UK Liberty

Salami slicing our way to compulsory registration

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

In the Uncorrected Oral Evidence I’ve recently been reading, David Winnick mentioned Ross Anderson had given evidence to the UK Borders Bill Committee, so I looked at that too – and that led me to some interesting evidence on the Borders Bill, biometric visas and ID cards.

Here is an excerpt on how ‘salami slicing’ works in practice:

 Q   210   Mr. Jackson:  So, at the risk of inviting you on to tendentious ground, would you say that this is possibly an example of function creep, moving from biometric data into laying the infrastructure for a full national identity card scheme?

Professor Ross Anderson: I think the threat of that is fairly clear. It has been clear in ministerial utterances, in the explanatory notes to the Bill and in the excellent document produced by the House of Commons Library. It is straightforward that this is a stepping-stone towards an ID card scheme that Ministers envisage will at some future time be compulsory and used by many other services: banks, insurers, shops and so on to identify their customers. That brings us tothe objections that I raised before the Home Affairs Committee, and you can refer to the Committee’s record if you want the details.

The Chairman: We certainly cannot stray into a general discussion about ID cards. Did Mr. Herbert or Mr. Booth want to comment on the same point?

Guy Herbert: On the same point, it is explicitly part of the plan. If you look at the identity management action plan published by the Home Office at the end of the last parliamentary Session, you will see that the scheme is intended to use the biometric database that is being developed for immigration purposes as part of the national identity register. It is therefore explicitly a stepping-stone in a technological respect. It is also a stepping-stone in a legal respect. The House was promised during the passage of the Identity Cards Bill that there would be no compulsory element to the scheme and that that would be left to future legislation. Many Members and many Members of the public might have thought that that would be a new ID cards Bill to make them compulsory. The legislation shows that it can be salami-sliced. A section of the population is in effect being compelled on to the ID cards register, on the same database, through this legislation.

Also see the Home Secretary’s recent comments on the de facto compulsion of students, young people, airport workers and so on – ie if you want a loan, or if you want to work in an airport, you will be compelled to obtain a National Identtiy Card.

Phil Booth: During the passage of the Bill there was an exchange between the then Home Secretary and the Joint Committee on Human Rights that pointed out that to salami-slice the population in such a waywas potentially discriminatory. NO2ID is not aware that those concerns were sufficiently answered oranswered to the satisfaction of the Joint Committee. Furthermore, we would say that there is an administrative thing going on here in that there is an ongoing process by which the costs of the development of the ID card scheme are reported to Parliament on a six-monthly basis. We would be interested to see whether certain costs are now being hived off into other Departments in that way. If the biometric portion of the register is being built for that purpose, will it be tagged as an immigration cost rather than as an identity scheme cost?

No cost-benefit analysis of ID card scheme

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

Reading some Uncorrected Oral Evidence given as part of the inquiry into the Surveillance Society and came across this:

Q535 Ms Buck: Turning to identity cards, remind the Committee, in the regulatory impact assessment of the Bill was there a specific assessment of the contribution that cards would make to the particular strands that have been flagged up as significant? The immigration, the e-terrorism?

Mr McNulty: Specifically on each of those? I do not think so. I think it was a broad general regulatory impact assessment that normally goes alongside these pieces of legislation.

Q536 Ms Buck: Have you made assessments of that kind? In the Home Office, is there an assessment of what would be likely over, say, the course of ten years?

Mr McNulty: There have been broad policy assessments. You will know that the National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan 2008 has come out since Meg Hillier met the Committee to talk specifically about ID cards. Has there been a quantitative and empirical study of the benefits of ID cards specifically in the context of e-crime, cyber crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration? Not in that specific sense, no, because we are not futurologists.

Q537 Ms Buck: No, but surely —

Mr McNulty: Has there been substantive work done on the public policy dimensions associated with the benefits that were outlined in the original Bill and the original regulatory impact assessment? Yes. Are they detailed quantitative pieces of work? No, and I do not think that is extraordinary.

Q538 Ms Buck: No, but, on the other hand, if one is being asked to make a very substantial investment of public money in areas like terrorism it must be very hard to make that investment, but in areas like immigration and e-crime I would imagine it might have been possible to make an assessment of the cost benefit?

Mr McNulty: It is easier but it is still very difficult, not least because the Committee will know that on the identity theft side there are enormous innovations all the time as well, and almost as you come to such assessment the rules change in terms of what criminals do. As far as possible there is in public policy terms and more generally an assessment. I do not think I have seen any detailed, quantitative, mathematically sound piece of work done on the public policy consequences of a significant piece of legislation, certainly in the last ten years or, in studying politics, over the last thirty years.

Q539 Ms Buck: But on the issue of identity crime is not the whole point that the identity card is being put forward as a kind of Gold standard that would effectively mean that whatever criminals did to try and catch up, a DNA-based ID card, biometric ID card system would keep you —

Mr McNulty: Database.

