UK Liberty

Meg Hillier inadvertently misleading us about the NIR

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on February 27, 2008

At the Home Affairs Committee (1:08:00) in:

I just want to pick up, Mr Chairman, on this issue about the information being very different to what we currently hold. If you look currently at the passport database, the information on that is very much what the information will be on the National Identity Register. If you look at the current passport – I’ve got my old one here – the information that’s on the passport will be much the same that’s on the card. … the information on the identity card will be much the same as the information that’s on the current passport – the readable zone … the information on the database will include the national insurance number, update of address and a log of who has ever looked at the record. So that’s the information – I think it’s worth just nailing, Mr Chairman, as it was raised, this idea that there’s going to be a lot of different information. This information is routinely provided to people – by people to the government, it’s just that it will be held in one place.

Well, quite! That’s one of the objections to it – as opposed to little bits of this information being in lots of different baskets (hopefully held only for a specific and limited purpose, among the principles of the Data Protection Act).

What she says begs an obvious question, why do we need a new database if the information to be stored is “much the same” as on the passport database? Is it the same, or not? Of course, it is not, but she’d like you think it is.

If it is not, what else will be stored? See Schedule 1 of the Act or James Hammerton’s summary, or as NO2ID succintly put it,

50 categories of registrable fact are set out in the Bill, though they could be added to. Effectively an index to all other official and quasi-official records, through cross-references and an audit trail of all checks on the Register, the NIR would be the key to a total life history of every individual, to be retained even after death.

And why do the likes of Meg Hillier continue to obfuscate the differences, saying “it is much the same”? Oh, I am sure it is unintentional.

Later, (1:10:00):

Can I just emphasise again that the information held on the National Identity Register will not actually be 100% of people because it’s a voluntary scheme [Meg needs to read the IPS’s top ten FAQs] – it doesn’t include actually a great deal more information – well, it doesn’t include much more information than is currently held in many other databases. The benefit is that it’s held in one place, so it is really upgrading in a sense some of what we’ve already got by putting it in one place and of course the key thing is tying it securely to somebody’s identity.

Still later (1:15:00) Bob Russell points out that in earlier evidence given to the Committee,

some experts said it was more of a risk putting the information, all the eggs in one basket so to speak, but today you’ve stated that putting all the eggs in one basket is the best way of safeguarding the security of identity of people.

Indeed the Committee concluded in 2004 that “We do not think that there should be a central database with all information available to the Government on it”.

Political hot potato, Meg – catch!

Well, it’s actually eggs in two baskets if we’re using that analogy because there will be one database for fingerprints and facial image, and that will be separate to the database which will be built on the DWP database of biographical information, which is what is currently on the passport database plus those other points I mentioned.

Two? But earlier (“it will be held in one place”) you said it would be one.

Oh, that’s alright then. Forget I asked!

Of course this ignores the point that the biographical data will be held in one place, a quality source of supply for the market in personal information.

Update

Forgot to mention that Hiller said of the audit trail that they were damned if they had an audit trail and damned if they didn’t. Of course she frames the debate with the assumption that we must have a central database with all this information on it – there is no debate about that. The problem with the audit trail arises as a result of that. But you are not supposed to think about that.

An alternative to the NIR (if we are to have ID cards) is to have the information stored on the cards themselves. Then there would be no need for an audit trail. But then of course the Government wouldn’t have a database to trawl through and an audit trail to spy on what we have been up to.

Update 2

Uncorrected oral evidence now online.

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