There can hardly be a person alive who hasn't lost something important
- keys, wallet, passport, watch, car, even children - at some time or
another through their own inadvertence or stupidity. We've all done it.
A lot of us have also had things stolen too, not least in the post or
by couriers. So, in that sense, today's announcement
that the Revenue and Customs have lost some CDs full of data is
actually a very human story. We've all been there. It's incredibly
annoying, but it's life. We ought to feel sympathetic.
Of course people make mistakes. That is exactly why the Government should have foreseen that making more and more data accessible to more and more officials on fewer and bigger databases was a recipe for trouble.
What is most culpable is that even in the face of a debacle that has demonstrated the dangers of this approach, the Government is still fully committed to carrying a flawed policy to its logical conclusion, a national identity database.
I have long thought that the ID cards plan could become Labour's poll tax. (In fact, given that we will all be forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of having them, ID cards effectively are a poll tax.) It represents an epochal shift in the balance between the state and civil society, that will fundamentally change this country for the worse.
I have come across a fair few Labour people, including some I greatly respect, who have a blind spot on this point. Well, the loss of data about every child in the country ought to be evidence enough that this is a bread and butter issue. Any national identity database will be intrinically and inevitably prone to similar problems.
Nothing less than the end of the ID cards plan will demonstrate that the Government has learnt anything from this episode.
As many people have already pointed out, today's debacle shows just how vulnerable a centralised idenity database would be. NO2ID is calling for all government 'identity management' initiatives to be stopped until a full audit of all personal information on government systems has been conducted.
Phil Booth, NO2ID's National Coordinator, said:
"This data disaster shows up the madness behind the government’s ID schemes. People had no choice about giving up that information. It makes the government the biggest identity thief of all.
“It’s bad enough that HMRC can’t be trusted with basic financial details. But within five years the Home Office could be leaking or losing people’s complete identity records. And ‘data-sharing’ plans would make your whole life depend on government ID management. If you are not on their list, you won’t exist.
“Development of the National Identity Scheme should stop now. But more than that – we all need to know what information the government holds about us now, how it is already being shared among departments, and what the dangers are. That will only happen if there is a full and independent audit of what personal information is currently collected and the ways it is used.” (NO2ID)
The government no longer believes that identity cards will be needed as a response to their introduction in Britain. The British government has told Irish officials that the imminent introduction of ID cards in Britain will not affect Irish citizens moving between the two countries.
I have just received a reply from the Home Office to the following query I sent them last month:
I wonder if you could help me clarify the situation with regards to the implications of the UK identity cards scheme for Ireland.
The recent report on identity cards by the London School of Economics concluded that the Irish Government would require access to detailed electronic data stored on British identity cards in order to operate the Common Travel Area.
Can you tell me if the British Government concurs with this assessment and whether there have been any discussions with the Irish Government about such access?
Interesting comments from Jim O'Keeffe last Friday. Personally I think a full debate would be amply justified, on such issues as the future of the Common Travel Area, and the arrangements for sharing data between Britain and Ireland.
UK must not be allowed to dictate policy on ID cards – O’Keeffe
Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Jim O’Keeffe TD has warned that the UK might end up dictating Ireland’s policy on identity cards because of the Irish Government’s cavalier attitude to the issue. Deputy O’Keeffe said Ireland should make its own independent decision on identity cards after holding a national debate.
“Justice Minister Michael McDowell and his Cabinet colleagues have taken a totally cavalier attitude to the issue of national identity cards. The Government believes that if the UK launches a national identity card scheme, then Ireland will have no choice but to follow suit.
Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service has said in its 2005 UK Threat Assesment that illegal immigrants are exploiting the Common Travel Area with Ireland.
This statement obviously has implications for the debate about the future of the Common Travel Area sparked by the British Government's identity cards plan (as UTV notes in its report)
The NCIS statement will also no doubt form part of the British Government's case for its e-borders scheme, which the Irish Government has said has signification implications for the future of the Common Travel Area.
British plans for an electronic border control programme could lead to significant change to the common travel area with Ireland, the Department of Justice has said.
The proposed e-Borders system will identify people who have boarded transport destined for the UK, check them automatically against databases of individuals who pose a security risk, and keep an electronic record of entry into the country. A £15 million pilot version of the scheme is already being tested at international airports.