18 Jun 2009
Just a quick note to say that this is resurrected for the benefits of the internet, and as an archive of what used to live at stand.org.uk (we won't link to it, we deliberately allowed the domain to lapse). So, here it is, once again. If there is any brokenness (spectactularly so…), please do hit us up, and we might get around to fixing it…
10 February 2005
We’ve not been keeping this site very up-to-date at the moment, as we suggested we mightn’t. It would be immensely remiss of us not to mention that the Identity Cards Bill passed its Third Reading (the final stage) in the Commons today. So it’s up the House of Lords; a perfect sign of a mature democracy, leave it to the unelected, unreformed house of people who were nice to a king or Prime Minister in times past to defeat the most ineffectual, illiberal, expensive and pointless danger to our civil liberties since the 1970s, when we had Diplock Courts, the PTA and gaoled the Conlons and Maguires simply for being Irish — the 1970s equivalent of “driving whilst black”. More, as ever, on NO2ID.
15 December 2004
Well, it would appear that the scandal finally became too much for him and, this evening David Blunkett has resigned!We might have some thoughts on the impact of this sometime soon but, at the moment, we’re mainly still at our day-jobs.
13 December 2004
It would seem that Michael Howard has just persuaded the Tories have just made the biggest political gamble in history (BBC, Teg, Guardian, Ananova). If the government’s proposals play out the same way as the Australia Card did, the Tories could find themselves destroyed by the Liberal Democrats and UKIP — maybe not at the next election, but quite possibly the one after that, once the costs of this flawed ID cards scheme start to bite.
One thing this does mean, though, is that we’re really gonna have to fight to defeat these proposals now. A good start would be to Fax your MP and tell them why you think ID cards suck. Stuck for inspiration? Try No2ID and their new FAQs on the ID cards proposals. Indeed, watch that space and you should see a plethora of Briefing Notes on the ID Cards Bill quite soon (once we’ve finished help write one of them ;o)
Something you might also find useful is that Mark over at SpyBlog has set up a blog of the ID Cards Bill, so that people can annotate and comment on it. That’s about it for now, as we have full-time jobs to do, as well as No2ID work, so some of us need our beauty sleep. As we wrote last time, the No2ID website is gonna be your best bet for ID cards stuff at the moment, as there’s only so much time we can devote to everything else these days…
Blunkett published the ID Cards Bill (PDF, 253kb) today; from what we can see, it’s even worse than the Draft Bill was! Again, shitloads of other news as well. The BBC’s Question Time was worth watching last week, you can prolly still catch a Real stream from the Question Time website, especially seeing quite how out of touch the Home Office is in repeating the lie that 80% of people might support their expensive, draconian scheme.
Kinda rather busy trying to digest the Bill at the moment, as you can imagine. We’d recommend that people keep an eye on The No2ID Campaign, of whom Stand.org.uk is a founder member. In the meantime, why don’t you go Fax your MP to tell them what you think of the idea. And don’t forget to go buy No2ID’s T-shirts (or through Cash n Carrion, El Reg’s e-commerce site).
Shitloads of news over the last coupla days; no time to tell you about it. Check out The No2ID Campaign, obviously, as well as The Home Office’s ID cards site. Unlike The Register, The BBC appears completely to have missed the point, which is rather unlike Auntie’s usually exellent reportage. It’s interesting to see John Denham (Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) nail his colors firmly to the pro-ID cards mast in the HASC press release, though.
Lots and lots to write about the two Home Office PDFs, but we’ve not quite finished reading the things yet. Though when we write “bear with us a couple of days for an analysis”, we do really hope that it will only be a couple of days… ;o)
As ever, we have to offer the usual excuses about how infrequently we've been updating the content here; as you can guess, it's the same old stuff about how we're really busy at work and with stuff for The No2ID Campaign (of which Stand.org.uk is a founding affiliate organisation). Sorry (again!); we really will try to do a bit better through the Autumn, particularly whilst David Blunkett gets on with trying to introduce legislation to effect his misguided and expensive ID cards scheme.
