If you live in Bexley, don't worry, the decision's been made for you – more CCTV is the answer!
Of course, residents weren't offered a choice between cameras, or something else… get what you're given and be grateful, Bexley!
By Alex Deane
Following on from my blogpost on Friday – collating all the various ways in which the government continues to push ID cards at us – it has emerged that the Home Office has put together a blog titled 'Understanding the identity card'.
Some may remember the unintentionally hilarious 'I am Spartacus' video from the Identity & Passport Service that we featured on the site earlier this year; well it seems that despite being a dog's dinner in marketing terms, the IPS has decided to run with their friendly fingerprint idea and produce four more bizarre and deeply misleading videos explaining the project.
The first of the four is handily titled 'Your details will be safe with us'. As you will see if you click the screenshot on the right, they proudly announce that details will be "completely safe". Later in the video the IPS goes so far as to say they have an "excellent track record".
Yet, in 2008 the government lost over 29 million personal records. Amongst the data lost were the details for 25 million child benefit claimants; the Ministry of Justice lost information affecting more than 45,000 people, in some cases revealing their criminal records and credit histories; and the Home Office lost the personal details of 3,000 seasonal agricultural workers – including their passport numbers – when two CDs went missing in the post.
Skipping the maddening 'It’s like having a passport in your pocket' – no, having a passport is like having a passport in your pocket – and 'They help protect your identity' – again, a passport is far better at this. As Toby Stevens, of the Enterprise Privacy Group, argued last year, "in the early days, private companies won't be aware of what an ID card is supposed to look like, nor will they have the equipment to check the cards electronically, so 'flash and dash' is inevitable."
We then come to 'It won't become your life history'. This infomercial begins by saying "identity cards are not designed to track your every move". But then later says "An entry will go on your record when your card is checked – with your permission – against the National Identity Register. This will happen when you do something big, like apply for a mortgage." Begging the question – how is this not tracking?
All in all, the videos are a disgrace. Yet, it is the 'blog' (which you might think bears a passing resemblance to another blog you are presently reading) with Home Office moderated comments, and this three sentence grammar-free buzz-phrase: The new identity card. Fits in your pocket. Does loads – that really irks me.
The new identity card. Most people don't want it. The government has said they're not compulsory. But the Home Office keep spending time and money promoting them.
By Dylan Sharpe
Hat-tip: our friends at NO2ID
A man in Yokohama was wrongly served with an arrest warrant and had his home searched after police mixed up his DNA records with someone else's: he was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Yokohama in October 2007, and he wrongly became the subject of a warrant for an unrelated theft which took place two years later because a DNA sample from the hit-and-run was wrongly filed in the police database.
Luckily for him, they worked out the mistake. Such mistakes are not uncommon.
UPDATE: Explanation from the relevant police department: human error.
By Alex Deane
The Halstead Gazette has reported how the embarrassingly drawn out installation of CCTV in the town has struck another obstacle. Although the four cameras have now been installed in the town, they have been fitted with the wrong type of cable boxes, courtesy of BT.
The Gazette reports:
Halstead town councillor Jackie Pell said: “There can’t be much more that can go wrong.”
Oh Jackie, as if you needed to further curse the system. Consider the following:
Finally, another two fingers down the lens as the Southend Echo highlights that there are often just two people in their local control centre monitoring the 300 high-tech cameras watching Essex's finest.
The Echo reports that residents have demanded more staff to man the cameras; but we think they would have been better off spending the cash on diligent police officers.
By James Stannard
Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens — just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly, I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary
Alan Johnson, Home Secretary – 1st July 2009
We will reduce the information British citizens have to give for the new biometric passport to no more than that required for today's passport. And so conference, I can say to you today, in the next parliament there will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister – 29th September 2009
Following Alex's very well-received blogpost summing up our opposition to body scanners – and a number of new stories from this week – I thought it would be useful to provide a list of the numerous ways in which a government supposedly committed to 'personal choice' on identity has pushed, cajoled and coerced the nation into applying for an ID card.
If you are over 60 and want a bus pass – Pensioners could be forced to carry identity cards to qualify for free bus travel
If you are poor and bank at RBS and Lloyds – Meg Hillier said companies might offer to buy the £30 cards
for people who wouldn’t pay for them otherwise
If you are aged 18-24 and live in London (and want to buy alcohol) – Meg Hillier said People aged 18 to 24 will be able to spend £30 on a biometric photocard that can be used to prove their age when buying alcohol or age-restricted goods or to gain entry to a nightclub
If you are a Premiership footballer or 'skilled migrant' – The Home Office said that from January 6 skilled migrants would have to apply for identity cards when their visas expired. This further roll-out of the plans was brought forward from April
When applying for a CRB check – Millions could be asked to provide ID card and fingerprint data to get a job under new systems being developed by the Home Office following a collapse in the accuracy of background checks
And finally…to prevent identity fraud and terrorism – Alan Johnson: We need identity cards, and soon
And the areas this 'non-compulsory' scheme has been 'rolled out'…
Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Berwick and Northumberland – Identity cards could be introduced across the North-East by the end of the year, it has been revealed
Birmingham and Warwick – Identity cards are to be issued in Birmingham, the Home Office has announced
Cheshire – ID card scheme rolled out in Cheshire
And…our friendly, neighbourhood Post Office – Post Office co-opted to hasten ID card rollout
This list is probably not comprehensive, BUT don't let anyone – Minister, politician, Joe Public – ever tell you the ID card scheme has gone away. The Government is trying every trick in the political playbook to press identity cards into the hands of a deeply skeptical general public.
We must not let them. Go to www.no2id.net to read more.
By Dylan Sharpe
Our position on body scanners has been made clear on this site several times. They're an intrusive and unnecessary over-reaction to a threat (the Christmas Bomber) which could and should have been picked up using the intelligence available at the time – competent use of existing resources, not throwing money at new ones to be run by the same people whose incompetence led to the problem in the first place.
Still, I thought the following bullet points might be of interest:
“They are uniquely intrusive as they allow the government to photograph air travelers stripped naked regardless of suspicion” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC Executive Director
By Alex Deane
Note that I've used the American spelling for Centre as, well, that's
how EPIC spell it. It's not a typo
Related posts elsewhere: The Lift ("legal issues in the fight against terrorism"), an extended, good Washington Post piece and a brilliant article in The Age by the IPA's Chris Berg: New airport security measures are overkill, since the risk of terrorism is already so tiny.