I am quite a fan of the current generation of "Get A Mac" adverts. I have found all of them funny and some of them hilarious. Don't give up on Vista is, in my opinion the best yet. I've watched it five or six times now and it gives me guffaws each time.
You may call me a paranoid but I just don't trust the government. It's not that I think they are out to get me, in fact it's quite the reverse. I don't trust the government because they don't give a damn about me at all.
Much like they don't care how they spend the money they coerce from me, they also don't care what they do with personal data that they hold about me. Today it's 25 million child benefit records but it could have so easily been tax records, or medical records or who knows what else. They may pillory the poor shlub who sent the CD's but imagine how badly broken the system has to be for this to even be possible.
Note that this is the same government that say you can trust them to build and manage the National Identity Register which will include a whole range of sensitive, personal, information about us. Of course they will protect it,
just like they protected the personal information (including bank details) from those 25 million child benefit records. So, no problems there then.
I almost crashed my car on the way home this evening because I was spluttering with rage listening to some ass-hat politician talking about how much safer we will all be with identity cards and the national identity register.
The governments record on large IT projects would be laughable if we didn't pay for their mistakes. The national identity register will be a huge project where the potential gains from infiltrating the system will be enormous. And your data only has to be stolen or corrupted once to ruin your life.
Today if your electronic information is compromised it can cause you problems but, in general, your life can go on. Things aren't so joined up that one problem will affect everything else. There is value to distributed identity. Once we have a system of ID cards linked to a centralized national identity register it will get hooked into everything. It will invade all areas of life. It will start with birth, death, and taxes but - coming from the government - it won't end there.
In this world of a national identity register let's imagine how we might fuck with someone's life. I expect that the real exploits will be more subtle and, long-term, more dangerous but let's make it personal:
Let's say I pay someone to sneak into the identity register database and do two things. First I get them to declare you as being deceased, and then I get them to replace your biometric profile with some other, random, profile.
(You may choose to believe it will be impossible to do this. I challenge you to ask yourself why you think this. Do you have any evidence? Who is telling you it will be impossible? Do they have anything to gain by persuading you?)
Now, according, to the central, authoritative, government database you are dead and your finger prints, iris scan, or whatever other biometric they believe is yours won't match you. The next time you go to get your car taxed or visit the doctors you'll probably get arrested for impersonating a dead person.
You will, of course, claim that it's all some horrible mistake. But some smiling official will tell you "The national identity register doesn't make mistakes sir." You'll claim someone has broken in but a blank faced official will tell you "That's just not possible, not with all the safeguards that are in place." And then you'll get carted off.
But we don't have to imagine anything so far fetched as this scenario. Imagine how bad life might become if an accident caused your record to get corrupted, or deleted. It's on a computer; these things happen. Maybe you accidentally gain a conviction for sexually abusing children or your social security number gets invalidated. Try getting that fixed.
Because you see the system will have to be presumed to be infallible otherwise people won't trust it. So it will be infallible and any evidence to the contrary will get swept under the carpet just like it does in the banking industry where, of course, no crime exists.
And none of this even begins to take into account the potential abuses that will come from the governments own fishing expeditions in the cornucopia of data they will gather about us all.
The American and British governments have no compunction about spying on their citizens. The national identity register will become a great resource for them both because, inevitably, the government will start to share NID data with it's friends. It will get justified, at the outset, on anti-terrorism grounds and spread out from there.
Can we not think of better things to spend £5.6billion on? Better yet, let's not spend it at all.