| IDENTITY CRISIS
ID cards on the agenda again
Against ID Cards
We're All Paranoid
"Since Labour came to power they have introduced draconian surveillance laws on email, the recent anti-terrorism legislation, new proposals to extend data-sharing between government departments and the "Snooper's Charter", abandoned two weeks ago. A worrying trend is emerging" - Karen Bartlett, Charter 88.
ID cards are back on the agenda – or as the government would like us to call them ‘Entitlement Cards', which must mean the government and police are entitled to find out everything about you whenever they like.
On your funky new card will be your fingerprints, digital photo, name, address and an ID number. To make sure people are who they claim to be, the cards will probably incorporate a chip containing the "biometric" - a fingerprint, retina or hand scan of the holder. The card and the finger are placed into a reader, and the person is "validated".
The government argue that it won't be compulsory to carry a card but as it would be required for just about everything then not carrying it will be a major hassle.
Neo-Labour says the cards are needed in the fight against crime, terrorism, illegal immigration and dog fouling. Privacy International on the other hand reckon they will actually make some of these things worse. For the past 12 years the Big Brother busting watchdog has studied the world-wide implications of ID cards and concluded that they have no effect on the reduction of crime or fraud, and instead introduce additional problems of discrimination, criminal false identity and administrative chaos!
Their survey also found claims of abuse in virtually every country with the question of who is targeted for ID checks left largely to the discretion of the police. And what happens if your card is lost or stolen? In nearly all countries with ID cards this causes immense problems with services and benefits being denied. So with all these problems and costs estimated to be up to £3 billion why the hell does the government want to carry on with this IDiocy?
Well Privacy International believes that the proposal has little to do with the government's stated objectives of reducing crime but part of a broader objective outlined in the Cabinet Office report "Privacy & Data Sharing". As Mark Littlewood from Liberty points out "Any form of ID card scheme would require a national database storing vast amounts of sensitive information on every one of us. You would have to be supremely uncynical or incredibly naïve to believe that the database will only be deployed in catching the guilty."
* For more on why ID cards are such a great idea see www.privacyinternational.org
* A report by the NACRO has found that CCTV only has a limited effect in cutting crime, and that other measures such as better street lighting, could be up to four times more effective. A Home Office evaluation of 24 CCTV schemes across the country showed that in four cases crime rates had risen significantly and in seven there was no effect at all.
Yet this didn't stop Lord Falconer, the Home Office minister contradicting his own department's evidence and say "What the research indicates is that in every area there is a statistical reduction in crime." Now no one's surprised to hear politicians spin out lies, but we think that saying a success rate of marginally more than 50% is a total success really takes the piss.
* 11th September is International Day Against Video Surveillance. www.notbored.org
So in the lead up to Johannesburg we get BASD pushing partnerships like the Energy and BiodiversityInitiative, the Global Mining Initiative, and the Responsible Care program. But as Corporate Europe Observatory point out "These projects are largely an attempt to improve the corporate members' tarnished images. They are also a reaction to pressure by campaign and community groups or as a move to pre-empt binding regulation."
For example, the Responsible Care program, long criticised as greenwash by campaign groups and academics, was established by the chemical industry after the Bhopal disaster where a Union Carbide plant leaked poisonous gas killing 4,000 people instantly and injuring tens of thousands more. The move effectively killed off efforts to toughen regulations.
We get sustainable mining reports funded by er... mining companies, among them notorious companies such as Rio Tinto and Freeport McMoran.
We get the European Union pushing the World Trade Organisation's so called ‘Doha Development Agenda' (SchNEWS 332) agreed back in November last year, with claims that it will benefit the world's poorest countries and so contribute to 'sustainable development'. Forget the fact that corporate globalisation has increased poverty and environmental degradation around the world.
We get the UN, working with some of the world's most notorious human rights and environment abusers.
We get warnings from BASD that anyone who dares calls for tougher regulations on corporations must be part of the lunatic fringe.
And we get thousands of delegates being wined and dined and put up in posh Sheraton hotels, nextdoor to the black shanty towns of Alexandra and Soweto.
In fact we're sick of it. - As Corporate Europe Observatory tell us "The world's leaders need to start listening to the demands by civil society groups and ordinary people, that business can not be allowed to continue as usual.
Unless a dramatic U-turn in policy and approach is made soon, Johannesburg risks becoming little more than a propaganda circus." Or as Jens from ASEED puts it "The World Summit promises to be a shambles but will no doubt be promoted as a success…the immense amount of money and time could have been spent on something a lot more useful."
Observer: Liberty Watch special
A dumb idea and dangerous idea (Observer 30.June 2002)
Blunkett's identity crisis (Observer 30.June 2002)
ID Cards: Drudge Report
Concern At ID Card Database Plan (Guardian)
UK ID Card Proposals Return (privacyinternational.org)
Blunkett puts the case for identity cards (FT)
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