This is, yet again, just a quick update. There's been lots going on, but No2ID's website is generally gonna be a better place to keep an eye on than here for that stuff. The main reason for this update is that we've noticed a really good article on The Register about the impending introduction of ID cards. Well worth a read, we think.
Now that things are about to start happening in Parliament, rather than just the Home Office, about ID cards (and now that Owen's day job is calming down a little), we hope to be able to keep you a little better updated here on Stand.org.uk's site, but that's just about it for this mini-update. As always, we'd exhort anyone concerned by (or just interested in) Herr Blunkett's ID cards scheme to wander over to No2ID's site and go join the campaign against ID cards.
16 August 2004
Yesterday, on The Scotsman's website, the Information Commissioner expressed his concerns that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society. This morning's Times had an interview with Richard Thomas, as well as a leader column on the subject; this evening, they have followed it up with an article wherer Downing Street promises safeguards after the Information Commissioner's concerns. TV viewers might also have noticed coverage on (amongst others) BBC News 24 and Channel 5 News — where The NO2ID Coalition's Mark Littlewood was rebutting some of the "reassurances" given by Hazel Blears, the Labour Party's current Cheerleader-in-Chief.
We are sure it comes as no surprise that we don't hold much truck in the government's "reassurances". Whilst The Times' article states that the Government "has made it clear that there are going to be guarantees about function creep", we wait to see any concrete guarantees on the subject, which the Home Affairs Select Committee noted were important concerns. The government's assurance that "there is going to be proper oversight" don't really give us all that much hope, especially since we were not alone in criticising the oversight envisaged in the Draft Bill.
Whilst we — and The NO2ID Coalition — have concentrated on the Home Secretary's Draft ID cards scheme, we share the Information Commissioner's concerns over the ONS's proposed Population Register and the database envisaged by the Children Bill. We do believe the ONS's proposals contain many of the problems we have highlighted with the Draft ID Cards Bill; we also have many grave concerns with the Children Bill's proposals, not least that they will make very little difference to the issues raised from the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.
Also, we've finally finished work on the HTML version of our Home Office evidence (110kb); you can still read the Word doc version (218.5kb) online also. Sorry for the lack of updates; we've all been rather busy. If you want to know what's going on with ID cards, you might find The NO2ID Coalition's mailing lists of interest, but we will try to update this site a little more often too…
30 July 2004
The Home Affairs Select Committee have reported on ID cards. I'm typing just after the midnight press embargo, but the report should be on their website — on the HASC reports page — by lunchtime today. Courtesy of the BBC, you can download a 608kb PDF of the HASC report into ID cards from their servers for now.
Civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners have called upon David Blunkett to shelve his plans for a national identity card in the wake of today's damning report from the Home Affairs Select Committee.
A coalition of anti-ID card groups has pledged to defeat the proposals in Parliament should a Bill be put forward later this year. With senior Cabinet Ministers including Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt known to be opposed to Blunkett's Plan, campaigners believe that if legislation can be held up until after the General Election, the ID cards may never see the light of day.
Mark Littlewood, national co-ordinator of The NO2ID Coalition said:"The more people hear about ID cards, the less they like them. With opinion polls showing that around 3.5 million adults would refuse to carry a card, the government needs to ask itself exactly how many more enemies it can afford to make. Proposals for national identity cards should be shelved immediately and permanently."
Dr Ian Brown, Director of FIPR — a supporter of NO2ID — said:"The committee has raised a whole series of very grave concerns about the scheme. ID cards won't tackle terrorism, won't cut fraud and won't reduce crime. The government's plans are an expensive and dangerous folly."
ID cards expert, Owen Blacker of Internet privacy group Stand.org.uk said:"This report should cause the Home Secretary to rethink. Not only do ID cards present a very real threat to individual privacy, but they would be a technological disaster. The government's record on IT projects is truly awful. If they press ahead, people should brace themselves for this running way over budget and experiencing major malfunctions."
