
"to strengthen national security and protect people's identity, were set out on 29 November 2004 when the Government published the Identity Cards Bill. Our decision to introduce identity cards has been taken following a wide ranging debate, starting with the announcement in February 2002 of the original consultation and continuing with the consultation on the draft legislation."
There has been no widespread informed debate on the devilish detail of the Labour Government's plans. Even the opinion polls used by the Government to claim that there is support for the vague concept of "id cards" show that the public does not understand the implications of biometrics and also that they are dead set against paying a literal "poll tax" for a compulsory scheme.
The "Entitlement Cards" consultation was ignored when over 5000 individual responses opposing the scheme sent via the STAND website were all treated as one single petition response, and ignored.
The Home Affairs Committee report on ID Cards and its time restricted scrutiny of the Draft ID Card Bill was also largely ignored by the Government, except for the cherry picking of a couple of vaguely supportive statements. The Home Office refused to give even the Home Affairs Committee any figures on the estimated cost of the scheme to the nearest £2 billion
It was obvious from the Second Reading debate on the Identity cards Bill that not all Members of Parliament had read and understood the Bill either: even Government Ministers gleefully tried to make political points against their opponents by making this point.
"The decision to proceed is based in part on the fact that we will have to introduce more secure personal identifiers (biometrics) into our passports and other existing documents in line with international requirements. If our citizens are to continue to enjoy the benefits of international travel, as increasing numbers of them are doing, we cannot be left behind."
The international standards for Passports and other travel documents are set by the United Nations body the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The Home Office seems to have conveniently forgotten that the United Kingdom is a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council and could veto any such international standard if it chose to.
"Identity cards will provide every person in this country with an easy and secure way of proving their identity,"
The Government's plans are useless for identification online or over the phone, due to their reliance on biometric identifiers.
"of demonstrating their right to be here and of asserting their place in the community. Our liberties will be strengthened if our identity is protected from theft; "
Identity "theft" is not a huge problem and certainly not the top priority requiring the expenditure of billions of pounds.
Most "identity theft" figures are being confused with existing offline and online credit card fraud which the financial industry is tackling through the completely different "Chip and PIN" contact smartcard technology.
We repeat, the Government's Biometric ID Card plans are useless for countering "customer not present" credit card fraud or bank account personal details "phishing" attacks which are on the increase.
"if we are guaranteed access to the services to which we are entitled;"
We are already guaranteed access to public services which we already pay tax for, without the extra bureaucracy involved with the ID card scheme.
Why should we waste billions of pounds on the ID card scheme when some of it could be spent on policing and enforcing the existing laws covering these topics ?
"ID fraud is a growing crime, costing the country more than £1.3 billion per year. "
There is no evidence that this often repeated statement is true.
Here we go again. Identity Fraud - a study" (241Kb .pdf) was a Cabinet Office report published in July 2002. It did not reccomend that ID Cards were a solution to fraud. However, the Home Office keeps on trotting out the unscientific guesstimate published in Annex B: of this report. These figures are literally finger in the air guesses, but they are being portrayed by the Home Office as hard facts.
Neither this out of date Cabinet Office study, nor the Home Office have produced any figures on the number of instances of alleged "Identity fraud" i.e. how many actual crimes the supposed £1.3 billion a year represents, nor even a guesstimate of how many infividuals are perpatrating these "ID Theft" crimes.
Neither the Home Office nor the Cabinet Office has bothered to repeate even this inadequate research in 2003 or 2004, so there is not even a guess available to see if the changes in various security measures such as passport delivery via allegedly secure courier rather than by postal mail, or credit card "Chip and PIN" has made any difference to this figure or not.
There is no such single crime or offence as "Identity Fraud". It is not the same as an occaisional fraudulent credit card transaction, for instance, most of which happen online via the Internet, which is an area, where the choice of a Biometric ID card, is a bad one, as biometrics are useless over the Internet - nobody can trust them !
The Home Office does not even bother to collate "Identity Fraud" or "Identity Theft" crime statistics, either from the Police, or from the British Crime Survey.
How can they even tell if the situation gets better or worse with the introduction of ID Cards ?
Multiple or false identities are used in more than a third of terrorist related activity and in organised crime and money laundering.
Here we go again. Would that be more than a third of all terrorists worldwide, who use false British identities ?
