[Dave Birch] I can’t helping reading stupid non-stories in the newspaper when they touch on anything related to identity. Hence I found myself reading the “60 Second Interview” in the free London metro. The interview with Freema Agyeman, the actress who plays Doctor Who‘s current assistant and is therefore a major heroine in our household, covers her early career working at Blockbuster. As Blockbuster are often rather lazily held up as a central part of the pro-ID card business case (“imagine how much easier it will be to rent a video using an identity card), I couldn’t help but note her comment that

The not-so-good times were when people lost their temper. At one point, the membership applications got really strict because stuff was going missing. People had to bring in two proofs of address dated in the previous four months. They brought in passports and driving licences and shouted at us that if they could open a bank account with them, why couldn’t they get a Blockbuster card.

Has Freema uncovered the killer application? I didn’t see her at the Public Private Forum on Identity (PPFI) meeting at the Treasury, so I think someone should alert the authorities at the earliest opportunity.

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Hold on, though. If Blockbuster wouldn’t accept a passport or a driving licence as proof of address (which they don’t), why would they accept a trivially-counterfeitable utility bill? I don’t get it. Surely all Blockbuster care about is that you have a valid credit card they can charge the film to you if you nick it. And, as an aside, you can’t open a bank account with just a driving licence or a passport either. Or, in fact, both. As I can testify from my experiences trying to open a savings account in Woking town centre. Nationwide wouldn’t have me, so in the end I just opened another account with my bank, which left me annoyed with both Nationwide and with my bank (and the regulators, of course). I should have read the rules first. The rules are quite clear. To open a bank account you need one of:

  • Option 1. A passport or photo-card driving licence; or combinations of certain official documents such as an old-style full UK driving licence plus a council tax letter or statement.
  • Option 2. If you don’t have these documents, a bank or other financial firm may be willing to accept certain documents relating to your particular circumstances, such as a letter from a government department or local authority confirming a right to State benefits; a suitable confirmation of identity from a young person’s workplace or educational institution; or a letter confirming a person’s identity from a care-home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or a refuge.
  • Option 3. If you don’t have any of the documents required, a firm may be willing to accept a letter confirming your identity from an ‘appropriate person’ who knows you, such as a social worker, doctor or teacher.

Pretty stringent, I’m sure you’ll agree. This is why people joke about the UK being a place where it’s easier to get a job with a bank than an account.

But I still don’t see an ID card as an answer to Blockbuster’s problems (well, an ID card plus a payment card). Surely all they would need is your payment card plus an ID number: the ID number will return your name and address and they can they check it against your payment card and application form.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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