Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Big Brother Scheme Go Ahead

Biometric data trial to establish basis for compulsory ID cards

7th Dec 2003

The UK Government have begun laying down the foundations for a compulsory identity card scheme for all UK citizens, by launching a trial of biometric technology involving 10,000 volunteers.

The six-month trial run by the UK Passport Service (UKPS) will test facial, iris and fingerprint recording and recognition. Each volunteer will receive a personalised smart card carrying both printed and electronic information. Results from the trial will help the UK government build a base for the national identity card scheme which is now almost a certainty. The introduction of compulsory ID cards has been the subject of fierce controversy over the years due to privacy and civil liberties issues. But, despite strenuous efforts, previous Tory governments have been unable to bring them into being because of the extent of opposition. With Nu-Labour picking up where the Tories left off, the current Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has been a vigorous champion of compulsory ID cards and has recently succeeded in getting cabinet approval for their introduction. The Treasury was initially in opposition to the scheme due to the huge cost of the scheme. The general paranoia and fear now associated with global terrorism and serious crime has helped foster a climate for acceptance of ID cards and government databases. This year the UK government gave permission for a database containing DNA samples for citizens whether or not they have committed any crime.

The UKPS intends to begin issuing passports incorporating a chip holding a facial biometric in mid-2005 and the Government is planning to start introducing identity cards on a phased basis from 2007/08. Together with the incremental roll-out of biometric passports and driving licences, this would mean that that 80 per cent of the economically active population could be covered within five years.

Privacy concerns were further exacerbated in early December, when MP's sitting on the Health Select Committee called for big supermarkets to hand over all the data they've collected on their customers via their loyalty card schemes. The MP's argued it would help the government understand public eating habits better, though civil liberty activists argue it is just another government attempt to pry into the lives of individual citizens.

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