Hard cases

[Dave Birch] I was at a discussion on privacy a while back, kindly organised by Robin Wilton under the Liberty Alliance banner. As always, I found that I learned more in a few minutes of argument with people like Caspar Bowden, Edgar Whitely, Phil Booth, William Heath and others than I would in weeks of reading Powerpoint presentations and vendor white papers. The discussion was under Chatham House rules, so I won’t saying anything about who said what, but I do want to pick up one point that was made because, on reflection, I’ve been thinking that it’s more of a barrier to a comprehensive identity management infrastructure than it first appears. The point is this: I am, in essence, a technology optimist who thinks that clever shenanigans with smart cards and digital certificates can improve society by delivering more secure and more privacy to the general public. The problem is in order to understand why these things might be possible, you have to have some basic understanding of technology, which I think that politicians and policy makers do not. Stalemate.

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