Archive for the 'ID cards' Category

UK: Identity Documents Bill 2010-11: progress report 30 June 2010

June 30, 2010

Having completed its First and Second Readings, the Identity Documents Bill 2010-11 has now reached the Committee stage of its progress through the House of Commons, according to the Parliament UK website.

The committee’s consideration of the Bill is scheduled to be completed on or before 8 July 2010.

Summary of the Bill

The main purpose of this Bill is to abolish identity cards and the National Identity Register; it repeals the Identity Cards Act 2006. There are no provisions for refunding existing cardholders.

A small number of provisions in the 2006 Act – unrelated to ID cards – reappear in the Bill. These cover offences relating to the possession and manufacture of false identity documents such as passports and driving licences. The Bill also re-enacts data-sharing provisions in the 2006 Act designed to verify information provided in connection with passport applications. Identification cards for non-EEA nationals are not affected by the provisions.

The ‘small print’ in the second paragraph of that quote seems to re-confirm that, even though ID cards may be abolished for UK citizens, the national identity database remains in place and, presumably, active.

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Cross-posted at The F-Word

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UK: ID cards abolition update

May 27, 2010

By way of a follow-up to my earlier post about the Identity & Passport Service’s post-election announcement about cancelling Identity Cards and the National Identity Register, this post at BBC News online reports the following:

The Home Office is to reveal later how it will abolish the national identity card programme for UK citizens.

The bill, a Queen’s Speech pledge, includes scrapping the National Identity Register and the next generation of biometric passports.

None of the 15,000 people who have voluntarily taken out ID cards since the roll out in Manchester in late 2009, will be refunded the £30 fee.

[…]

The cards that are already in circulation will remain legal until Parliament has passed the legislation to abolish them and the register.

[…]

Despite the demise of the national identity card, a separate but technically similar scheme for some foreign nationals will continue. That scheme is run by the UK Border Agency and is still being rolled out.

Some 200,000 cards – known as biometric resident permits – have already been given to migrant workers, foreign students and family members from outside the European Economic Area.

But, as NO2ID points out on its website:

The database state is already too much assumed as an administrative goal for it to be killed by the loss of the ID scheme. Even during the election, despite the skepticism of parties now in government, ‘Connecting for Health’ was pushing forward with its plan to control all medical records in England.

Whitehall will not give up these empires without a fight. And the agendas that have been prepared for years may be expected to reappear under new names. The official obsession with identity and information-sharing remains, as does the idea that “personal information is the lifeblood of government”.

Holding the new government to its promise is the first thing. Rolling back the database state will involve more battles.

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Cross-posted at The F-Word

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UK: Government to cancel ID cards and the national database?

May 12, 2010

From the Identity & Passport Service (IPS) website:

Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.

Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.

I can’t help thinking that this simply isn’t going to happen and I wonder which bright spark at the IPS thought it would be amusing to put this up on the website. Time and again party political manifestos have been proved to be worthless documents, full of empty promises made in varying degrees of desperation by cynical and manipulative politicians to try and con gullible voters ahead of an election.

No, for one thing, too much has already been spent on this and, let’s be honest, the ID cards aspect is only the tabloid-friendly xenophobic dog whistle, the diversionary tactic, to distract attention from the implementation of the national database so necessary to the creation of the totalitarian state so beloved of central government. Also, the national database is already live – and potentially too lucrative – to the control freaks who run the country for them to just abandon it. Additionally, the whole thing is too closely linked to the whole biometrics/”national security” issue for one to be scrapped whilst retaining the other – I mean, where would all those body scanner images from airport passport control be stored if the national database was deleted?

Government to cancel ID cards and the national database? Yehrite…

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Here’s looking at you, kid

December 6, 2009

There’s a bit of a fuss in the news today about a letter apparently written by HM Queen Elizabeth to newspaper and magazine editors about paparazzi photographers “intruding on the royal family’s privacy” ahead of its traditional Christmas break at Sandringham.

“Members of the royal family feel they have a right to privacy when they are going about everyday, private activities,” said Paddy Harverson, spokesman for the queen’s son Prince Charles. [Reuters]

Well, Mr Harverson, there are those of us with far less power and privilege who feel the same way – but our feelings on the matter have been ignored in favour of the creation of a surveillance society (with all its links to the database state) by means – not of paparazzi photographers – but of CCTV cameras. Whilst nobody knows the exact number of cameras in operation in public spaces in Britain (David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, notably suggested “a CCTV camera for every 14 citizens”), there can surely be no disputing the fact that there has been a huge increase in the numbers in recent years. If only the general public could write similar letters to the watchers – and feel confident that our requests would be heeded.

