ID cards now available to people living in Manchester

// 30 November 2009

example-national-id-card_192x129.jpgVia 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.

But 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).

————

Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox

Comments From You

Jessica // Posted 30 November 2009 at 12:04 pm

I don’t think you’re being paranoid. I personally suspect that even if the Government does not require ID cards for state benefits, market forces will make them close to complusory within a few years. (Want to pay with a credit card in a supermarket? Tesco will ask for an ID card because it’s “more secure” — and of course, everyone should have one.)

In the United States citizens can apply for a “passport card”. It is essentially an extra piece of plastic which contains the same information as the passport. There is no database. The passport card is just a smaller version of the passport which is easy to carry about and which can be used to board domestic flights. I don’t have one, as I only use my US passport for international travel. However, I like this because it is just a card. Why can’t the UK ID cards be like this — just a card, without the database?

Lara // Posted 30 November 2009 at 1:45 pm

And we know what great care the government take to look after these ‘databases’ don’t we? http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2007/11/20/228216/uk-government-loses-data-on-25-million-britons.htm

aimee // Posted 1 December 2009 at 12:44 pm

Do you know what? Maybe i’ve just watched/read too much dystopian fiction, but I find this really quite scary. I mean, actually frightening. I don’t WANT to be on a database. I don’t WANT the government to know everything about me and I definitely don’t want to be REQUIRED to carry documentation declaring me legitimate. I find it genuinely, truly frightening. It just makes me wonder – when are they going to start documenting our political views? Our subversive opinions, maybe? What are they gonna do with that information? It’s terrifying. And the worst thing about it is that ID cards automatically conjours images of people in brown uniforms asking for ‘papers’ etc. That might be a bit hysterical, maybe even a bit fantastical, but that’s how it makes me feel. I’m genuinely scared about stuff like this. It makes me feel really uneasy and I don’t understand how the government are allowed to insist on implementing it, when I would say that the majority of people are against it? That itself is frightening to me.

Kristel // Posted 1 December 2009 at 1:00 pm

Thanks for posting about this, Helen. I am increasingly worried and angry about the encroaching invasion of my personal privacy, and as Lara says, the government can no way be trusted to safeguard the data they get their hands on. And the patronising way they try to pitch it, going on about how ‘convenient’ it will be, when it will be exactly the opposite.

There is another big problem with iris scans/biometric passports/fingerprinting ID, which the government is ignoring, and that is that for a lot of people they just do not work. Fingerprinting is nowhere near 100% reliable. Some people can have very similar prints (and there have been instances of people being kept in custody and wrongly accused of giving a false name and address because their fingerprints matched those of a convicted criminal. Our fingerprints also change and fade as we get older, you will not have the same prints at 40 as you did when you were 20.

I belong to a gym and I have to have a card because the fingerprint ID entry system doesn’t work for me. Iris scans are known not to work for a lot of people, especially people from certain ethnic backgrounds. So all this biometric ID stuff will lead not only to more inconvenience and invasion of privacy, but a lot of people could end up being criminalised.

Louise // Posted 1 December 2009 at 4:46 pm

I will not be getting an ID card under any circumstances. I feel like to get one would be to give away all my rights. I don’t trust the government not to add more and more information to it and then sell it to companies who want to make money from me. The information could also be used to discriminate against me and once the information is on there it will be there forever, there is no limit to the amount of information they will put on there. Eventually they could be tracking our every move. I can’t believe they actually want us to pay to lose our civil liberties. If enough people refuse to get one they will not be able to make us.

amy :) // Posted 1 December 2009 at 8:31 pm

you know, i am surprised that they are actually rolling the id cards out. i was sure that they were going to start with requiring them for immigrants, then the plan was going to go bust before it was extended to the rest of the populace, but oh-so-conveniently kept in place for all immigrants, old and new. at least we can see that the government treats everyone equally badly.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 1 December 2009 at 10:08 pm

im just waiting for the microchips for pets and children to extend into adults through fear tactics and being expected to have them =P

earwicga // Posted 1 December 2009 at 10:56 pm

Microchipping for kids?!? Where?!? (and don’t say in the freezer aisle).

