ID Theft?

April 8, 2009

This month’s G3 magazine includes an article (direct link to PDF – go to page 34) by Rachel Charman which looks at the implications that the National Identity Scheme has for potential misuse of the personal data collected. Amongst those interviewed are Phil Booth of No2ID and Robyn of Gender Spectrum UK.

ID card (front) smallJust what exactly is the big deal about ID cards and personal data sharing? Phil Booth is the National Coordinator of No2ID, a group that opposes ID cards and what his 60,000 strong organisation calls the “database state”. He explained some of the risks of data sharing.

“The government is collating, linking, sharing, losing and abusing our data,” Phil says. “The Data Protection Act is very clear; one must have a good reason for gathering information and it must only be used for that purpose. The justifications given about national security and immigration are just a smokescreen; they are doing it is for the government’s own administrative convenience, for which you sacrifice your confidentiality.”


Outside of the UK it’s complicated. A trans person in the UK may have an ID card displaying their new gender, but when travelling outside, the person must have another ID card, which displays their birth gender and immediately outs them.

The risk is higher than just embarrassment. Robyn explained a case where recently, a trans person was mugged in the street, and a letter from their gender clinic was stolen. This letter was then publicised by local youths, who inflicted such severe transphobic abuse that the victim had to be relocated by the police. So, if someone was spotted by the wrong person with two ID cards, the same could happen to them.

Robyn feels that giving up personal information is problematic for all LGBT people: “There are a lot of people who are worried about coming out. It can cause people to become ill, and each obstacle can make things worse, whether it is having to disclose their marital status, sexuality or their gender identity.”


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