Given that I’ve posted a couple of times about Alan Johnson’s recent ID cards announcement, it’s only fair to point you to his piece on the Guardian site today. It certainly refutes any allegation of a U-turn in one respect; the opening sentence is one we’ve seen from every Home Secretary since the Scheme was conceived:
“Our identity, the information that makes us unique, is something that we get called upon to prove each day, when we are opening a bank account, renting a flat, proving our right to work.”
Please, Alan, can I stop you there? Two counter-examples to this assertion:
1 – 2/7/2009: Went to local chartered accountant to see if they would be a good firm to do the books for Future Identity. Needed to provide proof of identity for anti money-laundering compliance (compliance on his part, that is… I have no idea if he’s a money-launderer…). No problem. One passport (already got one), one page of bank statement. Job done.
2 – 1/7/2009: Went to Houses of Parliament to attend Privacy APPG meeting. No need to prove identity. Their priorities are:
- have you got anything dangerous in your briefcase/briefs, and
- do you know the number of a room in the Palace of Westminster?
Having satisfied themselves on those two points, they let me straight in.
OK; in the first instance, I needed to prove my identity, but had no difficulty doing so without an ID card – and I could have presented my driving licence or either of a couple of other photo IDs I already possess. Net value-add of ID card: zero.
In the second case I didn’t need to prove my identity at all, despite wanting to gain access to one of the most protected buildings in the country. I had to indicate my entitlement (and that only in the vaguest possible terms), and that I did not present a threat. Net value-add of ID card: zero.
Of course, these two examples are entirely unfair and un-representative. Normal passport use aside, it is extremely rare that I have to prove my identity at all. The last 36 hours have just been most uncommon in that regard.
Now, there may indeed be people who daily apply for a new bank account, flat, job or passport. My advice to the Home Secretary is… those are the buggers you want to keep an eye on.