I got another email from Nick Clegg today about his opposition to ID cards. I must admit my opposition to them is much more subtle.
I’m actually in favour of a simple ID card scheme, if it’s seen primarily as a cheaper passport. That is, if one could buy a passport-light which consisted only of the laminated page with the photo and the name at fraction of the price of a real passport, it’d be really convenient, and for people travelling only to Europe, it would replace the passport completely. Such an ID card could also be useful for documenting who you are, for instance when opening a bank account. This is how ID cards work in Germany and France, for instance.
It’d also be useful to have a central database with basic information about everybody in the country – their names, addresses, relationships and so on. This would make it much harder to acquire a false identity (thus battling crime and terrorism), and it would be so much easier to change one’s name or address because it would only have to be changed in one place, and that information could then be passed on to subscribing organisations and companies. This is what one has in Denmark, for instance.
However, if one combines the two approaches, and especially if it’s extended with information from other databases as well as fingerprints and other biometric information, it gets scary. Sure, it would be really useful and convenient, but it becomes far too big-brother-ish for my taste, and it could really be misused by an evil regime. Unfortunately, this is the scheme New Labour want to introduce.