National identity register

I said in June that the national identity register should be a federation of connected computer systems, not a single database.

Very sensibly, that is what the Home Office has now announced in the Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Register. 

So far so good.  There is one protection, however, that the government has not yet been persuaded to implement. Each citizen should be able to log in, see their own information, and see the names and job titles of every government official who has accessed that data. 

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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1 Comment

  1. I would prefer this information to be spread over far more than three computers, as now:  tax details on one, NHS data on another, police records on another, etc., with access to each by officials strictly regulated on a need-to-know basis and absolutely no cross-referencing from one database to another.  I agree that ideally every citizen should be able to access the information about him- or herself on every database holding it, including full details of who else has accessed it and why, provided that this can be done without broadening the extent of access by officialdom also. 

    But even without such safeguards, I view the whole project with the deepest suspicion.  I object to government owning my identity and forbidding me to assume a different one whenever I choose so long as I stay within the law and do no-one else any harm.  I object to the prospect of being compelled to carry any kind of identification that every bank clerk, hotel receptionist, meter-maid and other kind of snooper and nark is going to demand to see as a condition of providing a service or checking my adherence to rules.  I object to information about me, held on some vast computer system, being linked to every sighting of me on a CCTV camera with a long-distance microphone attached and to every sighting of my car by a licence-plate recognition speed camera that clocks me past, whatever speed I am doing.  I don’t trust any such system to maintain accurate information about me and not to confuse me with someone else.  I don’t believe it will be possible in practical terms to get errors in my entries corrected, even if I succeed in discovering them.  The whole thing is a nightmare.  "So far so good"?  Are you sure?

    Knowledge is power, and power in the hands of government will sooner or later be abused.  Government should mind its own business and leave me free to mind mine, so long as I pay my taxes and obey the law.  End of rant!

    Brian

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