One of the Committee's recurring comments was that the government still has a lot of questions to answer before the the case for introducing ID cards would be compelling: we welcome this. We endorse the minority report from David Winnick (Lab, Walsall South) and Bob Russell (Lib Dem, Colchester), which addresses in much more certain terms the fact that the Home Office has not yet made a convincing case.
We'll keep you informed of more coverage over the weekend — and hopefully should get round to HTMLing our Home Office response shortly too!
ID Cards consultation ends…
Well, after neglecting the site for so long, our response to the Home Office consultation is finally finished and submitted. You can download it as a Word doc for now (Word doc, 219kb) and an HTML version should appear later this week. For now, bedtime! You still have a few hours to get your response in…
16 June 2004
A very brief update, as we've not had a chance to write a better one. Two links for you — firstly, we should re-plug The no2id Coalition, of whom we are a founder member and secondly, if you want to find out if your MP has an opinion on ID cards, TheyWorkForYou.com might have an answer.
Finally, for the moment, don't forget about the Home Office Consultation, details in our May 26 post below.
Much more news shortly, just been a bit busy (and hay feverey) of late. Sorry about that!
Well, we put them up over the weekend, but neglected to mention that we did. The audio recordings of the Public ID cards meeting we co-organised are now on the site, linked from our page about the Public ID cards meeting.
Also new to the site is our submission to the HASC on the Draft Bill (Word doc: 68kb; HTML: 21kb). We should also remind people, though, that the Home Office is also consulting on the Draft Bill. Details can be found on the Home Office's ID cards site and the consultation ends on Tuesday, July 20, 2004. For convenience's sake, here are direct links to the Draft Bill itself (PDF, 291kb) and the consultation paper (PDF, 552kb, and it includes the Draft Bill and explanatory notes).
Comments can be sent to the Home Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject: line "consultation response" or by faxing 020 7035 5386.
Well, after the dust (and purple flour) has settled, on to other things with ID cards. One of the people who came to the meeting was not only kind enough to record it all for us, but has mailed us the audio files. They'll be going up (in both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis format) over the weekend (once Owen can get his transcoding software to work). We're not sure about transcripts yet, but we'll keep you informed.
Details on how to sign up as a supporter are on The no2id Coalition's website (Stand.org.uk is proud to be a founding member of the no2id Coalition). Richard Clayton, of FIPR, was taking lots of photos at the event, so doubtless they will appear online at some point too. There was some good coverage of the meeting too: from the BBC, amongst others (which we'll list when we're back home and not pretending to do our real jobs ;o)
Also, on Wednesday, was the deadline for submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee's scrutiny of the Draft Bill; our submission will be online shortly, and we'll probably link to some other organisations' comments too.
As well as that, Privacy International released an analysis of a recent YouGov poll (PDF, 45kb), showing that, whilst overall support is still high, the governments specific proposals are deeply unpopular and the government's support is waning, whilst opposition is becoming entrenched. Not only that but, extrapolating from the poll data, we can estimate that 4.9m people would be willing to take to the streets to oppose ID cards, 2.8m people would be willing to join a campaign of civil disobedience and around a million people would rather be gaoled that register for a card. Heady stuff and hardly good news for the government.
In all the pre–public meeting stress, we completely forgot to tell you that the uncorrected evidence session of David Blunkett (et al) at the HASC was released a couple of weeks ago. Having read through it, some of the comments made by Blunkett, Des Browne, Katherine Courtney and Stephen Harrison seem a little easy to debunk, so we may write to the HASC to do just that.
Finally, thanks to everyone who came to the public meeting at the LSE on Wednesday. It was a very crowded room for such a hot day and 3.5 hours of speakers without any real breaks was a great show of patience and interest in the issue from a few hundred people. Thanks too to the very patient guys who wanted the room after us, who lost over quarter of an hour of setting-up time with surprisingly little grumbling.
