I missed “Data Protection Day” (like the rest of the population) so I thought I would take the opportunity to express belated support by reiterating my great admiration for the Government’s Identity Card scheme, especially as the Card has been promoted to young adults in London this week. As readers know, I am a keen supporter of the ID Card. They are such a wonderful idea that I aim to get as many as I can.
My comments relate to why the Government are promoting the Card. In this week’s press statement, Home Office Ministers say that the “The National Identity Card will prove an extremely useful tool for young people in London, whether they are opening a bank account, buying age-restricted goods such as computer games or DVDs, entering a nightclub or travelling to Europe”. When “tough new legislation being put in place clamping down on underage drinking, it will be more important than ever for young people to have access to a universally accepted proof of age”.
Hang on a second. Suppose you are selling “age-restricted products” or are employed as a bouncer at a night-club. Do you need to know “who am I?” or do you just need proof that I am over any age-limit. In other words, the kinds of activities promoted by Ministers do not need proof of identity and the use of an ID Card for these purposes appears to be excessive.
Now consider the purposes of the ID Card as promoted by politicians when legislation was being enacted. New Labour’s Home Secretaries took great care to say that the ID Card was needed to counter fraud and identity theft, prevent terrorism or employment of illegal immigrants, and numerous other purposes of that ilk. Now the Government are promoting them for purposes that include “going to the pub” or “renting a video”. Am I the only one who thinks that this appears to be a change of use?
As it is the week of “data protection” week, I should end with a data protection issue or two. The database that is backing the ID Card, the National Identity Register, will contain an audit trail of where the Card is checked to ensure that it is authentic. As today’s youngsters grow up, this audit trail will now supposedly keep records, indefinitely, of where they drank as a student (as well as all their previous addresses and every time their Card was checked). For some reason, Ministers also omitted to say that young adults that the law enforcement authorities would have access to all ten fingerprints provided by them, and will now have knowledge of where they drink, sleep and bank.
Should applicants for an ID Card know this? Does it comprise unfair processing? Questions I am content to let readers answer for themselves.