Identity Cards Defeat

I find myself to be extremely pleased at the recent defeat of the ID card legislation in the House of Lords. Once again this 'undemocratic' chamber has stepped in to defeat illiberal and potentially dangerous legislation. Hurrah for the Lords!

I am slightly more disappointed that the defeat was on cost grounds, rather than the fact that the expensive white elephant, whilst appearing to offer security simply would not do that. It would be a single point of failure, a massive target for fraudsters, as this example in the Department of Work and Pensions demonstrates.

The really encouraging thing for me is the BBC talkback on the issue. Normally these show a slight majority in favour of the cards (usually saying little more that 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'), this latest talkback seems overwhelmingly negative.

Amongst the people I know, who have looked into the issue, I can't think of anyone who supports the proposals. I know quite a few folks who work in IT and know first hand of the technical issues, and they tend to be the most opposed - although I am sure it's not for technical reasons. (My apologies if I've miscategorised you!)

The support I have heard tends to be along the lines of 'I already have a driving licence/passport/credit card/whatever, why should I object to an ID card?' The detailed reasons are many, and explained on the No2ID site. Primarily, the card provides little benefit, at great cost, accompanied by the potential for abuse at both the systematic level as well as at the individual level of the card being checked.

For balance, here is an argument FOR ID cards, and here is a response. (I love the optimistic start to the 'For' argument: "But the general refutation is that the govt will obviously only support a scheme that works.")

From the BBC website:

Q. Why did Britain get rid of ID cards after World War II?

A. During the WWII the ID card was seen as a way of protecting the nation from Nazi spies.

But in 1952, Winston Churchill's government scrapped the cards.

The feeling was that in peacetime they simply were not needed.

In fact they were thought to be hindering the work of the police, because so many people resented being asked to produce a card to prove their identity.

Further Details about the decline and fall of the WW2 ID scheme (in 1952) are available in this BBC online magazine article. As the article explains, the scheme fell, partly for logistical reasons, and partly as the public began to resent it, and it inhibited policing.

In a related story, in the US last year, there was a case in the US about a man, Dudley Hiibel, who was stopped by the police. The police asked him to show his papers, the man said that he first wanted to know why he was stopped. Rather than explain, the situation escalated, and the case was referred to the supreme court. He lost his case, most surprising when one sees the video - if the policeman had just said why he made the stop there would not have been an issue.

A history of ID cards is here, and links to this 1950s memo on ID cards.

To finish on a light note, hear about (audio alert) the Swizz of the Cards.