11 April 2004
Guess it's time to update y'all with some news. It would seem not all senior policemen are blinded by the Home Office lies: a Suffolk councillor is saying hell no and getting backing from the Chief Constable. On a similar note, it would seem that Canada is dropping their ID card proposals.
Lots of coverage of Blair and Blunkett speeding up ID cards, to make them compulsory by 2008: (BBC; Indy; Telegraph (reg rqd); The Register; PMOS and discussion from DowningStreetSays.org; The Scotsman being more cautious; Statewatch) and an excellent article by Perry de Havilland on Samizdata, which must be the blog with the coolest name ever.
Of course The Times loves it. Shocker. The Spectator is apparently much the same this issue and even The Telegraph is getting a little wobbly. To quote a friend: "GRRRR. I'd rather eat worms than risk terrorism — but I'd only chow down *if* someone demonstrated a causal link between my eating worms and the risk of terrorism!"; my sentiments exactly.
Oh and it seems that my analysis was wrong, they are going to increase the cost of the passport and the driver's licence: (Telegraph; Times; SpyBlog's analysis). On which note, it would seem biometric passports aren't flavor of the month in the EU so much any more; Statewatch comment here.
As ever, The Register has some excellent analysis on why Blair and Blunkett's scheme is a stupid idea. They also have some coverage on an article in New Scientist that questions are fingerprints really infallible and unique? NewSci have done a handful of articles that impact on an ID scheme (iris scans; fingerprints; more fingerprints).
And, for those who are interested, Privacy International have worked out what else we could spend £6bn on, instead of ID cards. I didn't realise 10,000 coppers were so cheap, relatively speaking.
More coverage of Blair's move to demolish the Cabinet consensus on ID cards. Relatively good plain-reportage from The Telegraph (reg rqd) and excellent analysis from The Register. Also, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has decided that ID cards are wonderful. How surprising; it's usually so rare that a police chief advocates granting more power to the police, after all. I never cease to find it amazing how senior political figures like this can seem to have a complete failure in their logic — Blair wants ID cards for counter-terrorism purposes, yet we know they won't solve terrorism; Sir John Stevens wants them because we have porous borders, yet we know they won't do anything for immigration or illegal working. What's with all these non-sequituurs?
In other news, the US are gonna fingerprint and photograph all incoming visitors from visa-waiver countries (including the UK). Apparently Tony is going to ask his friend George to wait for a while.
In growing signs of the Prime Minister's failing omniscience, he seems not only to have overlooked that his own Home Secretary acknowledges that ID cards will do little to combat terrorism — for many reasons, many of which we covered in our Consultation Response to the Home Office (350kb Word doc) 15 months ago — but also that there are still many questions outstanding. To adapt a list from a friend of mine, among other things, we still don't know:
- the actual reason for the introduction of ID cards;
- what ID cards can and cannot do;
- who will be able to demand an ID card and under what circumstances;
- if ownership of ID cards will be compulsory;
- if the carrying of ID cards will be compulsory;
- whether all parties asking for ID cards will be able to see all of the information held on the card;
- the security of the ID cards and the centralised database;
- the form of any biometric data to be held on ID cards;
- how any biometric data might be collected and how much time and effort would be required of that process;
- the ability of the cardholding citizen to view personal data held on ID cards;
- the accessibility of such information to people using minority computer systems, to those without computers and those requiring assistive technologies;
- the ability of the citizen to demand the correction of misleading data held on the ID card;
- the supervision of the centralised database necessary to operate the ID card system;
- whether there will be data on the ID card to which the citizen does not have access;
- the ability of a citizen to track the usage of their ID card and by whom;
- the ability of the government to track ID card usage;
- if centralised data will be shared between government departments, researchers or commercial organisations;
- if personal data will be exported from the country and hence out of the remit of the Data Protection Acts;
- what protections will be put in place to prevent "function creep";
- what protections will be put in place to prevent abuse of the ID card system by future administrations;
- what protections will be put in place to prevent official abuse of the ID card system;
- how the ID card system will not discriminate against ethnic minorities;
- if the ID card scheme violates the Data Protection Acts;
- if the ID card scheme violates the European Convention on Human Rights (as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998), especially as legal opinions suggest it will
If only it were an April Fool's; looks like we have some educating to do. Again. Do feel free to Fax Your MP, if you'd like to make a start.
