Identity Cards are Useful

by on March 8, 2008

A friend of mine recently said they thought ID cards could be useful. They said they thought one day they might forget to take their passport to the airport or on the Eurostar. It struck me that I’d not blogged about my thoughts on this (and hey, what’s a blog for if it’s not for idle pontification?).

ID cards will no doubt be very useful – in the same way as DRM is useful, or restrictive EULA contracts are useful. What matters is the consequences of that usefulness.

Take one small example that I’m interested in: the fact that the Identity and Passport Service today has 3,800 employees. That’s 3,800 potential points of data leaks, mistakes, abuse, impersonation, blackmail and other chaos.

My aforementioned friend has previously said they didn’t want to have photos of their children public on Flickr, so I assume they don’t subscribe to the “nothing to hide” argument. So how about 3,800 people (and many more if you count “authorised bodies” – certainly far more than have seen my Flickr page in the past two years) having access to their pictures, names, dates, place of birth, current and past addresses. And that’s just on day one. Medical, educational and genetic data will be added to that later. Once that’s in, we won’t have much of an argument to say what’s too much data to store, so how about financial records, Internet usage, employment details, personal associations, political, religious and sexual orientation?

All very useful stuff, and all just waiting to be burnt to a disk and sent to the Ukraine 100 times over.

Of course, there’s some more information about this here.

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