That's it for the moment, though this entry may well expand over the next couple of days, so watch this space!
18 May 2004
The line-up for our public meeting about ID cards tomorrow is now finalised. There are still a few spaces left, so do feel free to come along.
Space is becoming limited for the public meeting about ID cards on Wednesday we’re organising with a handful of other groups. We now have a pretty-much finalised line-up, including the Shadow Home Secretary and the Lib Dems’ Home Affairs front-bench spokesman as well as about a dozen other speakers.
If anyone is interested in attending the meeting — 13.30–17.00, this Wednesday (May 19) at the LSE in London WC2 — do drop us a line at email@example.com (just so we can keep track of numbers, we won’t use the email address for anything unrelated to this meeting) and we’ll look forward to seeing you there! That link again: http://www.stand.org.uk/mistakenidentity.php3
Excellent article in today's Register (that's The Register, not the Register, of course): A complete guide to the UK ID card, including a mention of the Home Office's lying and cheating about the 5070 responses to the last "consultation", through our portal. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the issue. We've also updated the page about the Public Meeting on May 19th, to include the provisional agenda.
Sorry about the lack of updates; I'm sure you can imagine we're all rather busy at the moment. More news soon, promise…
27 April 2004
Privacy International, in association with Stand.org.uk, Liberty, Statewatch and FIPR are organising a public meeting to discuss the government's ID card proposals. More information on our joint press release, but the meeting will be at the LSE on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 19 and attendance is free of charge — please mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see the press release, if you're interested.
27 April 2004
As you can probably imagine, there's a lot of stuff going on with ID cards at the moment, both before and after yesterday's release of the Draft ID cards Bill (PDF; 552k). Press releases have come from left, right and center, of course; here's a selection: Liberty, Privacy International, FIPR, Statewatch. A special mention should go to Lib Dems' press release, which is an excellent overview of some of the key concerns with the whole proposal.
As well as the Home Office's consultation on the Draft Bill, the Home Affairs Select Committee are consulting for their pre-legislative scrunity. They will be calling for written submissions, more information on that when we have it.
Privacy International have also recently released a study into ID cards and terrorism (PDF; 227kb) that shows the lie in much of Blunkett's pronouncements on the subject — there is no evidence to show that ID cards will have any effect in combatting terrorism.
We'll be putting Stand.org.uk's thoughts on the Draft Bill up on this site within the next few days, but we support all the comments in the press releases we've linked above. In the meantime, you might like to tell your MP what you think about the whole idea of compulsory ID cards.
11 April 2004
Guess it's time to update y'all with some news. It would seem not all senior policemen are blinded by the Home Office lies: a Suffolk councillor is saying hell no and getting backing from the Chief Constable. On a similar note, it would seem that Canada is dropping their ID card proposals.
Lots of coverage of Blair and Blunkett speeding up ID cards, to make them compulsory by 2008: (BBC; Indy; Telegraph (reg rqd); The Register; PMOS and discussion from DowningStreetSays.org; The Scotsman being more cautious; Statewatch) and an excellent article by Perry de Havilland on Samizdata, which must be the blog with the coolest name ever.
Of course The Times loves it. Shocker. The Spectator is apparently much the same this issue and even The Telegraph is getting a little wobbly. To quote a friend: "GRRRR. I'd rather eat worms than risk terrorism — but I'd only chow down *if* someone demonstrated a causal link between my eating worms and the risk of terrorism!"; my sentiments exactly.
Oh and it seems that my analysis was wrong, they are going to increase the cost of the passport and the driver's licence: (Telegraph; Times; SpyBlog's analysis). On which note, it would seem biometric passports aren't flavor of the month in the EU so much any more; Statewatch comment here.
As ever, The Register has some excellent analysis on why Blair and Blunkett's scheme is a stupid idea. They also have some coverage on an article in New Scientist that questions are fingerprints really infallible and unique? NewSci have done a handful of articles that impact on an ID scheme (iris scans; fingerprints; more fingerprints).