30 March 2004
Stand.org.uk are one of the signatories to Privacy International's Open Letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (PDF, 117kb); they also released some background about the issue (HTML) and you can also read some news coverage (BBC; Wired).
2 March 2004
David Blunkett released a White Paper on our counter-terrorism powers (PDF, 778kb) last week, responding to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights (the Newton Committee)'s Recommendations. Included in that White Paper, is a section discussing Data Retention and Data Preservation powers. As a reminder, Data Retention is where all users' data are kept for a length of time, just in case they become of interest; Data Preservation is where a specific user's data are kept for a length of time, once an order has been served to show that that specific user is under suspicion of a some crime.
Key points (from this section of the White Paper alone), with our commentary:
- The Committee, in paragraph 51, "can see the case in principle for [Data Retention] for a defined range of public interest purposes".As we have stated before, we do not believe Data Retention is the right solution, as it fails adequately to balance individuals' Article Eight rights to privacy with the state's need for intelligence. As Data Retention involves all users, not just those targets of surveillance, we concur with legal opinions that state it is a clear breach of Article Eight rights.
- The government, unsurprisingly, welcomed the Committee's suggestion that these powers might be extended: "The Government agrees with the Committee that there is a need for data retention for the purposes of fighting crime in addition to the purpose of safeguarding national security. … The Government is considering whether data retention … would be best dealt within mainstream legislation rather than special terrorism legislation."We are uncomfortable enough with Data Retention powers being available for counter-terrorism use; we do not believe that these powers should be available for more mundane use as well.
- With regard maximum retention periods, contrary to the Committee's recommendation (in para 52), "The Government does not particularly see the necessity for putting data retention periods in primary legislation rather than secondary legislation."We are unsurprised that, in a piece of legislation considered too draconian for most European countries and rushed through our Parliament with little debate, the government would like to prevent effective oversight of the length of time for which data may be retained. Primary legislation is more difficult and time-consuming to amend that secondary legislation. That is why the government favors secondary legislation here and it is precisely the same reason that we would prefer any limits to be set in the Act itself. This would allow a proper debate over any change — if the government has compelling reasons to extend the limits, we are sure they will find it simple enough to convince both Houses of Parliament of these.
- The government replied to this point with: "The Committee suggests a maximum period of data retention of one year. The government agrees that this time period is adequate for safeguarding national security and fighting terrorism. However, the length of time data ought to be retained for the purpose of fighting crime has not yet been assessed."If Data Retention powers are to be granted for more mundane crimes, we believe that the time period should be codified to be no longer than that for terrorism-related offences and, in our opinion, should be substantially lower.
- The Committee, in para 53, believes "The whole retention and access régime, including for those access routes not governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, should be subject to unified oversight by the Information Commissioner."We agree wholeheartedly that the Information Commissioner — who is worthy of praise for his concern over individuals' privacy, unlike the Interception Commissioner, who seems merely to rubberstamp the demands of law-enforcement services and the Intelligence Services — should be the official to oversee any Data Retention and Data Access powers.
- "The Goverment does not believe that the Information Commissioner ought to oversee all access procedures including those governed by RIPA. … The Interception Commissioner oversees access requests made under the Regulation of [Investigatory] Powers Act 2000."Possibly because there are still very few people who have heard of Sir Swinton Thomas and his rubberstamp seems to be so effective, we are disappointed but unsurprised that the government would like to keep transparent oversight to a minimum. The Home Office mentions proactive inspection and audit powers that the Interception Commissioner enjoys but the Information Commissioner does not; we see little reason why the Office of the Information Commissioner could not be expanded and such powers granted to him.
- The Committee recommends (in para 55) that "Data preservation … is a useful supplement to data retention, and it should be properly provided for and regulated." The government responded that it "is keen to make the point that data preservation can never be a substitute for data retention. … The Government is quite clear that data preservation is not a substitute for data retention. … The Government does not feel it necessary … to bring the preservation of data and retention of data under a single legislative régime."We welcome a reference to Data Preservation powers, but we disagree with the view that these should be supplementary to, as opposed to in place of, Data Retention powers.
There is no specific means mentioned in the White Paper of how to reply to the Home Office's arguments, so we would suggest anyone who wishes to make their comments fax their MP with a letter to be passed onto the Home Office team.
