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Andy Burnham on Identity Cards

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:56 pm on 27 November, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance.
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Home Office minister Andy Burnham recently wrote an article in the Guardian, defending ID cards. Whilst discussing the access to their personal information that people can obtain via the Data Protection Act 1998, he writes:

All databases holding personal information are covered by the limited exemptions to the act, such as where the police or security services have an ongoing investigation. The National Identity Register will be no different and imposes no further restriction. In reality, the basic information it holds will reveal much less than mobile phone or plastic card records that can already be requested by the police to aid a criminal investigation.

Three points:

  • Schedule 1 of the bill sets out the information to be stored in the NIR. Under section 9 of the schedule, every time information from the NIR about you is provided to another person, such as when your identity is checked, this fact is recorded. Since the card will become necessary for gaining employment, opening bank accounts, getting government services and many other transactions in peoples lives, this will effectively record the activities of individuals. Moreover all the government needs to do to bring an area of life under this surveillance is to require identity checks.
  • Also stored in the register are the details of every identity document you have been issued with, including such things as National Insurance numbers, passport numbers, etc. By obtaining these details one would have the key to access much of the information stored about you in other databases both public and private.
  • The bill will also create a National Identity Registration Number or NIRN, unique to each database entry and which will end up indexing into other databases. This will end up being a single key therefore that can be used to access all the information about you stored in the many databases held by both public and private organisations.

It seems to me quite clear that the NIR will enable people to obtain far more information about people than can be gleaned from mobile phone records or credit card records.

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