Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Identity: Private, plural and voluntary.

After reading a post regarding security at the Olympics over at The Devil's Kitchen, it reminded me that I had not laid out my views on ID cards prior to a more systematic post over at Roger's Manifesto.

I have thought for some time that if we do have ID, it should be a private, pluralist affair. Banks and Credit Card companies could provide it, or any organisation that is certified. It should also be possible to keep it voluntary - people will use it because it is convenient and those who do provide ID card schemes should be reliable and so the ID itself, if presented, will have value for both holder and checker. Basically, life will be more convenient and cheaper for holders.

I also want to see a 'statement' every month of each time my ID was checked - when, where and by whom. They can do it for my credit card so I am quite sure this can be done for thre'pnce ha'penny by "those already skilled in the art". People like Visa, for example.

This will rapidly allow people to know if they are being cloned and expose routine, petty, government snooping.

The card itself can just be an electronic container for my NI code and a picture of my ugly mug - basically like my Driving License is now. I should be free to change ID card company at any time and demand all records move with me - especially if they charge too much or allow unauthorised inquiries. Information can be permissioned so that each field can be selectively hidden from all except those explicitly identified.

Of course, you will need some form of "Clearing House" to confirm that there are not two copies of you out there on separate providers' databases.

Why the complexities of a clearing house etc? Why not a single database? Well, I hate monopolies. Sometimes they are a necessary evil, but I am not convinvced that a State-enforced, privately run monopoly is anywhere close to being 'necessary' and in the field of ID, it will be an unmitigated disaster for us, the citizens. Holders and checkers need to be free to abandon a company that does not behave itself.

A plural system will enable innovation and manage costs. Witness the competition in the chip-and-pin market. Many providers, each trying to make life simpler and cheaper for the retailers, constantly work to outdo their competition.

I have lived in two countries where I had to hold ID by law - Singapore and Hong Kong. It was most convenient, but then again I knew the authorities had other things to get on with, unlike our current interfering bunch of Sociofascists.


Phil A said...

I must admit to being totally against ID cards up to now, but your post has made me think and the version you propose is probably something I could live with.

Still against the government’s compulsory version though…

gun-totin-wacko said...

Nicely put. I'll have to give this some more thought.