And, for those who are interested, Privacy International have worked out what else we could spend £6bn on, instead of ID cards. I didn't realise 10,000 coppers were so cheap, relatively speaking.
More coverage of Blair's move to demolish the Cabinet consensus on ID cards. Relatively good plain-reportage from The Telegraph (reg rqd) and excellent analysis from The Register. Also, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has decided that ID cards are wonderful. How surprising; it's usually so rare that a police chief advocates granting more power to the police, after all. I never cease to find it amazing how senior political figures like this can seem to have a complete failure in their logic — Blair wants ID cards for counter-terrorism purposes, yet we know they won't solve terrorism; Sir John Stevens wants them because we have porous borders, yet we know they won't do anything for immigration or illegal working. What's with all these non-sequituurs?
In other news, the US are gonna fingerprint and photograph all incoming visitors from visa-waiver countries (including the UK). Apparently Tony is going to ask his friend George to wait for a while.
In growing signs of the Prime Minister's failing omniscience, he seems not only to have overlooked that his own Home Secretary acknowledges that ID cards will do little to combat terrorism — for many reasons, many of which we covered in our Consultation Response to the Home Office (400kb Word doc) 15 months ago — but also that there are still many questions outstanding. To adapt a list from a friend of mine, among other things, we still don't know:
- the actual reason for the introduction of ID cards;
- what ID cards can and cannot do;
- who will be able to demand an ID card and under what circumstances;
- if ownership of ID cards will be compulsory;
- if the carrying of ID cards will be compulsory;
- whether all parties asking for ID cards will be able to see all of the information held on the card;
- the security of the ID cards and the centralised database;
- the form of any biometric data to be held on ID cards;
- how any biometric data might be collected and how much time and effort would be required of that process;
- the ability of the cardholding citizen to view personal data held on ID cards;
- the accessibility of such information to people using minority computer systems, to those without computers and those requiring assistive technologies;
- the ability of the citizen to demand the correction of misleading data held on the ID card;
- the supervision of the centralised database necessary to operate the ID card system;
- whether there will be data on the ID card to which the citizen does not have access;
- the ability of a citizen to track the usage of their ID card and by whom;
- the ability of the government to track ID card usage;
- if centralised data will be shared between government departments, researchers or commercial organisations;
- if personal data will be exported from the country and hence out of the remit of the Data Protection Acts;
- what protections will be put in place to prevent "function creep";
- what protections will be put in place to prevent abuse of the ID card system by future administrations;
- what protections will be put in place to prevent official abuse of the ID card system;
- how the ID card system will not discriminate against ethnic minorities;
- if the ID card scheme violates the Data Protection Acts;
- if the ID card scheme violates the European Convention on Human Rights (as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998), especially as legal opinions suggest it will
If only it were an April Fool's; looks like we have some educating to do. Again. Do feel free to Fax Your MP, if you'd like to make a start.
30 March 2004
Stand.org.uk are one of the signatories to Privacy International's Open Letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (PDF, 117kb); they also released some background about the issue (HTML) and you can also read some news coverage (BBC; Wired).
2 March 2004
David Blunkett released a White Paper on our counter-terrorism powers (PDF, 778kb) last week, responding to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights (the Newton Committee)'s Recommendations. Included in that White Paper, is a section discussing Data Retention and Data Preservation powers. As a reminder, Data Retention is where all users' data are kept for a length of time, just in case they become of interest; Data Preservation is where a specific user's data are kept for a length of time, once an order has been served to show that that specific user is under suspicion of a some crime.
Key points (from this section of the White Paper alone), with our commentary:
- The Committee, in paragraph 51, "can see the case in principle for [Data Retention] for a defined range of public interest purposes".As we have stated before, we do not believe Data Retention is the right solution, as it fails adequately to balance individuals' Article Eight rights to privacy with the state's need for intelligence. As Data Retention involves all users, not just those targets of surveillance, we concur with legal opinions that state it is a clear breach of Article Eight rights.
