[Dave Birch] If you are in the U.K. and interested in identity, it’s difficult to stay away from the subject of the national identity card, especially now that procurement is about to begin. Today I was thinking about audit. The head of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) recently said in an online webchat on the Downing Street website that most uses of the ID card will probably not involve accessing the NIR and would therefore not create an audit trail. He means “an audit trail in a central government database” because, of course, your identity card is perfectly capable of recording who has asked it for what. If you want to go home and put your ID card into your Sky box and see on the TV who interrogated your card, then you should be able to. This is quite distinct from the issue of the central audit trail, which cannot possibly work in a transparent manner. If you log on to the IPS website to see who’s been looking at your personal details, and it tells you that the police or MI5 have, then you might take that as a sign to leave the country. Perhaps as a practical experiment the government should let non-celebrity status people see who has been accessing their children’s personal details on the ContactPoint identity register for the under-16s and see how it goes.

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Meanwhile, over in Hong Kong, the smart identity card project has been so successful that registration centres set up to get everyone on the new system have all closed down. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Hong Kong but one of my favourites is that the principal of symmetry — if not the practice — is one of the things that makes an identity card work for people. Under the Hong Kong scheme, you can check a policeman’s identity just as he can check yours. I don’t know that anyone ever does, but the possibility is what counts in making people feel that the identity scheme is infrastructure for society and not a government yoke.

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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