The British Identity Card Scheme...
Aftermath of 7/7
In the wake of the London bombings on 7/7, the British Government now stands accused of reintroducing the identity cards scheme, by stealth as it were. But the ID cards scheme however, was announced in the Queen's Speech on 17 May 2005, after careful and very lengthy consultations.
The mention of identity cards has the same effect on the British public as waving a red flag in front of a bull.
In this post I’m going to try and dispel some of the irrational arguments used against the idea of identity cards.
ID cards curtail civil liberties
The privacy argument. In this country one has to be armed with at least two, often three forms proof of identity and increasingly also photo ID, to carry out something as basic as opening a bank account. Personally, I find having to show a utility bill more of an intrusion into my privacy than showing one, uniform document such as an ID card. How much I spend on my phone calls is really only my business.
ID cards would also increase “stop and search” by police officers, opponents say. In this country, like in any other civilised one, the police of course has powers to apprehend people who may be suspected of having committed, committing or planning to commit a crime. These persons will during their arrest have to prove their identity in one way or another. Where is the problem?
The police take fingerprints and DNA of any suspect in their custody, even without any charges being brought. These data go directly into the national crime database (whether you turn out to be a criminal or not). An intrusion into a suspect’s privacy? You bet! But no one bats an eyelid and I don’t either. After all, it’s for the greater good, isn’t it?
ID cards can’t help fight crime
This is usually illustrated by a sad little joke that pulls a few drunken laughs in the pub. Here’s one version I found on a blog post recently:
I wonder at what point exactly the terrorists may have been asked for their ID cards? While they were making the bomb? Maybe as they boarded the bus that blew up? Or maybe indeed as they descended into the underground? Total rubbish.
Total rubbish indeed.
No single measure can eradicate crime or terrorism but an entire arsenal of methods can certainly contribute to the “war on terror” or crime in general. ID cards can certainly contribute as well. The British public seem to have forgotten that during WW II (and for some time after) ID cards in Britain were compulsory, as a security measure? No one had any doubts back then…
ID cards will cause a wave of crime themselves
This is based on the idea that once the cards have been introduced, an industry of forgers will emerge, to supply aspiring wrong doers with false identification.
Forging goes on all the time and no doubt some will attempt (and some will succeed) to produce forgeries in the same way passports and banknotes continue to be forged.
It’ll be easy to produce counterfeit ID cards
Let me illustrate the point as follows. I could very easily forge the current forms of indentification such as a utility bill, using my scanner and image manipulation software. But I’d only have to do that if I didn’t want to get want to get my hands dirty by rummaging through someone else’s rubbish bin…
In contrast, the ID cards the Government have their eye on, are state of the art and amongst the most difficult to forge documents available.
We all have passports anyway
Wrong. Passports are only required for those wishing to travel abroad.
And let’s face it: compulsory passports would undoubtedly meet with the same illogical resistance to something that's been effectively in place for decades in most European member states.
ID cards will be horrendously expensive
This is of course based on the recent “findings” of a group of “independent” researchers who hadn’t really done their sums. According to their “calculations” the ID cards would clock in at over a £1,000 each. That’s preposterous. Even when taking into account the considerable initial costs of setting up the infrastructure and producing the data, the cost per card wouldn’t be anywhere near that number.
But cheap it will never be. Neither will the 2012 Olympics though.
Accepting the ID card scheme means the terrorists win
This is perhaps the most warped argument of them all. In the aftermath of 7/7 many expensive and sometimes intrusive security measures will be put in place, in an attempt to prevent another attack. Does that mean the terrorists have won? Quite the contrary, it only means we’re fighting back. Or does anyone suggest we do nothing at all?
The reality is that most members of the British public aren’t in favour of the scheme because it is perceived as something inherently “European” and hence by definition deeply suspicious. This perception blurs all opinion into a “we just don’t want them, alright?” kind of argument.
Further reading on identity cards, No to ID cards site and discussion forum
Keywords: ID cards, British ID cards, British ID cards scheme
This entry was written from the perspective of a UK resident, not a UK citizen. Where I’m from ID cards are compulsory and we do have a National Identity Register as well. The proposed ID cards Bill appears to be much more far reaching and potentially far more intrusive than anything we have regards identity registration in our country.
After reading the bill, I can only say that in its present form I don’t support the ID cards bill either. You can read a little more about my thoughts on ID cards on this forum thread where I’m logged in as guest “blogfast”.