Helen G // Posted 2 December 2009 at 9:19 am

I’m not sure that microchips for children has actually been proposed. Not yet, anyway ;)

gadgetgal // Posted 2 December 2009 at 10:12 am

I’d probably be ok with getting microchipped myself if I didn’t think the government would sell my number on to third parties who wanted to sell me car insurance…

Joking aside, that’s actually my main problem with these ID cards – not only the fact that they seem to find it so difficult to not “misplace” the information, but I reckon once the data is gathered it would be used for commercial purposes as well. I can see it now, we hit another financial crisis, the government wants to raise some extra cash, next thing I’m being hounded by insurance sales calls and mobile phone companies.

Basically I just don’t trust them enough to want to give them that kind of information freely! There aren’t enough checks on them to make sure that the information is only used for the purposes stated. It’s my same problem with putting eveyones info on the DNA database regardless of whether or not they’ve committed a crime – again, I don’t trust them enough to not do something dodgy with it, however many other benefits there may be!

Kit // Posted 2 December 2009 at 10:18 am

@Helen: close enough :S

tbh, with RFID tags in everything we’re not far off are we…

Helen G // Posted 2 December 2009 at 10:47 am

gadgetgal: You make a good point about the possible commercial aspects of data sharing of the national database. I must admit I’ve been very focused on the way data will be shared between government departments and agencies – in my post I mentioned access to state benefits, driving licenses and CRB checks – but I think you’re absolutely right: how long before the data is sold on to other interested parties? As an obvious example, if it’s linked into passport control (and it’s hard to avoid thinking otherwise) then travel companies may well be interested, for one.

Louise Bond // Posted 2 December 2009 at 7:14 pm

Knowledge is power and I really don’t want to give someone that much power over me. Especially not people who care more about making money than human lives.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 3 December 2009 at 1:46 am

Atlanta Opinion: An Orwellian solution to kids skipping school

CNN International: Technology gets under clubbers’ skin

MSN: Students ordered to wear tracking tags

CBS News – Tech: A Real Chip On Your Shoulder

US News – Nation & World: One Childhood Wish Comes True

i’d say, you never know!

Cazz Blase // Posted 4 December 2009 at 8:17 pm

The local reports when it was announced that Manchester and Greater Manchester would be the testing ground for this made interesting reading. The reasoning seemed to be that Greater Manchester had had a lot of anti-terror raids in the past four or five years and that it’s a hot spot for immigration violations, oh, and we have a high crime rate generally apparently as well. So they basically picked on us because we look, statistically, like prime troublemakers… nice to be categorised this way. Still, I suppose it could be a badge of pride for some people ‘My patch is more criminal than your patch’ sort of thing, as has happened here with ASBO’s (Greater Manchester being the ASBO capital of Britain) – I can see that happening… ‘I’m more statistically criminal than you are’…

Helen G // Posted 4 December 2009 at 9:00 pm

Cazz: It’s interesting how the official justification has played on the law and order aspect – and how many of mainstream society’s fears will be allayed by the awesome power of ID cards and the national database:

The Home Office claims ID cards will reduce fraud – thus saving money – and are vital to combating terrorism and organised crime.

And

“ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists,” the home secretary will say.

(Both quotes via BBC News)

What I cannot fathom is how ID cards will provide this protection; how they’ll “reduce fraud” and “combat terrorism and organised crime”. It’s worth bearing in mind that (random example) the 2005 London transport bombers were all ‘clean skins’ (unknown to the police, so we’re told) as well as British citizens – so how would voluntary ID cards have protected against those attacks?

Regarding the reasoning behind choosing Manchester for the first roll-out, the goalposts do seem to have been surreptitiously moved. A year ago, a press release from the IPS (now removed from its website) gave this insight into the choice:

In autumn 2009 the first cards for critical workers, starting at airports, will be issued.

(Via BoP)

“Critical workers […] at airports”. Not terrorists, not undocumented migrant workers, not even common-or-garden troublemakers, but airport staff. Presumably including the same workers who are soon to be entrusted with operating the soon-to-be-implemented electronic border gates systems and various biometric and facial recognition technologies. Which have been “extensively tested at Birmingham, Bristol, and Stansted airports, with official roll outs at Gatwick and Manchester this week”. (Via BoP)

It doesn’t really inspire confidence, I have to say. “Who guards the guardians?”…

Matty Mitford // Posted 8 December 2009 at 1:01 am

If you feel strongly about this issue, which you really, really should (there are very specific questions on the safety of women fleeing domestic violence etc) please get involed with one of the many NO2ID groups around the country. Find your nearest at http://www.no2id.net/localgroups

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