And I don’t want to hear about how public figures “have a right to privacy” simply because they’re public figures – when the rest of us voice our wish to the same rights, we are told that if we’re doing nothing wrong then we have nothing to hide, and therefore nothing to fear from the intrusion. In this much-vaunted democratic society of ours, I can think of no convincing reason why there should be one rule for the wealthy and powerful and another rule for the rest of us.

Facial recognition technology for Heathrow airport next year

December 1, 2009

Via BCS, IT Pro Portal, Computer Weekly and others, it seems that the UK government is taking another step towards turning Britain into a totalitarian state.

In a bid to beef up the security measures ahead of 2012 Olympics in London, airport operator BAA has announced its intention to employ an electronic border gates system in the city’s Heathrow Airport from the start of the next year.

The operator noted that it would be deploying the ‘Automated Clearance System’ for the passengers coming out of the European Union region, as well as those not having biometric passports.

However, the fast track system would cost a considerable $80 a year to travellers, but then it will apparently shorten the hitherto long check-in queues at the airport by making the entire procedure a lot quicker. [IT Pro Portal]

The new electronic border gates will allow travellers over 18 with biometric passports to return to the UK using facial recognition technology.

It works by comparing the picture taken at the gate with that on the passport as well as cross-checking against any watch lists held by the UK Border Agency. [BCS]

At first glance, this all sounds like Britain following in the footsteps of the U.S., where the scheme to introduce body scanners at various airports was dramatically expanded back in the spring. But the mention of biometrics and facial recognition technology makes me wonder if this has just as much to do with the national database system rollout which is proceeding apace elsewhere, as it has with “security measures ahead of 2012 Olympics”.

And it seems it’s coming to an airport near you soon:

The system has been extensively tested at Birmingham, Bristol, and Stansted airport, with official roll outs at Gatwick and Manchester this week. [IT Pro Portal]

Paranoid, me? Quite possibly.
Paranoid, the government? Answers on the back of a £10 note to the usual address…

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ID cards now available to people living in Manchester

November 30, 2009

Via the UK Press Association (link here) and the Guardian (link here) comes the confirmation that, as promised by the Home Office six months ago, the ID cards scheme has finally been launched in Manchester. However, as seems to be the norm with this project, there’s a catch.

[…] the launch was overshadowed by the revelation that the cards are available only to people who already have passports, or whose passports expired this year.

Everyone else wanting a £30 ID card will first have to sign up for a passport at a cost of £77.50. [UKPA]

Which would seem to suggest that the government’s assertion that an ID card would offer an alternative form of documentation to a passport may be somewhat ingenuous. As Phil Booth of NO2ID says:

“The Government claims ID cards are a handy alternative to a passport is bogus.”

“You have to have one already so you will pay another £30 and set yourself up for a lifetime of fees, penalties and compliance.”

“Once you are on the database you will be obliged to update Whitehall’s register on you for the rest of your life.” [UKPA]

As usual, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, is presenting the benefits of signing up as being:

“[…] a means to prove and protect [applicants’] identity in a quick, simple and secure way.”

“It can be used by young people as a convenient and universal proof of age and as a credit card-sized alternative to the passport when travelling in Europe.” [Guardian]

We seem to have lost the previous vague claims that ID cards would variously “reduce fraud”, “combat terrorism and organised crime” and generally “deliver real benefits to everyone” [Via].

And, of course, there’s no mention of the privacy and data sharing issues; the security of the national database which is being compiled from all the personal data (including fingerprints and facial scans) – or the contentious requirement that “those living a Dual Gendered Life” (trans people, in plain English) who don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate will be required to hold two cards [Via].

As if that wasn’t sufficient reason to be concerned there is, I believe, yet another issue which the government is avoiding saying too much about. Yes, the ID cards scheme is voluntary but from next year, if you want a passport, you will be required to apply for registration on the database (whether or not you opt to have an ID card). Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s hard not to think that, once established, the requirement for registration will be introduced at a later date (eg for access to state benefits, driving licenses, CRB checks, etc).

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Cross-posted at The F-Word

Sic transit gloria ID?

August 10, 2009

ID card pic via Getty ImagesAccording to several sources (initially The Daily Mail but also Computer Weekly, ZDNet News and various others), Britain’s shiny new ID cards – as recently unveiled by Home Secretary Alan Johnson (link here) – appear to have been cloned, and the personal details on the chip changed, by “a researcher” named Adam Laurie.

