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United States
I’ll do it, but only if you’ll help

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Matt Wilkes:

You raise a lot of interesting points. You say you would support ID cards in principle if they were free.

1) Most obvious point first, then: the cards will *not* be free. Even if the explicit fee were waived, the money would just come from taxation. So either way, it will still mean that we, the public, pay for it. This cost can surely only be justified if there is some considerable, demonstrable advantage to having the scheme introduced, and I think it's fair to say that the government has not made a sufficient case for this.

2) "If it stops benefit fraud...". I believe the general consensus is that it won't. Quoting Mr. Lilley at http://www.parliament.the-stationery-off..., an extract from a Commons debate on the issue: "Of the identified frauds and abuse in my Department only 5 per cent. involve abuse through misrepresentation of identity. The bulk of fraud and abuse is the misrepresentation of circumstances of people whose identity is not in doubt... [so the] gains which might come from a compulsory identity card would probably be very small." In other words, 95% of benefit fraud as it stands currently would be untouched by the introduction of an ID scheme. The ID scheme itself, on the other hand, will cost so much to set up and maintain that it would be literally decades before it paid for itself, and that's assuming that new forms of fraud don't come along in the meantime.

3) "...if it stops bogus asylum seekers slipping through...". How can it? Obviously no one entering the country will have an ID card, and those intending (or claiming that they intend) to remain in the UK for three months or less will not be obliged to get one - so all a would-be illegal immigrant will have to do is to claim they're here on holiday, and then disappear into the woodwork, whereupon they'll undoubtedly find unscupulous employers willing to pay cash-in-hand for work, so the transactions never appear on any record.

4) "...and if it stops just ONE hate-filled suicide bomber from killing one of ours...". NO2ID's own site answers this point well ( "Despite evidence that the biggest threat of terrorism is home-grown, arguments that ID cards will ‘protect’ us from foreign-born terrorists continue to grow. This is simply not the case. Foreigners who are in the UK for three months or less will not have to carry one. Three months is plenty of time to arrive, plant a bomb and leave again. To those who are resident and will have to carry them, an ID card will deter them no less than, say, a bus pass."

5) "...if you're on the electoral register there's more information about you there than will be stored on an ID card...". That simply isn't true. Quite apart from the biometric stuff and other personal information stored, the register will keep a log of every time you use the card to prove your identity, and so will end up with a very comprehensive list of your habits, preferences and lifestyle (far more comprehensive than is stored on any database at present). There are a number of problems with this: firstly, it's true that different government departments, businesses, banks etc do tend to know between them a great deal about individuals - but that's just it: they only have this relatively complete picture *between them*. No single organisation has the complete picture stored in one place, and this makes complete identity theft relatively hard. If the Register comes into being and ends up being hacked into (and you can't honestly think this won't happen, sooner or later), then identity thieves can get *all* of the information they need instantly, from one place. Secondly, while the government of today may be perfectly honest in its intentions not to sell information to businesses, for example, this is no guarantee that future governments will feel the same way - but by that time it would be too late, as there would already be complete dossiers on file of every citizen. In other words, allowing this scheme to go ahead is to gamble that all future governments will be at least as trustworthy with our personal information as this one purports to be.

God, that was a lot longer than I expected. Sorry... and if anyone can help flesh out any details, or supply references to confirm (or disprove) any of this, I'd appreciate it.

Nic Shakeshaft, 14 years ago.

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