Manchester is to become Britain’s first ID card city

U.K. Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has announced a voluntary pilot scheme for identity cards. Greater Manchester has been chosen for the pilot and passport holders over 16 will be able to submit applications for the card at post offices and pharmacies.

UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith

UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith

A number of other high street retailers are negotiating with the government to be permitted to take photographs and fingerprints for the scheme.

Opposition leaders stand against the planned compulsory nationwide scheme, calling for the £5.3 billion programme to be scrapped. The pricetag does not include the costs that agencies and other government departments will incur procuring equipment to verify the cards.

The trial is also supposed to be in effect at London City and Manchester airports. This is opposed by the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA), claiming it is effectively compulsory; in order to get airside passes pilots will have to produce one of the new national identity cards.

BALPA general secretary, Jim McAuslan, emphasised some of the concerns of the association’s members, “Like every other citizen, they ask themselves what will happen to the data they are coerced into providing; whether it will it be safe, whose hands might it fall into, and what might they do with the data?” As do many of the ID card scheme’s detractors, he made the Orwellian comparison, “Our members increasingly have a sense that a line is being crossed in the relationship between state and citizen; a sense that Big Brother knows best.”

Wikinews contacted No2ID about the proposal, and received feedback from their press spokesman, Michael Parker. He emphasised that this announcement is not a sure sign that the cards will actually be available later this year.

Regarding the choice of post offices and chemists to serve on the front line of issuing the cards he said, “…it totally undermines the whole idea of the project as a ‘gold standard’ ‘unbreakable’ ID card that would guarantee we are who we say we are.

When any old chemist in Wythenshawe or Ancoats (Manchester districts) is responsible for collecting personal information that is supposed to be private and secure, there is a real chance for that information to be used for fraudulent purposes.”

No2ID is an independent group set up to campaign against the ID card system, and what they describe as the ‘database state’. When Wikinews asked if they trust the UK Government with a database of 60 million individuals’ details his response was cutting and blunt, “I would say ‘Not as far as I could throw them’, but then it would be easy to download 60m peoples’ details onto a CD and then throw that quite far…”

Despite the existence of pressure groups such as No2ID, the government asserts that there is broad public support for the introduction of compulsory ID cards.

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