ID CARDS - THE REAL THREAT TO FREEDOM

A shorter version of this article appeared in Vernon Coleman's column in The Sunday People on 30th September 2001. The next day, October 1st, the government responded by announcing that it was no longer going to introduce ID cards.


It was always obvious that the British Government would use America's war of revenge as an excuse to introduce new constraints on our rapidly diminishing freedom.

The last weeks have been full of hysterical hyperbole. Fascism, racism and warmongering are in fashion.

Unbelievably, Blair has told us that we're going to eradicate terrorism completely. An improbable Bush has promised to 'rid the world of evil'.

Newspapers and TV have been crammed with jingoistic echoes.

For years we have been losing more and more of our freedom and our privacy.
Britain already has more CCTV cameras than any other nation on earth. Nothing is confidential.

(The Government and local authorities in the UK have spent £1 billion of taxpayers' money on CCTV cameras over the last decade. There are now far CCTV cameras in the UK than in any other country on the planet. Lots more are planned. A whole industry has developed around these cameras and countless thousands of people are employed to watch the 24 hour coverage they provide. Most Britons seem unconcerned about this gross invasion of their privacy even though there is absolutely no evidence that these cameras reduce crime, reduce anxiety about crime or help solve crimes. Do I need to remind you that despite having more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world Britain now has the worst crime rate in the world?)

Under Labour the loss of privacy has intensified.

Now the Government is talking of introducing compulsory identification cards. Identical to the ones the Nazis used - but more sophisticated. These are not just bits of cardboard with a photograph and a name.

The excuse is that these are essential to our nation's security. 'If you've got nothing to hide what does it matter?' they say.

It matters because privacy is an essential part of human dignity. And without dignity there is no freedom.

If we allow the Government to impose ID cards on us we are taking a big step towards a police state and losing our freedom: freedom we treasured so much that we fought two world wars to retain it.

In addition to finger-printing us all the government plans to stuff these cards with confidential information. The aim is that these cards will eventually carry every bit of information which concerns you: your employment record, whether you are claiming or entitled to social security benefits, your tax records, your medical records, your pension details. If you have a driving licence the details will be on the card. The card will be your credit card, your organ donor card, your cashpoint card and your passport.
Who will have control over the information on these ID cards?

Who will be able to `read' them?

How easy will they be to forge? (Very, I suspect.)

Does anyone seriously think that ID cards will stop terrorists and suicide bombers? (I don't.)

Will the authorities be able to cancel or change the contents of your card without your knowledge? (Cards of this type can be 'opened' or 'closed' from afar.)

What if you lose your ID card?

If you lose a credit card it's no great loss: you can easily get another number.

But if you lose an ID card you can't get another finger print or eye print? What then?

How long before the authorities decide that it will be much more convenient and safer for us all if they put all this information on a microchip embedded in our hands or forearms? (As I revealed several years ago in Vernon Coleman's Health Letter the technology is already available.)

Will ID cards or microchips contain satellite positioning and tracking technology? (You bet they will). What's the moral difference between having a microchip embedded under your skin and having a tattoo on your arm?

There is much irony in all this.

Bush and Blair, the terrible twins, tell us that this war (if war there is to be) is all about freedom.

But how can we be fighting for freedom if they plan to take our freedom away from us anyway?

Write to your political representative today. Tell him you won't carry an ID card.


Copyright Vernon Coleman 2001

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