- The government, unsurprisingly, welcomed the Committee's suggestion that these powers might be extended: "The Government agrees with the Committee that there is a need for data retention for the purposes of fighting crime in addition to the purpose of safeguarding national security. … The Government is considering whether data retention … would be best dealt within mainstream legislation rather than special terrorism legislation."We are uncomfortable enough with Data Retention powers being available for counter-terrorism use; we do not believe that these powers should be available for more mundane use as well.
- With regard maximum retention periods, contrary to the Committee's recommendation (in para 52), "The Government does not particularly see the necessity for putting data retention periods in primary legislation rather than secondary legislation."We are unsurprised that, in a piece of legislation considered too draconian for most European countries and rushed through our Parliament with little debate, the government would like to prevent effective oversight of the length of time for which data may be retained. Primary legislation is more difficult and time-consuming to amend that secondary legislation. That is why the government favors secondary legislation here and it is precisely the same reason that we would prefer any limits to be set in the Act itself. This would allow a proper debate over any change — if the government has compelling reasons to extend the limits, we are sure they will find it simple enough to convince both Houses of Parliament of these.
- The government replied to this point with: "The Committee suggests a maximum period of data retention of one year. The government agrees that this time period is adequate for safeguarding national security and fighting terrorism. However, the length of time data ought to be retained for the purpose of fighting crime has not yet been assessed."If Data Retention powers are to be granted for more mundane crimes, we believe that the time period should be codified to be no longer than that for terrorism-related offences and, in our opinion, should be substantially lower.
- The Committee, in para 53, believes "The whole retention and access régime, including for those access routes not governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, should be subject to unified oversight by the Information Commissioner."We agree wholeheartedly that the Information Commissioner — who is worthy of praise for his concern over individuals' privacy, unlike the Interception Commissioner, who seems merely to rubberstamp the demands of law-enforcement services and the Intelligence Services — should be the official to oversee any Data Retention and Data Access powers.
- "The Goverment does not believe that the Information Commissioner ought to oversee all access procedures including those governed by RIPA. … The Interception Commissioner oversees access requests made under the Regulation of [Investigatory] Powers Act 2000."Possibly because there are still very few people who have heard of Sir Swinton Thomas and his rubberstamp seems to be so effective, we are disappointed but unsurprised that the government would like to keep transparent oversight to a minimum. The Home Office mentions proactive inspection and audit powers that the Interception Commissioner enjoys but the Information Commissioner does not; we see little reason why the Office of the Information Commissioner could not be expanded and such powers granted to him.
- The Committee recommends (in para 55) that "Data preservation … is a useful supplement to data retention, and it should be properly provided for and regulated." The government responded that it "is keen to make the point that data preservation can never be a substitute for data retention. … The Government is quite clear that data preservation is not a substitute for data retention. … The Government does not feel it necessary … to bring the preservation of data and retention of data under a single legislative régime."We welcome a reference to Data Preservation powers, but we disagree with the view that these should be supplementary to, as opposed to in place of, Data Retention powers.
There is no specific means mentioned in the White Paper of how to reply to the Home Office's arguments, so we would suggest anyone who wishes to make their comments fax their MP with a letter to be passed onto the Home Office team.
Separately, our notes on the seventh Scrambling for Safety conference are now back online, after we accidentally deleted the file. Hey, it can happen to anyone! Thanks also to Mat Hanrahan for helping us correct some of the transcript.
7 February 2004
The problem with having a real job and helping run things like Stand.org.uk in one's spare time is that, when things get busy at work, one can get very slack at updating the extracurricular stuff. For anyone who's missed it, the Home Affairs Select Committee are still investigating Blunkett's ID card proposals. Earlier this week, the HASC took oral evidence from some of the civil liberties–type groups — Liberty, Privacy International, The Law Society and The Information Commissioner.
