Sorry, it’s ID cards again

I fear I’m beginning to sound like a broken record on ID Cards, but what can you do…

It looks like the Lords have accepted the latest compromise and the .

I was skimming through the . Basically, the report is where the Home Affairs Committee consider the Government’s proposals for an identity cards scheme and the draft Identity Cards Bill and make their comments.

Here are some choice excerpts:

The structure of the database, and how to set it up and manage it, are among the most important choices the Government has to make. We are greatly concerned that the Government’s procurement process appears to be taking these key decisions without any external reference or technical assessment, or broader public debate. We recommend the Government publishes details of consultations with any external bodies and also any technical assessments that have been undertaken.

The Finance and Leasing Association took the view that “the database should be available for all legitimate users of information to access either directly or indirectly to facilitate the uses of the card which an individual may make”.

The draft Bill effectively establishes a national fingerprint register covering 80% of the economically active population within five years of the scheme’s implementation, and 100% once the compulsory stage has been reached. It is a moot point whether Parliament would currently sanction the establishment of a comprehensive fingerprint register solely for crime fighting purposes: to date only the limited extension of finger-printing and DNA sampling for those arrested has been sanctioned. Nonetheless the Minister of State confirmed the Government’s intention to use the National Identity Register as a national fingerprint register to identify individuals.

Irrespective of the Government’s intentions, we can also expect media and public pressure to use the fingerprint register ever more extensively. The establishment of a national fingerprint register has never been a stated aim of the identity card system. Whatever the merits of such a development—and there has been no debate as to whether an identification through this means would be sufficient evidence to secure a conviction for example—we believe its use should be subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny and decision and not developed through executive action.

It is also likely that that facial recognition technology will develop to the point where an individual captured on a CCTV camera could potentially be identified from the National Identity Register. Again, we doubt whether the pressure to use the system in this way could be resisted forever by future governments.

The British Medical Association did not want medical information recorded on identity cards, since they “want the public to be reassured that other people who had access to their identity card were not able to access personal health information” and because the information would not be updated sufficiently frequently. For the same reasons they argued in favour of keeping the National Identity Register separate from the planned national electronic health record. We agree with the BMA: it would not be either useful or appropriate to keep medical details on the Register. But it would be sensible for the identity card to be the mechanism that enables individuals to access their NHS records.

tags: ,