Separately, our notes on the seventh Scrambling for Safety conference are now back online, after we accidentally deleted the file. Hey, it can happen to anyone! Thanks also to Mat Hanrahan for helping us correct some of the transcript.
7 February 2004
The problem with having a real job and helping run things like Stand.org.uk in one's spare time is that, when things get busy at work, one can get very slack at updating the extracurricular stuff. For anyone who's missed it, the Home Affairs Select Committee are still investigating Blunkett's ID card proposals. Earlier this week, the HASC took oral evidence from some of the civil liberties–type groups — Liberty, Privacy International, The Law Society and The Information Commissioner.
I mailed the clerk of the Committee yesterday and am told that the uncorrected transcript of the session should hopefully be available from Tuesday on the HASC's Reports and Publications page (scroll right down to the bottom). Also, the whole session should be on BBC Parliament tomorrow.
Unfortunately, we here at Stand.org.uk were unable to take up the Committee's invitation to give oral evidence (see above re: real jobs) but, from what we gather, the session went relatively well. The members of the HASC are all rather clued-up, so noone's quite sure whether the questions were hostile or just informed and probing, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. SpyBlog has an interesting post about the evidence session.
There have been plenty of news items over the last week. Computer Weekly, amongst others, has run an article on the Passport Service's proposed trials of ID card technologies and one about the proposed use of privately-held credit check data in identity authentication for Passports. Bruce Schneier (who writes, amongst other things, the excellent monthly newsletter Crypto-Gram newsletter) has written an article for the San Francisco Chronicle subtitled IDs and the illusion of security and there are a few articles (Scotsman; BBC) about the HASC session.
Unfortunately, much of the potential coverage was overshadowed by Blunkett's recent "plans" on anti-terrorism legislation, of which many a dictator would be proud. It's probably worth another quick plug for FIPR's Friends of FIPR scheme, which includes a subscription to their email alert service, with maybe a dozen or two mails per week of news items on privacy issues and the like; most of these links came to our attention from that list.
Finally, we recently stumbled across a very good summary of Blunkett's ID proposals on The Guardian's site from last November, which is a good introduction and has several useful links.
Hopefully, there'll be more of an update on here during the week, once the HASC release the uncorrected transcript of Tuesday's evidence session.
Last minute addendum: Nearly forgot to mention an excellent article on Wired about privacy and ID schemes, mainly about the guys who put together the Swipe Toolkit, to help Americans decode the 2D barcodes on their driver's licences. Very good read.
We received a mail today from the Clerk of the Home Affairs Select Committee, confirming that we can publish the evidence we submitted to their inquiry into the Home Office's ID cards proposals. There was an appendix in our evidence that reprinted an excellent article from The Guardian, by Richard Norton-Taylor, which we cannot reproduce in the version linked here but, other than that, the document is unedited from the version sent to the HASC.
In an attempt to be a little more organised and helpful than the original ID cards report we wrote a year ago, we've even HTML'd this one before releasing it. You can download (or browse) the document here: Word doc (55kb); HTML (17kb). We will disclaim, though, that the HTML version hasn't yet been proofed against the Word doc, which should be treated as authoritative. At some point, we'll get round to proofing it and sorting out the formatting that got lost in the copy/paste from Word.
Happy New Year to you all. We have submitted our evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, though Owen isn't sure that we're allowed to put it on here yet (see para 12 of the guidelines for written evidence), but we have asked the Clerk of the Cttee for permission to do so and we'll put it up as soon as we can.
The main other piece of news that struck us as noteworthy was that The Guardian is reporting that the Treasury wants to introduce a National Population Register (which is, effectively, an ID card without the piece of plastic, as Barry Hugill of Liberty is quoted as saying in the article). More on that when we have it.
More information from the SpyBlog, linking to the uncorrected transcript of the HASC oral evidence session earlier this month. As SpyBlog mentions, this may be of use to anyone submitting written evidence to the Select Committee. We should also plug SpyBlog's excellent resource page on ID cards.
Another month, another ID card story — well, quite a lot of them, actually, so we're gonna be helping start up a mailing list for news summaries about ID projects, hopefully something like twice a month, but no promises; for more information, see the link above. Not quite sure yet when the first one will be released, but feel free to sign up and we'll start mailing as soon as we can.