I mailed the clerk of the Committee yesterday and am told that the uncorrected transcript of the session should hopefully be available from Tuesday on the HASC's Reports and Publications page (scroll right down to the bottom). Also, the whole session should be on BBC Parliament tomorrow.
Unfortunately, we here at Stand.org.uk were unable to take up the Committee's invitation to give oral evidence (see above re: real jobs) but, from what we gather, the session went relatively well. The members of the HASC are all rather clued-up, so noone's quite sure whether the questions were hostile or just informed and probing, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. SpyBlog has an interesting post about the evidence session.
There have been plenty of news items over the last week. Computer Weekly, amongst others, has run an article on the Passport Service's proposed trials of ID card technologies and one about the proposed use of privately-held credit check data in identity authentication for Passports. Bruce Schneier (who writes, amongst other things, the excellent monthly newsletter Crypto-Gram newsletter) has written an article for the San Francisco Chronicle subtitled IDs and the illusion of security and there are a few articles (Scotsman; BBC) about the HASC session.
Unfortunately, much of the potential coverage was overshadowed by Blunkett's recent "plans" on anti-terrorism legislation, of which many a dictator would be proud. It's probably worth another quick plug for FIPR's Friends of FIPR scheme, which includes a subscription to their email alert service, with maybe a dozen or two mails per week of news items on privacy issues and the like; most of these links came to our attention from that list.
Finally, we recently stumbled across a very good summary of Blunkett's ID proposals on The Guardian's site from last November, which is a good introduction and has several useful links.
Hopefully, there'll be more of an update on here during the week, once the HASC release the uncorrected transcript of Tuesday's evidence session.
Last minute addendum: Nearly forgot to mention an excellent article on Wired about privacy and ID schemes, mainly about the guys who put together the Swipe Toolkit, to help Americans decode the 2D barcodes on their driver's licences. Very good read.
We received a mail today from the Clerk of the Home Affairs Select Committee, confirming that we can publish the evidence we submitted to their inquiry into the Home Office's ID cards proposals. There was an appendix in our evidence that reprinted an excellent article from The Guardian, by Richard Norton-Taylor, which we cannot reproduce in the version linked here but, other than that, the document is unedited from the version sent to the HASC.
In an attempt to be a little more organised and helpful than the original ID cards report we wrote a year ago, we've even HTML'd this one before releasing it. You can download (or browse) the document here: Word doc (55kb); HTML (17kb). We will disclaim, though, that the HTML version hasn't yet been proofed against the Word doc, which should be treated as authoritative. At some point, we'll get round to proofing it and sorting out the formatting that got lost in the copy/paste from Word.
Happy New Year to you all. We have submitted our evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, though Owen isn't sure that we're allowed to put it on here yet (see para 12 of the guidelines for written evidence), but we have asked the Clerk of the Cttee for permission to do so and we'll put it up as soon as we can.
The main other piece of news that struck us as noteworthy was that The Guardian is reporting that the Treasury wants to introduce a National Population Register (which is, effectively, an ID card without the piece of plastic, as Barry Hugill of Liberty is quoted as saying in the article). More on that when we have it.
More information from the SpyBlog, linking to the uncorrected transcript of the HASC oral evidence session earlier this month. As SpyBlog mentions, this may be of use to anyone submitting written evidence to the Select Committee. We should also plug SpyBlog's excellent resource page on ID cards.
Another month, another ID card story — well, quite a lot of them, actually, so we're gonna be helping start up a mailing list for news summaries about ID projects, hopefully something like twice a month, but no promises; for more information, see the link above. Not quite sure yet when the first one will be released, but feel free to sign up and we'll start mailing as soon as we can.
