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