Re: ID cards- another State power grab
Interesting article regarding ID cards.
The ID card and the ‘Mother of all Databases’
So what’s the fuss? Many of us carry in our wallet a Medicare card, a driver’s licence with photo, a bank card and a couple of maxed-out credit cards. So what’s one more little piece of plastic? The danger lies not in a card but in the mother of all databases that is behind a compulsory national ID card system.
In the wake of the London bombings, PM John Howard has floated introducing an Australian ID card. The Liberal-National Coalition opposed the ‘‘Australia Card’‘, which former PM Bob Hawke’s Labor government tried to introduce in the 1980s while tens of thousands of people demonstrated against it.
Howard then condemned it as an ‘‘intrusion of a draconian kind into the day-to-day lives of many people’‘. But now Howard and some of his ministers say it is time for a rethink.
‘‘The world is very, very different since then and maybe this is one of the things that is needed to be added to our armour’‘, said Howard before he flew off to the US to meet his best friend George Bush Jnr.
Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie rushed to support the introduction of an ID card. He told the ABC’s Insiders program of July 17, ‘‘The world has changed since the Australia Card debate took place in the Hawke days.
“We’ve had international terrorism; September 11 changed the world, frankly. In addition to that I think technology has changed. For example, people are used to using EFTPOS, ID is required to get any form of passport, you’ve got to prove it to open a bank card or get a bank account opened. I just think if we're going to deal with international terrorism ... we’ve got to have an ID system that actually works. In addition to that it will have other benefits as well.”
Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley brushed aside Howard’s comment as a “distraction” and “smokescreen” to cover the “bungling in the critical Immigration Department run by Ruddock and Vanstone”. But he hasn’t ruled out supporting an ID card.
Several Coalition politicians have expressed reservations and Chris Puplick, a former Liberal senator who served on the joint select committee on the Australia Card, and privacy commissioner of NSW from 1999 to 2003, has warned of this latest threat to civil liberties. (See <http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=3999>)
“There are several new reasons that were not fully apparent 20 years ago, and these issues make me even more fearful of national ID systems”, he says.
“To be effective, cards would need biometric identification, and anyone familiar with the privacy issues arising from the genetic revolution would have cause for concern. Identity fraud has in recent years become a major area of criminal activity — a national ID card system will only help it flourish. The data-matching power of computers has grown exponentially, raising questions of profiling of individuals without their knowledge or consent. Hacking puts our ‘secure’ records at risk, even jury lists get into wrong hands.
“Should 20 million Australians have their liberties trashed so that we might — I repeat might — detect the two or three mad jihadists in our midst? Will files now be created on the basis that people belong to a certain religion, attend particular places of worship or hold specific political opinions?”
Won’t stop terrorism
The July 20 Sydney Morning Herald reported that Bruce Schneier, an internationally renowned security technologist, points out that a national ID card program will not help to combat terrorism because knowing who someone is and divining their intentions are two very different things.
He said national ID systems merely serve as a means of control for governments. In 2004, Privacy International published the findings of the only research ever conducted on the relationship between identity cards and terrorism.
It said: “The detailed analysis of information in the public domain in this study has produced no evidence to establish a connection between identity cards and successful anti-terrorism measures. Terrorists have traditionally moved across borders using tourist visas (such as those who were involved in the US terrorist attacks), or they are domicile and are equipped with legitimate identification cards (such as those who carried out the Madrid bombings) ...
“Of the 25 countries that have been most adversely affected by terrorism since 1986, eighty per cent have national identity cards, one third of which incorporate biometrics. This research was unable to uncover any instance where the presence of an identity card system in those countries was seen as a significant deterrent to terrorist activity.”
Meanwhile in Britain, PM Tony Blair’s Labour government is pushing through a multi-billion-pound national ID card scheme, despite significant opposition. Twenty Labour MPs voted against the bill in its second reading in the House of Commons on June 28, and it has been rejected by the Scottish National Parliament.
NO2ID, one of the groups campaigning against the British ID card, has a website that explains very clearly the dangers of such an ID system. While there are no details of the sort of ID card that the Howard government may bring in, the British ID card provides a glimpse of the sort of model the government bureaucrats in Canberra have been secretly developing.
According to the July 19 Australian a new Medicare card, to be distributed to 11 million Australians next year, could become the blueprint for a new national identity card. A leaked cabinet submission, prepared by the attorney-general’s department and obtained by the Australian, also shows it was considered as part of a broader anti-terrorism strategy.
The new Medicare “smart cards” could include a photograph of the holder on the front of the card, or stored on an embedded microchip, and its use may be expanded to become a “government services” card.
A microchip that can store a photograph can also store biometric measures of identity such as fingerprints, iris scans and signatures. Most ID card experts agree that without biometrics a card would be easy to forge.
Blair’s ID card proposal was first floated in 2003 as an “entitlement card” system; people in Britain would need to get one to access government services such as public health, education and welfare. Now it has evolved into a general ID card that proves “registrable facts” about individuals for purposes of “national security”, “the prevention or detection of crime”, “the enforcement of immigration controls”, “the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment” and “securing the efficient and effective provision of public services”.
The British ID card bill sets out more than 50 categories of information required for the register (subject to change by regulation) including: name; other previous names or aliases; date and place of birth, and, if the person has died, the date of death; address and previous addresses; times of residency at these addresses; current residential status and residential statuses previously held; photograph; fingerprints; other biometrics (e.g. iris recognition); signature; nationality; entitlement to remain in Britain; passport numbers; work permit numbers; and driver’s licence.
There is no provision for parliament to decide what information will be stored in or on the “smart” card. This will be left to the discretion of the Home Office.
‘Mother of all Databases’
According to NO2ID, the most dangerous aspect of the ID Bill is the National Identity Register — “the Mother of all Databases”.
Under the British bill, police organisations, the security services, the tax department, the Department for Work and Pensions, and customs and excise can have access to this register.
No comparable register operates (officially at least) anywhere in the world, according to a study by the London School of Economics <http://is.lse.ac.uk/idcard/identityreport.pdf> which estimated it would cost between £10.6 billion and £19.2 billion to roll out. That’s about £300 per person.
Ideas floated to defray the massive cost of the British ID card have included selling “verification services” to private companies and outsourcing the input of biometric and other personal data to cheaper contractors in Mumbai, India.
NO2ID points out that no European country has such a comprehensive or invasive card system. As in Australia, the New Zealand public rejected similar proposals outright in 1991 and, following widespread criticism, Canada abandoned its proposed biometric ID card system in early 2004. ID card proposals have always been rejected by the United States Congress.
Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have card systems very similar to that being pushed by the Blair government. China is moving rapidly in this direction with the development of a compulsory ID database and card system, but abandoned the biometric element after it concluded that the technology was unworkable with large populations. The US military in Iraq is developing a similar card and biometric system to control access to Fallujah, while the UNHCR has deployed an iris biometric system to control refugee traffic across the Pakistan-Afghan border.
From Green Left Weekly, July 27, 2005