Another day and some more information you may not have come across regarding the Identity Cards Bill.
One of the key omissions from the bill is that it has no provisions whatsoever to cover the recording of information from the National Identity Register by third party.
The bill itself, speaks only of providing authorised and secure access to the Register not whether, having accessed the register, or indeed having asked you to provide you ID card as a means of proving identity - which any third party can do so long as it also offers a reasonable alternative method as well - that third party is permitted to record any of the information it obtains.
Why is this an important issue?
Well first of all we’re back to the issue of foreign keys again and the little matter of reciprocation. In just the same way as the National Identity Register will be used to stored foreign keys which can unlock your records held in other databases - you tax and national insurance records for starters - so the National Identity Registration Number and possibly also the ID card number as well, if it too is unique to you, can become a foreign key in another system.
Just think of who will be asking you to verify you identity, other than the government, on a pretty routine and regular basis. There’s banks and building societies for starters. Then there’s insurance companies, finance companies, credit card companies and credit reference agencies as well as pension providers, stock brokers and investment companies - any financial institution with which you have any dealings will want to verify your identity using the register.
And then what about shops? Given a choice between ‘chip and pin’ or an ID card as a means of ensuring that you are who you say you are when you make a purchase using a credit or debit card, which are there going to go for?
What if all of these record your National Identity Registration Number in their own electronic records? In their own databases, right next to the serial numbers of your bank and building society accounts, your insurance policies, your loans, credit and debit card payments, your pensionm your credit records - everything.
Database after database detailing every single financial transaction you ever make other than straight forward cash purchases. How much you spend. What you spend it on? Where you made your purchase and what time you made it? Even whether you went to the cashpoint to take out a bit of cash, plus which cashpoint you went to and at what time…
… and in everyone of them, your personal records could be identified, isolated and, ultimately examined electronically because they’re all tagged with your National Identity Register Number - a reciprocal foreign key which the Government will already have - and all without you even knowing its there unless you use the Data Protection Act to look for it because nothing in the Identity Cards Bill prevents any third party from recording that number!
There are currently, I think, 645 Members of Parliament and of these all but a very small number - the Speaker and his deputies - have the right note only to vote on this bill but also to propose at put forward amendments.
With this in mind I am offering a direct challenge to any Member of Parliament who either opposes or is concerned about the civil liberities implications of introducing Identity Cards.
The challenge is in two parts - a test of integrity and then a test of intent.
The test of integrity is quite simple for an MP, any MP, to put forward an amendment to the Identity Cards Bill which will make it a criminal offence for any third party not specified by Act of Parliament or Statutory Instrument to make a permanant record, and particularly an electronic record in a database, of an individual’s National Identity Registration Number and ID Card Number or any other information stored on the register under clause 4 of schedule 1 of the Bill without the express consent of the individual themselves and also to prohibit third parties from discriminating against an individual should they refuse to give such consent - the latter would be a civil offence giving rise to a tort.
There are circumstances in which it is quite right an proper for a third party to store information held in the register under that particular clause and most of these are already covered by legislation - employers, for example, must keep records of National Insurance Number in order to deduct income tax and NI and keep the accompanying records.
That’s fine I have no problem with that but it does not, in turn, require them to also record the National Identity Registration Number.
Can I make something very clear, as well - this provision would not prevent the effective operation of an National Identity Scheme or prevent a third party from verifying someone’s identity using the register. Someone making a lawful identify check, a bank, building society, a shop even, need only know that the person in front of them is who they say they are and not the full details of their Identity Records - any legitimate question that the vast majority of third party users of the register could ask can be answered on a simple yes or no basis:
Is this who they say they are? Yes or No
Are the entitled to work in the UK? Yes or No
Do they live at the address they’ve given me? Yes or No.
It’s simple. Its secure and it presents far less a risk to civil liberties than allowing the unresricted and uncontrolled recording of information from the register by third parties, which is what the Bill as currently writen will allow.
That’s it. The test of integrity - Does any Member of Parliament, or even a Member of the House of Lords have the integrity and conviction to take on board this amendment and give an undertaking that they will introduce it into Parliament during the passage of this Bill.
As for the Test of Intent, that should be obvious.
As well a providing a set of much needed safeguards this particular amendment will also provide a clear and unequivocal test of the Government’s intent on the future use of the National Identity Register.
If the Government has no interest whatsoever in using the register as a key to unlock personal records held by a range of third parties - banks being the most important but also record held by any private sector business or non-governmental organisation - then it can have no objection whatsoever to this amendment.
The amendment would not hinder the operation of lawful identity verification schemes in the slightest, nor would it prevent the Government from expressly authorising a third party, such as a bank, to make a record of an individual’s National Identity Register. but what it would do is bring such authorities as the Government might wish to give out into the open and under the democratic scrutint of Parliament.
That’s the Test of Intent. If the Government has no intention of allowing the National Identoty Register to become the hub of an extensive and largely covert surveillance system which extends into almost every aspect of our personal lives then it must accept this amendment - anything less would, to my show, demonstrate clearly that there is, as many suspect, some degree of more sinister intent underlying the Bill.
I know that at least one - newly elected - MP has popped into here from time to time, more to respond to a bit of political knockabout than anything else, so that may get this amnendment picked up, assuming he has the time and inclination to look in.
But that’s not enough and without wishing to sound like I’m fishing for Googlejuice from my fellow bloggers, on this I do need to ask that anyone reading this who is as concerned as I am as to the potential threats this bill may pose to civil liberties please, please spread the wpord as widely as possible.
This needs to be visible as only by being as visible as possible will the challenge I’ve laid down reach MP’s and - hopefull- lead to the introduction of the amendment to the Identity Cards Bill that I’ve put forward in this piece.
Come on - you know it makes sense.