Q540 Ms Buck: Biometric, sorry.

Mr McNulty: Yes, and those assessments have been done. If you are asking for the quintessential, comprehensive, all-singing, all-dancing, quantitatively, mathematically robust, cost-benefit analysis, no, it has not been done.

Q541 Ms Buck: No, I was not. I was asking for anything.

Mr McNulty: Well, there has been, and they have been released over the course of time. When I took the Bill through three years ago there was significant cost-benefit analysis work put into the public domain around some of those aspects. As you quite fairly say, it is more difficult in other regards.

Extraordinary.  After all this time, after all the reviews etc, after all the money, after all the promises, the Government still has no figures for how much money will be saved from us forking out £5.6bn (and the rest) for this ridiculous scheme.

What are among the common causes of project failure according to the Office of Government Commerce?

  1. Lack of clear link between the project and the organisation’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.
  2. Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).

Is this why the Government still refuses to hand over the age old OGC reports into the scheme?  Because they say there is no clue as to what benefits will be gained by us paying £5.6bn?

The Home Secretary isn’t a politician says Tony McNutty

Posted in politicians on liberty, surveillance society by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

Reading some Uncorrected Oral Evidence given as part of the inquiry into the Surveillance Society and came across this:

Q514 Gwyn Prosser: But in terms of this Committee’s work on the surveillance society or the surveillance State, would you not say that the ordinary reasonable person in the street would be far more tolerant of allowing his or her data communications to be interfered with or intercepted or monitored if they knew that the authority for that monitoring was from an independent judge rather than a politician?

Mr McNulty: No. The question contains again part of the confusion. The Home Secretary, an independent politician, …

Q515 Gwyn Prosser: In terms of the warranty interceptions, which we all agree are interceptions and intrusions, are you able to say why authority by a politician is better than authority by an independent judge?

Mr McNulty: It is not by a politician; it is by the Home Secretary.

Q516 Chairman: Is the Home Secretary not a politician?

Mr McNulty: Absolutely,

Make your mind up man, we simple folk are easily confused.

but not any old politician; the highest politician in the land in terms of home affairs and these matters, and her job in that regard is again regulated and overseen by the Commissioners, and it is a power afforded to her by Parliament. Also, it is such a degree of intrusion I do not want it to be, in my own personal opinion, something that is a matter of legal norm by some judge.

God forbid it would be someone truly independent.

I would far rather it was that senior politician, and that she was held accountable for that.

I’m not sure how accountable MPs really are, and I will be exploring this in another post.

What the

Posted in DNA database, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

Reading some Uncorrected Oral Evidence given as part of the inquiry into the Surveillance Society and came across this:

Q478 Ms Buck: Continuing on the same line, would it be fair to say that you believe that the database you now have increases the likelihood of a criminal being convicted?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Yes.

Q479 Ms Buck: Is the corollary of that, therefore, that people whose DNA is on the database who have no previous conviction are more likely to be convicted than those who are not?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Well, the corollary is that, if you are on the database and you commit a serious crime, or crime that comes up on the crime scene, then yes, you are more likely to be convicted.

Q480 Ms Buck: What worries me about this is if you are on the database because you were arrested and not charged and, therefore, do not have a previous conviction, you are more likely to be convicted of an offence than somebody who has committed exactly the same offence who is not on the database, would that be right?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Statistically yes.

Q481 Ms Buck: I had an example recently of a group of children on an estate in my constituency who were picked up, and some were arrested by the police. They were running away, these children, for an offence that happened on the other side of the borough that they could not possibly have committed, and their DNA has been held and several of them are black. They did not commit an offence. Their DNA is now on the database; therefore, they are more likely to be convicted of an identical offence than another child, probably white in this instance. Would that be right?

Chief Constable Neyroud: That presupposes that they are going to go on and commit the sort of offences —

Q482 Ms Buck: No, it does not.

Chief Constable Neyroud: Statistically you are right, yes.

I’m sure I’m reading this incorrectly, but it reads to me as if a person who is on the DNA database and does not commit a crime is more likely to be convicted of an offence than someone who isn’t on the DNA database and does not commit a crime.

Can anyone of my readers help me understand?

Another IT project set to go (more) wrong

Posted in database state, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

Reading some Uncorrected Oral Evidence given as part of the inquiry into the Surveillance Society and came across this:

Chief Constable Neyroud: When IMPACT is actually fully implemented, in terms of its capability and its security levels, which I think is a critical thing which the debates of last few months have highlighted if nothing else, this will be a world leader in terms of the stretch and capability.

IMPACT?  That rings a bell – ah yes:


The police computer system, Impact, delayed for three years (orginally due for 2007), total cost increased from £164m to £367m and ‘it had emerged that the task was more complex than first thought’ (more detail here).

Rather than attempt to be a ‘world leader’ with such a system, it is too much to ask to just get it right?