UK Liberty

AC Grayling on identity cards

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on October 2, 2007

In Prospect magazine:

Are ID cards either philosophically or pragmatically justifiable?

Emphatically no. A requirement for every citizen to carry a device that enables the authorities to demand immediate information about them dramatically changes the relationship of individuals to the state, from being private citizens to being numbered conscripts. An ID card or device (technology will rapidly supplant plastic cards because the latter are too easily lost or stolen) is a surveillance instrument, a tracking device, like a car number plate or the kind of tag punched into a cow’s ear.

Any animal (including, soon, the residents of Britain) thus tagged and numbered is a trackable, controllable unit, exposed 24/7 to monitoring. And history teaches that once an instrument of control lies in the hands of authorities, they will use it: from “protecting against terrorism” (if only!) to catching tax-avoiders to finding defaulting child support-payers to collecting parking fines to watching members of the Socialist Workers’ party to snooping on individuals against whom rumours and gossip have turned attention: and so on. Who can guarantee that a government in these islands 20, 40, 60 years hence will be as benign as the one, today, that wishes to tag us all for the greater ease of policing us? In the absence of a guarantee, why create now a giant computerised “national identity register” ready for the hands of a possibly less benign future?

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