Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Latest from NO2ID

Although the news has been making much of the Home Office’s plans to have high street retailers issue biometric data for those wishing to renew their passports starting with Manchester, the reality is somewhat different. Neither a scheme nor a specification has been arrived at and talks are still in progress between the prospective participants and the government. Retailers would be mad to invest in the equipment while the scheme is still undefined. Yet again, lots of media and Home Office hype over something that few people want. Let’s hope retailers shy away from the whole idea.

Yet the government is determined to press ahead with its plans for a total database state and the interception and retaining of telephone calls, emails and texts is still to go ahead. The Home Office has recently launched proposals for the Intercept Modernisation Programme in which the government wants ISPs and telecommunications companies to store details on all UK phone calls, emails and web activity to allow public authorities to have access to records on demand. Some newspaper reports have suggested that DNA records of the innocent may be destroyed en-masse. Far from it. The innocent will still have their DNA records retained for six years. Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch said: "This is a long time for innocent people to wait to have their records wiped, DNA profiles can be used to track an individual or their relatives. Where are the weighty reasons that the European Court demanded to justify retention of this data?" GeneWatch has also noticed that even the doubling of the DNA database in recent years has not created an equivalent increase in the number of crimes detected.

Another false sense of achievement has been thwarted following the mis-reporting of a statement by David Blunkett. Although the mainstream media seemed to report his change of heart while addressing and InfoSec (don’t you just love the Orwellian sound) security conference, what he was actually alluding to was the physical nature of the ID. He was actually rejecting the idea of a separate piece of plastic and suggesting the use of the passport instead, but that wouldn’t take the form of the conventional passport, it would me more along the lines of - yes - a plastic one. Hardly a change of heart!

The Home Office continually tries to obscure the real cost of the whole ID scheme. A recent report shows increased costs of £160 million in just six months on top of the £250 million already spent. But what it conveniently ignores is the cost to businesses and us - the former for the outlay in investing in the biometric recording equipment required in high street shops and the latter in the £30 or so we have to stump up for the privilege of giving away all of our personal details! They also fudge their real identity by re-branding the ‘National Identity Scheme’ the ‘National Identity Service’ as if the government is really trying to help us, not incarcerate us as is the true nature of the game.

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