Monday, October 24, 2005

Harding wrong again

Labour's greatest apologist, for whom they can do no wrong, Neil Harding is at it again: this time he is defending the ID Cards scheme.
Doing a quick blog search, I found hundreds of bloggers commenting on ID cards, not a single one was in favour.

This made me think of two scenarios, either I am totally deluded in supporting ID cards or there is something unrepresentative about bloggers (remember opinion polls find a majority of the population in favour of ID cards).

Well, given that the Register article quoted here shows, in detail, how those surveys were so flawed as to be a lie, one can only conclude—going on Neil's past form, correctly—that he is, in fact, "totally deluded".
The fact that I couldn't find a single blogger blogging in favour of ID cards tells me that this force is powerful enough to unite both conservative and liberal bloggers. It also presents me with an unexpected opportunity to be a pioneer blogger in outlining a detailed case in favour of ID cards (admittedly with a number of important reservations).

So, the educated—and informed—throughout all parts of the political spectrum are against the ID cards: that should probably give you a wee clue as to the fact that they really are not a good idea. Now, if I were going to argue a point, I wouldn't sit here declaring that the intelligent and educated are all against me; it might make people assume, even before I'd started, that I was a fucking idiot. Luckily for us, Neil has no such qualms.
Generally it is the more conservative, authoritarian types who favour ID cards and the liberal ones who oppose. People who know this site shouldn't have much of a problem with my claim to be a libertarian (my score on political compass was -6.7 on the libertarian/authoritarian scale).

This is like that old improv game, It Just Gets Worse.... Proper conservatives are not authoritarian, rather the reverse in fact. Furthermore, if the majority of libertarians are against ID cards, one must assume—since "libertarian" Neil is about to defend them—that there is either wrong with the political compass test, or every other person who claims to be libertarian is, in fact, lying. Can I point out that nothing that I have read of Neil's has ever made me draw the conclusion that he is libertarian: as a supporter of this government, one must conclude that, actually, he leans toward the fascist.
So what is this force uniting bloggers on this subject?

Common sense? A liking for freedom? An inherent mistrust of the government? A certain technical knowledge that tells them that it will not work? Just for starters, you understand...
Well firstly and foremostly, conservatives who might otherwise have supported ID cards, have a Conservative party who have seen a populist issue to win votes on a subject that is no cost to them.

And, of course, when Howard supported ID cards, it did them actual damage.
The overwhelming majority of the public are just concerned with the practical benefits. I predict that the controversy over the security and cost of biometrics will subside as the technology advances and the government refines its objectives. Although 3 biometrics have been proposed, just facial recognition followed by fingerprinting are likely to be initially used. Less reliable iris scanning might be a while into the future. As the system is proved to work both here and abroad, then the opponents will change tack, but it will be too late. Opponents know they have to win the argument early on or the facts will overtake them.

The technology will become cheaper as it becomes more readily available. As it becomes more readily available, it becomes easier to emulate. Thus, the concerns over security come to the fore. Furthermore, the reliability of the 76 year old technology that is fingerprinting is being questioned; facial biometrics and iris scans have also come under serious scrutiny. The fact is that these technologies do not work reliably enough to conclude definitely that someone is who they say they are.
Because the Tories have popularised being anti-ID card from a right wing perspective, it has been very easy for the liberal bloggers to find voice and support for liberty issues that otherwise would be killed off by the right wing media. This combination in right/left motivation coupled with support from the centrist Lib Dems has led to an unstoppable orthodoxy amongst political bloggers. It also fits nicely with popular perception of the govt as being illiberal.

This government is illiberal: Chris at Strange Stuff, amongst others have summed this up quite nicely. And perhaps, as I said, it is indicative that all facets of the political spectrum have come together to condemn this stupid, stupid idea. Apart from a few idiots, naturally.
Firstly it has to be said that a lot of the criticisms of ID cards are aimed at the foreseen failure of the technical aspects of biometrics and the lack of organisational capability of the govt rather than at the concept of ID cards themselves. This immediately makes me very suspicious of motives. If it is the restrictions on civil liberties that is the main reason, opponents should say so loud and clear, but also explain how this restriction outweighs the benefits of ID cards.

The restrictions on civil liberties motive has been shouted loud and clear. Unfortunately, since this government has shown that it couldn't give a rat's arse about civil liberties, we have pretty much concentrated on the technical aspects.
Some of the claims of opponents of ID cards have included the following;

1. That the govt and potential hackers will be able to track your movement around the country, view your medical, criminal, social security, bank, credit, supermarket, ISP and mobile phone details.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with ID cards, the govt has categorically stated that none of these details will be included on the cards or the National Identity Register (NIR). If the govt wanted to access any of these details, they wouldn't need to set up an ID card to do it.

No, they will not be. However, what will be included is "foreign keys": links from the NIR to the databases holding those particulars: more on that from Talk Politics. The NIR only acts as, essentially, an index to the rest of your personal details.

And, unfortunately, the government "categorically" stating something is pretty much guaranteed to make me believe that it is a lie.
2. It is unsafe to keep biometric and name/address data on cards and on a central database rather than on a number of secure databases.

There is no need to put the actual biometric data on the cards or have someone's NIR number on the database. Technology is available to distort biometric data on cards, rendering it useless for anyone else to read. The central database will be high security. This is the safest and cheapest method, its the same principle as banks keeping money in a safe rather than leaving it in the till.

