UK government publishes response to ID cards petition

July 27, 2009

ID card (front) smallIn November 2008 I wrote at some length (link here) about the proposal of the Home Office’s Identity & Passport Service (IPS) that (in the words of the Daily Mail):

People who are undergoing a sex change will be allowed two cards – one in each gender. But they will also be forced to pay twice – landing them with a £60 bill.

It has decided they will have to hold a card in their current sex, which can be used for travel in the EU.

But they will also be able to apply for a card – with corresponding picture – in the name and sex they are undergoing treatment to become.

Another major area of concern has always been the question of how secure the data required to be submitted to the government would actually be. Although the governement has promised to respect the GRA, it still requires birth gender and acquired gender to be recorded and held in the contentious centralised ID database system.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person with grave doubts about the idea and in February this year, my friends over at Gender Spectrum UK raised an online petition to voice the two main concerns that many of us shared:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that the safety of the Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersex and gender-queer Communities is not placed at risk by insisting that harmful data is kept on the National ID Database and that many should carry hold 2 ID cards, identifying them as belong to both male & female genders.

The petition ran until March 6 and received over 800 signatures.

The government has today issued the following response (link here):

Thank you for your e-petition which calls on the Government to ensure that information pertaining to the transgender community to be recorded on the National Identity Register (NIR), is kept secure.

Where individuals who have registered with the Scheme and subsequently obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) notify the Identity and Passport Service to update their details on the NIR, there will be protections in place in our systems and procedures to ensure that the record of their previous gender is then protected from being disclosed in line with the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act. The Identity Cards Act makes unauthorised disclosure of information from the Register a criminal offence with a sentence of up to 2 years if convicted of a breach.

However, in line with the provision of the Gender Recognition Act, there may be occasions, for example for the prevention or detection of crime, where the disclosure of a person’s gender history may be necessary. However, it is expected that such cases would be exceptional.

As such, when an individual is using an identity card to prove their identity to an employer and a confirmation of their details is requested from the Register, their gender history would not be revealed. While a record of the person’s birth gender is kept as part of our fraud prevention measures, a person’s gender history will be very well protected within our systems and, as previously described; there is a criminal offence that reinforces our initial procedures against unauthorised disclosures.

The government has addressed only one of the two points raised – that of the security of information held – and completely ignored the question of dual ID cards. And even this limited response is couched in so many disclaimers as to make it effectively worthless. In brief, only those people with Gender Recogition Certificates (GRC) are entitled to the any security – and then, only as set out in the Gender Recognition Act. And those protections are flimsy, at best.

So, to summarise the government’s response to the question of data security:

  • If you have a GRC we’ll try not to out you, but we’re not promising anything.
  • If – for whatever reason, and there are many – you don’t have a GRC, well, if we out you, we out you.

And to summarise the government’s response to the concerns raised about dual IDs:

  • …Helen watches the tumbleweed rolling past and waits… and waits… and waits…

As Alison succinctly points out in her comment over at GSUK: “I am not sure this actually addresses the petition”.

It’s a strange thing, even though I don’t think I expected anything else from this government (or any other, come to think of it), I still feel more than a little disheartened about the outcome.

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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