As well as that, we're busy writing our evidence to the House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee for their somewhat selective "investigation" into Blunkett's ID card plans. They took Oral Evidence last week, so we thought we would link to this helpful summary of the HASC session. Unfortunately, we didn't notice it was being televised on BBC Parliament over the weekend, so you've probably missed that, unless it's on their website. Sorry n all…
As the blog mentions, it's still not too late to submit written evidence (under 2000 words, MS Word or RTF format, by January 5, more details at that link and on the blog). So that's our xmas break sorted, then! :o)
Also, there was an interesting article in New Scientist about how biometrics really won't solve identity fraud. Such a good article, in fact, that Prof John Daugman (who invented the iris recognition algorithms they're likely to use) has written to New Scientist to refute it. Not only that, though, he's lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission! For what it's worth, we made very similar comments to those of Simon Davies in our report into ID cards that we submitted to the Home Office "consultation".
Oh, and our spies tell us that the Lib Dems have referred the "consultation" to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, to investigate the breaches of the Cabinet Office Consultation Code of Practice. More news on that when we have it.
21 November 2003
Good article on politics.guardian.co.uk about the ID cards "consultation" from Ros Taylor, after an interview with Owen, one of our volunteers. The Home Office is still lying about the consultation responses through the portal we set up (and they're not even acknowledging the telephone responses we helped Privacy International set up).
Despite having given us assurances at the time that every response through our portal would be treated individually (which they're now denying), they're refusing to treat them as such. And they wonder why politicians and civil servants don't command the trust they once used to!
We're still making moves to sort out this feeble excuse for a consultation, which breached several of the Cabinet Office's guidelines on consultations (available from that link as Word doc or PDF, English or Welsh). Keep watching this space for more news…
14 November 2003
Due to the Liberal Democrats caving in at the last minute, the five Statutory Instruments on Interception of Communications and Data Retention passed through the House of Lords yesterday.
Privacy International have sent out a press release on the subject, which gives more information about what actually happened in the Lords yesterday. We should thank the efforts of Baroness Blatch and the Conservative and Crossbench members of the Lords for their exceptional efforts to defeat these bad Orders, implementing bad legislation, and the Lib Dems for their groundwork in the Lords before the debate itself. Hopefully, the Conservative peers should be introducing a Private Members Bill to neuter some of the more harmful parts of the primary legislation next session. The Statutory Instruments themselves are available on this site, albeit in their draft form.
It is worth mentioning, also, that one of the five Orders related to a Data Retention régime. A legal opinion obtained by Privacy International (PDF: 200kb) shows that such a régime is a breach of our Article Eight right to privacy. Not only do we have bad laws, but we have illegal ones too.
Not a good day.
11 November 2003
The Home Office has finally got round to releasing its summary of the ID cards consultation. To whit:
What was learned from the consultation exercise?
11. Individual responses, sample surveys, and polling results have demonstrated substantial support for an identity card. Of the 5000 people and organisations who responded formally to the consultation, 4200 expressed a view. Over 60% of these were in favour. We also received over 5000 e-mails from an organised opposition campaign. Over 96% of these were opposed.
12. We commissioned wider research which involved both focus groups and polling which confirmed, as independent polling has done, 80% of the general public were in favour of identity cards, including comparable levels of support among the four main minority ethnic groupings. Similar results across all geographic and socio-economic groups emerged from the detailed interviews with members of the public.
13. The consultation demonstrated that the public prefer the term "identity card" to "entitlement card" and we accept their judgement.
The government isn't only spinning their way out of the overwhelming lack of support shown in their consultation process (thanks in no small part to your consultation responses through our site — which are being denied, in a contravention of the consultation process, about which further action is being taken).
In addition, David Blunkett is holding forth on his ID cards proposals today. There's an article on the Guardian site with some initial notes. Also, there's a fantastic article and analysis on The Register. We'll be back with an analysis of our own, once we've had time to write one but, for now, it might be worth reflecting on the complete inability of any ID scheme to deal with any of his purported aims: "Clandestine entry and working in this country, the misuse of free public services, the issues around organised crime and terrorism". It seems, as ever, that ID cards are still a solution looking for a problem.