We doubt this somehow, as we doubt previous claims made by Charles Clarke, David Blunkett, Des Browne, Peter Hain etc. whose often repeated versions variously substitute, "over one third" with "up to thirty five percent" and "terrorists and organised criminals" or "money launderers" for "terrorists", and "multiple identities" for "false identities", depending on who they are spinning a line to.
This spurious figure, even taken at face value means that over sixty five per cent of terrorists must use their own names anyway. "Multiple identities" are not necessarily "false identities", there are millions of people , and a few terrorists, with perfectly legal dual nationality e.g. dual Irish and United Kingdom ,dual French and Algerian etc.
So how will a scheme, which even if it is perfect, will only slightly inconvenience a small percentage of terrorists worldwide, actually make us any safer from terrorist attacks ?
It is crucial that we are able to confirm and verify our own and others' identities quickly and easily. Consequently, we believe that there are clear benefits to be gained from biometric identity cards.
It is entirely possible to make use of Biometric Identifiers as an extra layer of security against forgery. In the majority of systems used around the world, the Biometric Identifiers or a digital sumamry of them, are digitally signed and stored only on the smart card which has been issued to the person in a face to face enrolment session, after suitable biographical footprint checks of their other documentation.
That is not what the UK Government is planning with the Identity Cards Bill. They are planning a centralised online biometric National Identity Register, with the hope that someday actual ID cards will not be required at all.
"The Government's proposals are designed to safeguard, not erode, civil liberties"
If that were really true, then the Government would have followed the German model of ID card, a simple photo ID, printed with the best anti-counterfeiting techniques, just like banknotes, with the name and address details registered for local services with local authorities only. German constitutional law specifically forbids the use of the ID card number as the a database key field on central government databases, and it is changed every 5 years or so.
The UK public has not been offered the choice of such a system as a "convenient mean if identification" for public and private services, which workss fine for that purpose in Germany.
What is being rammed through Parliament at present is the most high tech multiple biometric centralised online database system. This will be a lucrative target for foreign intelligence agencies, terrorists and organised criminal gangs for whom it will be worth spending vast somes of money and resources to attack it through technical means and through blackmail, bribery and corruption of the trusted insiders who will be running the system.
Given the inflexibility of biometric technology upon which theis scheme depends, i.e. short of major surgery, biometric identifiers are "a pssword which can nver be revoked, for the rest of your life, even ewhen it has been compromised".
Why should everyone's current address and all previous address be on a database allegedly to do with personal identity ?
This is the sort of question you ask of convicted criminals, not of the vast majority of innocent people, unless the Government, in effect, intends to destroy the tradition of the presumption of innocence under the law.
Technically , with a biometric identification system you do not need the vast number of data fields which are planned for under the Identity Cards Bill Schedule 1
With Biometrics you need no Name, no Address, no Previous Addresses, no Gender, no Age or Date of Birth etc. All you need are the Biometric Identifier(s) , an ID Card Serial Number and a date of issue or expiry, and the appropriate digital signatures to show that the data has not been tampered with after the Enrolment interview with an official who has checked your Biographical Footprint of supporting documents.
This is not the claimed "minimum amount of data" which the UK Government is planning to collect in its vast National Identity Register scheme.
The only way to protect ourselves from the future abuse of this data is not to collect it into a massive vulnerable target centralised system in the first place.
Why "make a rod for our own backs" for the future ?
""by protecting people's true identity against fraud"
The Government wants to change the relationship between the citizen and the state. We have a Common Law right, established over the centuries, to be known by any name or any multiple names that we wish, provided that we are not using these name to defraud or mislead. Why should we be forced to give up this right and have only one "true identity" merely for t bureacratic convenience ? Why should the wife of the Prime Minister Mrs. Cherie Blair not also continue with her professional name of Ms. Cherie Booth QC ? Why should all names and aliases be put on a central database, under penalty of a £1000 fine ? What about online aliases which protect you from computer crimes ssuch as harrassment, stalking, attempts at fraud, illegal porn or drugs spam etc ?
There are deep cultural and religous feelings and traditions that if you give someone your "True Name" or identity, you are trusting them with some potential power over you. Who really trusts the Government and their insecure IT sytems, given the scandals, spin, hype and the betrayal of the public's trust ?
"and by enabling them to prove their identity more easily when accessing public or private services."
Our own Government cannot be trusted with these personal details, and neither can private companies.