Sir, A great deal of heat has been generated by what is undoubtedly an astonishing breach, not only of basic security, but of common sense in relation to the “loss” of the revenue discs. Three significant issues arise from this and it is important to separate them and deal with them head-on.
Thirdly, we should separate out our genuine and understandable concern about the release of, or access to, specific databases from the issue of identity.
The BBC reported on Wednesday that a “minister” had said that ID cards could not survive this debacle. Of course, a clean and therefore robust biometric identity base is not the issue here. This is simply a diversion by those who have never wanted ID cards anyway, and who do not appear to have ever understood them.
The database is simply about identity — not about the plethora of information that already rests elsewhere.
Why does a simple identity system require all of the following?
- every address you’ve ever lived at;
- every name you’ve ever been known by;
- every immigration status you’ve ever held;
- your fingerprints;
- the number of every official identity document issued to you, such as driving licences, passports, visas, etc;
- you have to notify them on pain of a financial penalty about any changes to the above; and,
- a record of every occasion on which your identity is checked, and who/what it was checked by, and thus a record of, for example, each time you visit a doctor/clinic, obtain state benefits, or indeed access any public services to which you have to prove entitlement, enroll your kids in a state school, open a bank account, apply for a credit card or take out a mortgage, perhaps even use your bank account, etc.
It will actually make it easier to protect your identity, including in circumstances such as these where information has gone missing. This is because it gives an absolutely robust
form of identification that stops other people being able to pretend that they are you, simply because they’ve got hold of some of your personal details. It will allow a proper check to be made between your own biometric and that held on the database, giving greater protection.
That so few people understand this is the problem that government faces in persuading people that such a system will be better then any other, precisely because it will be robust, efficient and verifiable.
David Blunkett, MP
House of Commons
Many people understand it very well. That is why even those who support the principle of identity cards are against this Government’s plans.
Blunkett, by the way, works for Entrust, a company with an interest in the identity card system.
says Government’s Chief Information Officer:
when you work at a national scale I think to continue to put more eggs in a single basket is a foolhardy approach.
You are absolutely right when you say that some of the best ways of protecting data are to say that this data has a specific purpose, the purpose is clear in terms of all parties, and therefore we can put protection around that specific purpose in terms of only the people that need legitimate access to that data can access that data.
The more and more we put it into large databases where more and more people have access to it, it becomes more complex. I think there is a balance to be struck, but clearly what we want to avoid doing is creating yet another large-scale citizen database when we have a number of those already because that would not be a wise thing to do.