9 November 2003
Finally (damn those retailers for wanting xmas websites ;o) we have finished typing up our notes from FIPR and PI's Seventh Scrambling for Safety conference. Our notes (HTML: 50kb) are on the site now. There was a follow-up meeting at the House of Lords last Wednesday, but we couldn't make it to that (see above re real jobs), but we'll link to some notes as soon as we can find some.
7 November 2003
Looks like Blunkett's got his way — in part, at least. The government is going to be introducing a Draft Bill for the introduction of an ID card scheme at the State Opening of Parliament, later this month. We'll put up some more information once we have it. Whilst you wait, you may enjoy some of these opinion articles in the wake of the government's announcement: Philip Hensher in the Indy (sorry, pay site); Alan Travis in the Guardian; Nick Cohen in the Observer.
Whilst the government is trying to spin this as a climbdown — nothing will happen "until the end of the decade" — this seems to us more like everything the Home Office wanted, with a few trials and a voluntary scheme being introduced first, so that the actual, mandatory scheme is delayed until safely after the next election. Cynical, us?
17 October 2003
One of our volunteers, Owen Blacker, faxed his MP, asking about the "Entitlement Cards" consultation — how much longer we're gonna have to wait for a summary of the consultation responses, for example. Well, he got a response, at last, which he's scanned as JPEGs (page one, page two; sorry, no OCR handy). Though it seems to bear a striking resemblence to the Home Office's "Entitlement Cards" page.
15 September 2003
The Home Office has press-released its summary of the consultation on the withdrawn "Snoopers' Charter". You can read our response (Word doc; 130kb), submitted back in June, but we're still thinking about the new Draft Statutory Instrument (Word doc: 71kb; PDF: 66kb), so we'll get back to you with an analysis shortly…
Update, 2003-09-16: The Home Office has just provided us with the five Statutory Instruments laid before Parliament last Friday. We have created a page linking to all five Orders.
8 July 2003
You may have read in the Times (article, leader) over the weekend that there was a Cabinet memo from everyone's favorite Home Secretary leaked over the weekend, regarding the introduction of an ID card scheme (despite the Home Office finally admitting that the overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation were opposed to the idea, see below).
Several newspapers have been quite sensible and seen through Mr Blunkett's rather optimistic, misleading and unrealistic assessment of the "help" they might provide in some areas (asylum seekers, terrorists, benefits fraudsters, identity thieves etc) and have published articles on the subject. Some others (curiously, all the ones owned by a certain Australian-American) have been rather more swayed by Mr Blunkett's rhetoric. The Guardian, though — who were very good at giving the consultation due exposure and who raised some interesting and valid points on the subject some months ago — have been strangely silent. So we wrote them a letter. They've not yet published it, but we'll put up a link, should they do so.
16 June 2003
We've been a little slow at getting this consultation response online, but the Home Office recently finished consulting on the withdrawn "Snoopers Charter" extension to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, that we campaigned over last summer.
As you might expect, we had a few words to say on the matter. Whilst we've not managed to make a nice HTML version yet, you can read the Word doc we submitted to the Home Office (130kb) until we do. Or you could go on to look at the mess the Home Office still seems to be getting itself into about ID cards, below…
31 May 2003
Yes, it appears that — either by having outdated figures, or by counting all the STAND-relayed submissions as one collective statement — the government is claiming much lower (and more positive) figures for their ID card consultation than our statistics indicate. We've written them a letter to find out more, and are currently pursuing a couple of other channels to get an answer. In the mean time, if you wrote a submission via STAND and wouldn't mind it being used publicly by us as an example of the contributions made through the service, mail us at email@example.com. We'll get in touch if we need to. Thanks!
31 January 2003
The government's consultation on "entitlement" cards has now closed. many thanks to the thousands of people who took the time and effort to write a response to the home office's proposals and/or let their mp know about their feelings regarding id cards.
The proof of the pudding is in the legislating, but it certainly looks like you all had an impact. The Government's rhetoric has moved rapidly since just before Christmas when Lord Falconer's over-hasty self-congratulation woke us up.
Over 5000 of you responded to the ID card consultation via this website, of which several thousand went on to use FaxYourMP.com to inform their MP of their concerns.
Allow yourselves a brief, gentle glow of pride… but keep 'em peeled.
If you want to know more, the Privacy International FAQ on the ID Card proposals is well worth a read.