Feeds

UK.gov poised for climb-down on ID cards?

Your policy reversals tonight...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Application security programs and practises

The UK government's plan for an "entitlement" (aka ID card) may be undergoing serious revision and downscaling, reports BBC news. Home Office Minister Lord Falconer, who in December was pitching the scheme in glowing terms, and claiming the British public favoured it, seems to have been preparing for a swift retreat.

Falconer has always struck The Register as the bloke who walks behind with the shovel, and the highly-spun December announcement seemed to us to fall into this category. He was advancing for Home Secretary David Blunkett to test the waters, and over the past few weeks it may have transpired that they're just a little too chilly right now.

The government has been running a consultation exercise on entitlement cards, which are intended to facilitate secure interaction with government services, but which would inevitably be applied in a far wider range of circumstances, for almost six months now, and it is due to finish at the end of this month. Falconer's claims of support were based on a laughably low response rate, but more recently campaigners, including Stand.org.uk and Privacy International have most assuredly tipped the scales decisively in the other direction.

The Home Office is still quoting 2,000 responses, breaking down two to one in favour, but as Privacy International and Stand say they've submitted 7,000, massively against the scheme, this clearly cannot be, and uk.gov will shortly be forced to confess that people don't want ID cards after all.

Not, of course, that 7,000 can be seen as exactly a victory for democracy. It's certainly better than the government can do under its own steam, but it's the sort of number that might swing a medium marginal constituency in a national election, rather than anything that could possibly be said to reflect the opinions of the entire electorate. After considering first, the lamentable failure of its own consultation exercise and, second, the fact that a handful of pressure groups have been the dominant factor in the result, the government might care to ask itself a couple of questions.

First, mightn't it be getting a little ahead of itself in its schemes to get Britain online? (We think it's a safe bet to say most of the government's own responses were postal.) And second, does it seriously believe the majority of the citizenry is actually interested in interacting with it on a general basis, as opposed to just using the internet to interact with government when it provides a faster and more convenient way of doing whatever it is they have to do (e.g. pay taxes)? Third, given that on the odd occasion when the Great British Public does react in large numbers it's when it really doesn't like something, mightn't it have got itself more democratically buried if it hadn't spun the consultation, and had made a serious effort to tell the public about it?

As for the specifics of this particular consultation, Falconer is now making questioning noises about weighing the scheme's advantages against risks to privacy, human rights and social values, while Jonathan Bamford of the Office of the Information Commissioner asks, "Do we risk changing the fabric of our society so that the highest level of identification becomes the norm for the most mundane of services?" That one's actually the killer - if everybody's got one, then every service, public and private, is going to demand it, and as it's an ID that potentially joins up every piece of information they all have on you, it would indeed massively change the fabric of British society. Which is probably something that would wake the electorate up, if they knew. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.