[…] as I watch, Laurie picks up a mobile phone and, using just the handset and a laptop computer, electronically copies the ID card microchip and all its information in a matter of minutes.

He then creates a cloned card, and with a little help from another technology expert, he changes all the information the card contains – the physical details of the bearer, name, fingerprints and so on.

(Via The Daily Mail)

However, not everyone is convinced:

“This story is rubbish,” the Home Office said in a statement. “We are satisfied the personal data on the chip cannot be changed or modified and there is no evidence this has happened.”

(Via ZDNet News)

It’s a little disappointing (but perhaps not surprising) that neither side seems able to provide empirical evidence to either support or refute the claim – I wouldn’t trust either a tabloid newspaper or a government department to present an unbiased analysis. All electronic and digital technologies are potentially vulnerable to breaches of security, we know that. The point is what defences are available to mitigate any system compromises. As David Lacey says in his op-ed piece at Computer Weekly (link here):

The issue is not whether it’s possible to forge or modify an Identity card. It’s whether that forgery can be detected in circumstances where the risk becomes significant.

Which makes reasonable sense to me – and certainly you would hope that, given the Home Office’s fervour to introduce ID cards come hell or high water, it would be less dismissive of Mr Laurie’s claim and more attentive to discovering the facts of the matter.

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Curtsey to Polly at GSUK for the heads-up

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ID card design unveiled

August 1, 2009

If anyone seriously believed that the recent announcement that ID cards were to be voluntary for UK residents somehow meant that the scheme had been shelved, hopefully this will alert them to the reality of the situation. The centralised database is not going to disappear like the dew on a summer’s morn. It may have been backgrounded for the moment, but it is quite definitely not going away any time soon.

And let’s not forget that any trans people without a Gender Recognition Certificate who wish to apply for an ID card will, in fact, be required to pay for two of them; one in their birth gender and one in their acquired gender. A “buy two, get two” offer you can easily refuse, I’d say.

Via BBC News:

ID card (image from BBC News)

  1. Symbol meaning a chip is embedded in the card
  2. ID card number
  3. Citizenship. Foreign nationals in the UK are being given different cards
  4. Place of birth
  5. Signature – digitally embedded in the card
  6. Date of card issue and date it becomes invalid
  7. Photo taken to biometric standards
  8. Biometric chip holds fingerprint record
  9. Swipe zone. Information which can be automatically read by computer

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the controversial national identity card.

The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year.

[…]

The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip.

This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under current legislation, could hold more information about the identity of the individual.

Announcing a counter-campaign across North-West England, NO2ID’s Dave Page said:

“Once you are on that database, you can never come off it.”

“From the moment you’re registered you’ll have to tell the authorities of any change in your circumstances for the rest of your life – and pay whatever fees they ask for the ‘service’.”

“You’ll never know who’s looking at your details. It won’t protect our safety. It won’t be convenient – except for Whitehall. This scheme is an expensive and dangerous con.”

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Curtsey to the Pet Shop Boys for the heads up

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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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ID cards trial scheme to be voluntary

June 30, 2009

ID card (front) smallA few weeks ago I wrote (link here) about the proposed launch of a trial of the ID cards scheme in Manchester. Today the Press Association carried the news (link here) that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has announced that the trial scheme “which would have required some airport staff and pilots to carry the controversial cards” has been abandoned.

Mr Johnson said: “Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary and I have therefore decided that identity cards issued to airside workers, planned initially at Manchester and London City airports later this year, should also be voluntary.”

Asked if the cards would ever be made compulsory he said: “No”. “If a future Government wanted to make them compulsory it would require primary legislation,” he added.

In addition:

He also ruled out ever requiring the public to own a card. Previously, ministers said ID cards could become compulsory once 80% of the population was covered.

Which, superficially at least, is good news, especially from the point of view of those trans people who are in the difficult position of having “no-match” documentation. As the Daily Mail reported it last November:

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.

In other words, they will dress and appear as they will once the sex change is complete.

For anyone falling into that category, a more offensive and frankly ludicrous proposal would have been hard to concoct. I hope that it will now be consigned to the history books.

But-there’s-a-but: “the cards will still be compulsory for foreign workers”, according to Mr Johnson. That’s bad enough in terms of the inherent racism, but there’s another reason to object to it, which is that it can only mean that the centralised database remains intact. The whole concept of the ‘database state’ has been described in detail, and campaigned against solidly, by NO2ID, and I’d once again recommend any interested party spends some time browsing their excellent website – here’s the link.

I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of this foolishness, not by a long way, but I’ll reserve further comment until I’ve tracked down the full details of Mr Jackson’s announcement.

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