Home Secretary David Blunkett announced the start of a six month consultation in Parliament today on plans by the government to introduce "entitlement cards" (that's ID cards to you and me).
Lobby group Privacy International reckons the proposal for a national identity card has little to do with the government's stated objectives of reducing the threat of crime, terrorism and illegal immigration. Its real purpose is part of a broader objective outlined in the Cabinet Office report "Privacy & Data Sharing" to create a new administrative basis for the linkage of government databases and information systems.
But worse, the government's ID card plan could backfire and become a tool for criminal syndicates, according to Privacy International which argues that
a national ID card- whether voluntary or mandatory - will compound problems of illegal immigration, fraud and identity theft.
The pressure group argues that national identity cards initiatives have no effect on the reduction of crime or fraud, but introduce additional problems of discrimination, criminal false identity and administrative chaos.
According to Simon Davies, Privacy International's Director, criminals now have access to technology almost as sophisticated at that used by governments so that "even the most highly secure cards are available as blanks weeks after their introduction.
"The ramifications of an ID card conform to the dynamics of the black market economy. Whenever governments attempt to introduce an ID card, it is always based on the aim of eliminating false identity," Davies said.
"The higher the stated 'integrity' (infallibility) of a card, the greater is its value to criminals and illegal immigrants. A high-value card attracts substantially larger investment in corruption and counterfeit activity. The equation is simple: higher value ID equals greater criminal activity."
The government says a national ID card will combat the growing problem of identity theft, in which a person's identity is fraudulently acquired for criminal purposes. It is a huge problem in the US, made all the worse because of the ubiquitous Social Security Number. Critics of national ID proposals in the US have warned that any central ID number massively increases the incidence of identity theft. Privacy International supports this view, and predicts that any national ID system will increase identity theft in the UK to US proportions. ®