Friday, May 09, 2008

Saturday 10 May 2008

Latest from NO2ID

The cost of ID Cards seems to have gone down by £1 billion, according to the 4th “Identity Cards Scheme Cost Report”. That’s until you look at the small print. With sleight of hand the government has merely off loaded that £1 billion to the private sector, making their own headline figures look better. What isn’t spelt out is to whom the private sector will pass on that sum. However, the report also reveals that the cost of enrolling people onto the National Register has increased by 60%, although it insists this won’t affect the purchase price of an ID Card to UK citizens, currently standing at £30, as these costs will be fully recovered from charges made to foreign nationals. The government is aware that the cost of the ID scheme is the biggest objection most people have to the scheme and this financial jiggery-pokery is intended to allay those objections. But the message that must be got over to the unwitting majority is the infringement of personal liberties and privacy that these cards pose and the misuse the technology can provide for crooks, government (the same!) and commerce, which are by far the most crucial factors.

Just to show that this whole ID business is born out of cloud cuckoo land, another talking shop has been set up to comment on the scheme. Composed of the vultures and sharks of this world - bankers and mobile phone company spokespeople - its report is full of meaningless management speak, the sort of convoluted crap that so many people spend all of their days dreaming up to make themselves sound heavyweight and cutting edge. Here are a few extracts, one in which they advise "that the Scheme would benefit from a robust and transparent operational data governance regime and a clear data architecture" and this "The Panel feels that a prerequisite of cross-Government adoption of the Scheme is a strategy for harmonising technical and usage standards for identity management across Government and achieving the cooperation of separate Government departments". In fairness, the report is somewhat critical of the ID Scheme so perhaps that accounts for the doublespeak they feel is deemed necessary when addressing their views to government.

Even though tender negotiations are well under way between the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and suppliers of the technology, measures to counter harmful losses of personal data are far from being finalised. In a letter to Alan Hughes on the Independent Scheme Assurance Panel (ISAP) whose report to IPS had criticised it for making inadequate provisions for preventing data losses, IPS chief executive, Alan Hall admitted that the IPS had only started to work out how they could prevent citizen's personal data being leaked from the ID Scheme. But it was still early days. How reassuring!

Under the banner of easing airport congestion a British airport is to introduce facial scanning this summer for those holding biometric passports. The scheme has been severly criticised since it is based on unproven technology and could lead to more inconvenience for passengers. Gus Hosein at the London School of Economics said “It's a laughable technology. U.S. police at the SuperBowl had to turn it off within three days because it was throwing up so many false positives. The computer couldn't even recognise gender. It's not that it could wrongly match someone as a terrorist, but that it won't match them with their image. A human can make assumptions, a computer can't”. The technology is programmed to err on the side of caution and innocent passengers could well find themselves stopped because the scanners may not recognise them. Nevertheless, the scheme is planned to be rolled out to more airports across the UK, demonstrating the ardent will of those behind all of this track and trace technology to have it implemented ASAP, regardless of whether it works or not. It’s a case of getting us used to checks, scans and presenting our identities to the authorities at every turn in order to get us climatised to the new police state.

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