UK Liberty

John Reid: the state will define your identity

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 11, 2007

John Reid, Home Secretary, is once again extolling the virtues of ID cards – this time in the Guardian:

The world is getting smaller. The population is becoming more mobile. And our pace of life is faster than ever. In the click of a button we can book a flight to the other side of the world, wake up there the next day and email a photo home to prove it.

This technological progress, and the criminal activity that comes with it, has already affected our traditional relationships based on trust. In a modern society we need to prove our identity, whether in applying for a job,

No, we need to prove we are entitled to work. Not very liberal, that.

crossing borders

No, we need to prove we are entitled to move in and out of the country, and the state wants to count the number of people crossing borders. Again, not very liberal, and there are other ways of doing it than using ID cards with a central database.

or opening a bank account.

Because legislation requires it! Not because of any inherent need.

Our own, unique, identity is inexorably becoming our most precious possession.

That is why I don’t want to surrender it to the state!

But when so much of this is now done remotely, how can we be sure who we are interacting with?

How can we be sure of that with identity cards?!

Identity theft now costs the country more than £1.7bn a year.

Citing a BBC article that quotes one of your own spokesmen isn’t authoritative I’m afraid. The £1.7bn claim has been soundly debunked/criticised by many, including SpyBlog and Silicon.

The number of incidents has gone up by 500% in eight years. And multiple or false identities are used in terrorist-related activity.

The implication is that the ID card scheme will be a magic bullet for that. Of course it won’t.

We already know that one of the 9/11 hijackers used 30 false identities to obtain credit cards and $250,000 of debt.

In the USA, yes. The USA has its own identity problems – a UK scheme won’t solve those.

With such uncertainty it is vital we have a system to safeguard the most valuable thing we own – our identity.

It seemed to me that link would lead to a paper on what ‘identity’ means rather than the Identity and Passport Service.

This is not about control, Big Brother or the loss of liberty.

Umm… Tony Blair – who hasn’t got much of a clue about these things – isn’t the best person to use in support of your argument, particular when you cite his vacuous statement claiming that this is about modernity not civil liberties.

It is about enabling the public to feel safe, secure and confident

Feel“? Glad to see you admit it is security theatre.

in their daily lives. As our society changes, so do our liberties. We no longer expect to be able to smoke at our desks or drive without a seatbelt.

Is that a good thing, do you think?

In many areas the state has clearly defined our rights and our responsibilities, to enable liberty and freedom.

Aha – the old socialist/communist tripe springs forth! The leopard shows his spots.

From a libertarian viewpoint the state does not “enable liberty and freedom” – we have freedoms by default until they are limited by the state.

But from Reid’s viewpoint the state grants us our ‘freedoms’. This of course is a contradiction in terms and seems to remain popular among socialists.

This is a vital distinction.

Identity is one such area.

No, we have an ‘identity’ of our own, and we have ‘identities’ that are unique to the people/organisations we transact with.

Secure identity cards, incorporating fraud-proof


biometric identification like fingerprints, will benefit every individual. They will make travel easier,

I don’t recall seeing that claim before. How on earth will identity cards make travel easier? Does he mean, identity cards can be used to travel within the EU? Well, so what? I have a passport, I can travel pretty much anywhere with that.

proof of age more convenient

I cannot remember the last time I was asked to prove my age, which seems to show how infrequently that occurs.

and proof of identity more secure. And they will give you peace of mind when dealing with your bank or shopping online.

Um.. how will identity cards make online banking or shopping more secure? What a load of nonsense.

They will protect that increasingly precious asset – our identity.

Which I can already protect using a cross-cut shredder and taking reasonable precautions during my transactions.

In addition, businesses will also be able to vet new employees more effectively,

Assuming no fraud, of course.

Businesses will have to pay to query the Identity Verification Service.

provide services more efficiently

Not sure what he means by that.

and carry out internet transactions more securely.

Again, how will identity cards secure internet transactions?

This will result in faster services for customers and substantial savings for businesses.

I’d love to see the cost-benefit analysis!

And for society as a whole, the prevention of crime, the pre-emption of terrorism and the protection of liberty will have untold benefits.

Unsupported assertion.

Every civilised country is recognising these benefits. Out of 27 EU member states 24 already have identity cards.

Firstly, “that is a frightfully bad excuse. Just because two people do something does not make it any better. It means that there are two fools about the place rather than one.” (The Earl of Onslow).

Secondly, do they have the equivalent of the National Register, the privacy abolishing database? Germany certainly doesn’t – indeed its constitution (the Basic Law) forbids it.

Thirdly, out of those 24, how many have experience of totalitarianism within living memory?

If we do not take this step we risk exploitation, fraud and terrorism.

Well, some risk remains if we do take it further. The question is, is the mitigation of risk (if indeed there is one) worth the costs?

As home secretary it is my duty to protect the public and secure our future. A large part of this responsibility depends on an effective scheme to safeguard identities. Only the state can provide such a universal system, define the standards and be accountable for it.

So writes the ‘former’ communist.

Why on earth should the state define who I am?

And “accountable”? Don’t make me laugh.

There will be people who say we shouldn’t do it. But I believe the benefits are indisputable.

Of course you do. The benefits are nonetheless disputable.

Others will say we can’t do it. But we have the capabilities to deliver this scheme.

That remains to be seen. Although costs have already risen beyond expectations.

My page entitled ‘government IT gone wrong‘ may be of interest. Many of the schemes outlined there are much more simple than the ID card scheme.


I have been reminded of something one of Reid’s underlings said.

I take the view that it is part of being a good citizen, proving who you are, day in day out

Andy Burhnam, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 28/3/06

Do you agree?


3 Responses

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  1. IanP said, on May 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    you said:
    Secondly, do they have the equivalent of the National Register, the privacy abolishing database? Germany certainly doesn’t – indeed its constitution (the Basic Law) forbids it.

    yes it does, however Germans are being issued an e-ID card, the database being located in Brussels.

    It shows the duplicity that some member states are going to in order to push this through.

  2. Trevor Mendham said, on May 11, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Nice piece of fisking. I hadn’t heard the Earl of Onslow quote before, I’ll definitely be using that one in the future.

  3. DW said, on May 12, 2007 at 1:51 am

    Since John Reid is bogging off at the same time as Blair, is there some way of slapping an embargo on him to make sure he doesn’t do anything silly between now and then?

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