So, wait, wait, wait a second: you wouldn't need someone's National Identity Regsiter number on the National Identity Register? Neil, do you know how databases work? Of course their number would need to be on the database because the number will be generated by a database script.

Furthermore, and let's make this absolutely clear, any software system is crackable; if it can be build be a programmer, it can be hacked by a programmer. It might take a while but, in this case, the rewards would definitely be worth it.
3. We won't know who is checking our identity and for what reason.

Under the Data Protection Act, you would be able to ask for these details. It is understood that (apart from the fight against terrorism and benefit/tax fraud), anyone accessing your data would need your consent.

How would this consent be given? Would a shop, for instance, have a sign behind the counter saying something like, "If you use a Debit Card at this store, it is assumed that you have given us permission to access your NIR entry"? And, if you wish to track terrorists or identity fraudsters, then you are going to have to know where they've been: thus, when your identity is checked in a shop, surely a note needs to be made in the NIR to that effect?
There will be no compulsion to carry the ID card. The police will have no new powers to ask you to prove your identity.

Really? Oh, no, actually, they already have those powers, don't they? So, the government can quite happily say that they will not introduce new ones. Nicely, my saaaaan...
The govt have stated that the cards and NIR will carry only the information your passport does. It would need primary legislation through parliament to add to this. Then would be the time to object.

My passport carries a photo, my name, my date of birth and my nationality. It doesn't have my fingerprints or a facial biometric. So, Neil, which one is it, eh? Oooooh, you mean it'll carry the information that the new biometric passports do. Right. And the legislation for that is... where? Where do we get to scrutinise that? What do you mean we don't?
The EU has passed standards on biometric travel documents that include face recognition and fingerprinting, the deadline is in 2006. Because of these standards and similar US requirements on travel documents to come into effect next year, the costs of incorporating biometrics are already being incurred.

Imposed from the EU? Oh.
Nearly every country in the EU has ID cards (21 out of 25 countries, only the UK, Eire, Denmark and Latvia do not).

Yes, and nearly every country in the EU does not presume innocence. In this country, we assume—well, unless you are a filthy Asian suspected suicide bomber or an octogenarian protester at a Labour Conference—that one is innocent until proven guilty. Our legal system, the whole basis of habeas corpus on which it is founded, is entirely different from the rest of Europe's. Just because everyone else has these intrusive devices does not mean that we should. That's a bit like saying that our presumption of innocence is outdated and we should harmonise with... Oh. Crap.
"Argumentation about identity cards is largely limited to anglosaxon countries. In most countries where an ID system is present, it is seen as a commonplace item that nobody argues about."

Yup, well, we like our freedom. Damn those filthy AngloSaxons and their desire not to kow-tow to their betters. If only they would, then this whole EU debate need never have happened.
ID cards are claimed to have a positive impact in the following areas;

Preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. Tackling Identity theft, benefit fraud and abuse of public services. And finally aiding anti-terrorism measures and enhancing a sense of community.

Both ID card opponents and enthusiasts largely agree that there will be a positive impact in all these areas with the introduction of ID cards.

Ok, I know that No2ID have an axe to grind, but I think that this page sums up most of the problems.
Illegal immigration and working:
People will still enter Britain using foreign documents - genuine or forged - and ID cards offer no more deterrent to people smugglers than passports and visas. Employers already face substantial penalties for failing to obtain proof of entitlement to work, yet there are only a handful of prosecutions a year.
Benefit fraud and abuse of public services:
Identity is "only a tiny part of the problem in the benefit system." Figures for claims under false identity are estimated at £50 million (2.5%) of an (estimated) £2 billion per year in fraudulent claims.
Identity fraud:
Both Australia and the USA have far worse problems of identity theft than Britain, precisely because of general reliance on a single reference source. Costs usually cited for of identity-related crime here include much fraud not susceptible to an ID system. Nominally 'secure', trusted, ID is more useful to the fraudster. The Home Office has not explained how it will stop registration by identity thieves in the personae of innocent others.

I don't think that there will be any positive impact on any of those areas, so you can remove me from your list of "ID card opponents" who believe so.
Hopefully as the costs and practicalities become more clear, and as the cards are gradually introduced, public support will strengthen and the anti-brigade will fade. This gradual introduction and lower cost is why ID cards should not become the Labour poll tax. Once people see the benefits and efficiencies ID cards bring both here and abroad, opposition should quickly fade.

Right, would someone deport this little shit to somewhere where he'd feel more at home, please? Like North Korea, or China.

There is a matter of principle here, far more than a matter of technology or cost, and that is what hideous, screaming shits such as Neil harding utterly fail to address. This rampant little turd's slavish devotion to the NuLabour fascist project would be alarming if he wasn't such an obviously ignorant little bastard.

Neil has, quite clearly, failed to make any single point for ID cards. He has taken the assumption that they are going to happen (Tony told him whilst Neil was sucking the Dear Leader's curly little pecker. Alledgedly) and tried to mitigate the massive arguments against. He has failed to prove his point, and succeeded only in showing his eagerness to suckle at the NuLabour teat. He is the worst kind of little, piggy tattletale, the kind who would happily dob his parents in for ThoughtCrime, if only it would earn him a pat on the head from his darling Toni.

Ugh.

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