As well as that, we're busy writing our evidence to the House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee for their somewhat selective "investigation" into Blunkett's ID card plans. They took Oral Evidence last week, so we thought we would link to this helpful summary of the HASC session. Unfortunately, we didn't notice it was being televised on BBC Parliament over the weekend, so you've probably missed that, unless it's on their website. Sorry n all…
As the blog mentions, it's still not too late to submit written evidence (under 2000 words, MS Word or RTF format, by January 5, more details at that link and on the blog). So that's our xmas break sorted, then! :o)
Also, there was an interesting article in New Scientist about how biometrics really won't solve identity fraud. Such a good article, in fact, that Prof John Daugman (who invented the iris recognition algorithms they're likely to use) has written to New Scientist to refute it. Not only that, though, he's lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission! For what it's worth, we made very similar comments to those of Simon Davies in our report into ID cards that we submitted to the Home Office "consultation".
Oh, and our spies tell us that the Lib Dems have referred the "consultation" to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, to investigate the breaches of the Cabinet Office Consultation Code of Practice. More news on that when we have it.
21 November 2003
Good article on politics.guardian.co.uk about the ID cards "consultation" from Ros Taylor, after an interview with Owen, one of our volunteers. The Home Office is still lying about the consultation responses through the portal we set up (and they're not even acknowledging the telephone responses we helped Privacy International set up).
Despite having given us assurances at the time that every response through our portal would be treated individually (which they're now denying), they're refusing to treat them as such. And they wonder why politicians and civil servants don't command the trust they once used to!
We're still making moves to sort out this feeble excuse for a consultation, which breached several of the Cabinet Office's guidelines on consultations (available from that link as Word doc or PDF, English or Welsh). Keep watching this space for more news…
14 November 2003
Due to the Liberal Democrats caving in at the last minute, the five Statutory Instruments on Interception of Communications and Data Retention passed through the House of Lords yesterday.
Privacy International have sent out a press release on the subject, which gives more information about what actually happened in the Lords yesterday. We should thank the efforts of Baroness Blatch and the Conservative and Crossbench members of the Lords for their exceptional efforts to defeat these bad Orders, implementing bad legislation, and the Lib Dems for their groundwork in the Lords before the debate itself. Hopefully, the Conservative peers should be introducing a Private Members Bill to neuter some of the more harmful parts of the primary legislation next session. The Statutory Instruments themselves are available on this site, albeit in their draft form.
It is worth mentioning, also, that one of the five Orders related to a Data Retention régime. A legal opinion obtained by Privacy International (PDF: 200kb) shows that such a régime is a breach of our Article Eight right to privacy. Not only do we have bad laws, but we have illegal ones too.
Not a good day.
11 November 2003
The Home Office has finally got round to releasing its summary of the ID cards consultation. To whit:
What was learned from the consultation exercise?
11. Individual responses, sample surveys, and polling results have demonstrated substantial support for an identity card. Of the 5000 people and organisations who responded formally to the consultation, 4200 expressed a view. Over 60% of these were in favour. We also received over 5000 e-mails from an organised opposition campaign. Over 96% of these were opposed.
12. We commissioned wider research which involved both focus groups and polling which confirmed, as independent polling has done, 80% of the general public were in favour of identity cards, including comparable levels of support among the four main minority ethnic groupings. Similar results across all geographic and socio-economic groups emerged from the detailed interviews with members of the public.
13. The consultation demonstrated that the public prefer the term "identity card" to "entitlement card" and we accept their judgement.
The government isn't only spinning their way out of the overwhelming lack of support shown in their consultation process (thanks in no small part to echo " " .$counter ?> consultation responses from y'all through our site — which are being denied, in a contravention of the consultation process, about which further action is being taken).
In addition, David Blunkett is holding forth on his ID cards proposals today. There's an article on the Guardian site with some initial notes. Also, there's a fantastic article and analysis on The Register. We'll be back with an analysis of our own, once we've had time to write one but, for now, it might be worth reflecting on the complete inability of any ID scheme to deal with any of his purported aims: "Clandestine entry and working in this country, the misuse of free public services, the issues around organised crime and terrorism". It seems, as ever, that ID cards are still a solution looking for a problem.