Australian National ID card end of your freedoms!

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ID card to end paper chase


Reckless ID card plan will destroy nation's freedom

By Simon Davies for the daily telegraph newspaper

THE Government has embarked on its most reckless policy to date in pursuing the idea of national identity cards. The initiative will fundamentally change the nature of government and the character of the nation.

This is inevitable because the modern ID card is no simple piece of plastic. It is the visible component of a web of interactive technology that fuses the most intimate characteristics of the individual with the machinery of state.

It is the means by which the powers of government will be streamlined and amplified. Almost every national ID card system introduced in the past 15 years has contained three components with the potential to devastate personal freedom and privacy.

First, each citizen is obliged to surrender a finger or retina print to a national database. This information is combined with other personal data such as race, age and residential status. A photograph completes the dossier.

In addition, its introduction must be accompanied by a substantial increase in police power. After all, authorities will want to be able to demand the card in a wide range of circumstances, and people must be compelled to comply.

The most significant, yet most subtle, element is that the card and its numbering system will permit the linking of information between all government departments. The number is ultimately the most powerful element of the system.

Such a system, linked through tens of thousand of card readers to a central database, is the conventional means of dealing with the problem of counterfeit cards.

But the technology gap between governments and organised crime has narrowed so much that even the most highly secure cards are available as blanks, weeks after their official introduction. Criminals and terrorists can move more freely and more safely with several fake identities than they ever could in a country with multiple forms of ID.

To make sure people are who they claim to be, the new generation of cards, such as those introduced this year in Malaysia, incorporate a chip containing the "biometric" - a fingerprint, retina or hand scan of the holder. The card and the finger are placed into a reader, and the person is "validated".

Authorities can gain further personal information stored on the chip to confirm the holder's identity. This validation process can be done anywhere - on the streets, in airports, schools, banks, swimming pools or office buildings.

You will not hear any government emphasising these aspects. Instead, the new ID systems are benignly promoted as "citizen cards" that guarantee entitlement to benefits and services.

Five years ago, the Government quietly buried proposals for ID cards when it discovered that they would cost billions of pounds more than expected, would do little to prevent crime, and might become wildly unpopular.

How much more unpopular will they be when people learn that a scan of their body parts will be required?

If an ID card was unworkable five years ago, why would it work now? The short answer is that it would not - unless the biometric were added and the whole system verified through a national database. That is not a card: it is a national surveillance infrastructure.

If such a scheme is introduced in the current climate, three outcomes are inevitable. First, a high-security card will become an internal passport, demanded in limitless situations. (Don't leave home without it.)

Second, millions of people will be severely inconvenienced each year through lost, stolen or damaged cards, or through failure of computer systems or the biometric reading machinery.

Finally, the cards will inevitably be abused by officials who will use them as a mechanism for prejudice, discrimination or harassment.

No one has been able to identify any country where cards have deterred terrorists. To achieve this, a government would require measures unthinkable in a free society.

The Government thus faces a choice. Either it introduces a high-security biometric card that will challenge every tenet of freedom, or it introduces a low-security card that will soon be available to criminals and terrorists on the black market.

Or, of course, it can scrap the whole idea and concentrate on more proven measures to deal with terrorism like looking at foreign policy.

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