Putting my money where my mouth used to be over ID cards

 by Martin Belam, 28 November 2007

I don't know whether it will turn out to be one of the furthest-flung contributions, but a PledgeBank pledge I made a couple of years ago about ID cards has been called in.

'Hello, you have received this message because you signed my pledge, "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge" back in 2005. In fact 11360 other people also did. Thank you all.'

I have dutifully sent my cheque for £10 to NO2ID from Crete.

My NO2ID envelope

I have to say that now I am out of the UK a lot of the time, my perspective on the issue has not changed. I'm more used to carrying ID with me - in Greece I tend to have my passport with me at all times.

This isn't, you understand, in order to swan around Greece like an 18th century adventurer and bellow "Unhand me you foreign ruffian, I have a document in my jacket pocket from Her Britannic Majesty" at salient moments.

Although that would probably be quite enjoyable - the first time anyway. I'm not convinced I'd get to do it twice...

More seriously, it simply seems prudent to be able to prove that I am an EU citizen at any given moment whilst abroad.

What still wouldn't seem prudent to me would be to introduce an ID card, backed up by "unfallable" biometric data, which most of the time wouldn't actually be checked against the biometric database.

My old MP in Walthamstow, Neil Gerrard, thought introducing ID cards was likely to increase the chances that criminal gangs would get involved in forging indentity documents, whilst David Blunkett believed you would be able to do biometric spot checks on the mud flats of Morecombe Bay in the dark in order to stop people illegally collecting cockles. I know who I think was more connected to the real world.

Still, from a PR point of view I'm not sure Phil Booth could have planned it better - calling in your pledge for money to fight plans for an overwhelming state controlled personal information database, when the state has just proved that it can't be trusted with personal data.

If you'd like to contribute to NO2ID, which appears to be safer than claiming Child Benefit, you can send a cheque or postal order made payable to 'NO2ID' to:

NO2ID (Legal Defence Fund)
Box 412
19-21 Crawford Street
London W1H 1PJ


You can also contribute via paypal. The link is at the bottom of http://www.no2id.net/pledge/

Hi Martin, you make a very good point - most of the time the card will not be checked against the biometric database - so is the cost of the implementation justifiable. I believe that it is and mostly for the protection of the individual.

As more of our data moves online into commercial databases, our online identity (comprising profile information plus transactional detail records) becomes more valuable. Commercial exploitation of this information is becoming more prevalent and therefore, without our explicit permission this data is actually being joined up.

An ID card with biometric validation as I see it would provide authorization to access my data as is distributed between banks, insurance companies, credit card companies and government records. The biometric authorization would be applied in those cases and would help prevent those records being compromised or defrauded.

Decentralisation in this case seems to be a red herring.

Not only could it immure a person to the dangers of handing out their biometrics to every organisation that asks (biometric phishing) but also increases the surface area for fraudster attacks (both technological and social attacks). I am unconvinced.

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