Leak of Government’s ID Card Reveals the ‘Forms of Coercion’ Planned

The international whistleblowers’ site WikiLeaks (1) has published a leaked Whitehall paper which reveals the “various forms of coercion” the Government is considering to increase takeup of its flawed ID card scheme. (2) The paper recommends that the roll-out of ID cards should start “with students or other young people in first half 2009″, although the author notes that this option remains “an extremely high delivery risk”.

In line with the varying justifications used by UK Ministers to support the scheme, the paper reveals that civil servants are still debating what the scheme should officially be for, setting out four options, focused on:

1. “Borders, security and police”;
2. “Personal safety of me or my family”;
3. “Access to public services”; and
4. “Proving who I am”.

The paper also sets out how the ID card scheme could be marketed through other government databases. The author advises that “we should leverage existing databases such as the DWP’s [Department of Work and Pensions] Customer Information System to stimulate applications through marketing to target groups. For example, rising 16 year olds could be sent pre-populated forms for the ‘inclusion’ card, based on existing cross-referenced databases, which would only need to be signed and returned.”

Greens argue that the recent failures of Government IT projects and data protection systems mean that this would fill the ID database with junk data and expose teenagers again to the risks of data theft. Fears that UK citizens’ private data will be sold on persist, and the document notes that “The NIS [National Identity Scheme] will also support the delivery of identity services to the private sector.”

Finally, the leaked document points out a fundamental flaw with plans to make the proposed ID card scheme compulsory. It notes that “Universal compulsion should not be used unless absolutely necessary. It cannot be delivered quickly due to the need for inevitably controversial and time consuming primary legislation and would pose serious political, enforcement and resource challenges.” This recognition is a tribute to the campaigning efforts of organisations like No2ID, and shows the impact that their campaign against the scheme has already made.

Greens have campaigned consistently against the ID card scheme and the database that underlies it, winning a vote in Holyrood against ID cards in 2005, despite the Lib Dem decision to abstain. (3)

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“This leak reveals how effective the campaign against ID cards has been, and how shambolic government policy is. The Government is still unsure what the scheme is even for, but now believes that it can’t persuade the public to accept ID cards without coercion and a massive marketing effort. I believe it will in fact be impossible for them to turn the tide of opinion against the scheme. (4)

“The ID database and cards are massively expensive and comprehensively flawed, showing the instinctive authoritarianism of New Labour, and are destined to fail in the way that only Government IT schemes can. Ministers still do not understand how unpopular and ineffective their plans would be, especially if they cynically go after easily targeted groups like students first. Labour can still cancel the scheme at this stage, and if they do not then public resistance will be enough to stop it. Either way it could turn into the political kiss of death for this government.”

Notes

1. WikiLeaks is a site that allows whistleblowers to put documents into the public domain, based on the principles of transparency and anonymity. The site is currently fighting efforts by an offshore bank to take it down. See the Guardian coverage here: http://tinyurl.com/2k2yzg

2. The “Options Analysis – Outcome” is available here:
http://wikileaks.cx/wiki/National_Identity_Scheme_Options_Analysis_Outcome_%28pristine%29

3. See: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/site/id/4394

4. The most recent poll on the issue saw opposition to ID cards rising to 50%: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/1115

James Mackenzie
Media and Communications
Scottish Green MSPs
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP

Tel: 0131 348 6360
Mob: 0790 99 33 074
Fax: 0131 348 5972

Contact: James Mackenzie

Email: 0131 348 6360