Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Living with the ID card: the BBC get some opinions from Brits living overseas, in places with ID cards. Responses and comments from other users seem to be mostly favourable, which has prompted me to think about just what this is all about.

Yes, for the majority of people the introduction of ID cards won't encroach on any civil liberties. Why not? Because they're quite happy to live their life as is expected. I have to keep reminding myself that we do have an amazing society, and I doubt I'd swap it.

As it is then, the introduction of an identification scheme (let's get the whole "card" thing out of the way) poses little "threat" to the lives of the vast majority. Hence the "in favour of/don't care" results reflected in polls. But what does it mean to the minorities, the people that don't want to live within the government-defined system, for whatever reason. This may include fraudsters, terrorists, criminals etc, but no change there. Maybe that's what laws are for, maybe not.

It seems that the people who are opposed to the card, me included, are the people that take issue with how the government (or, indeed, any government) run the country, and where the power lies with regard to making nationwide and international decisions (with national interests).

For instance, I hypothesise that there is a large overlap between the people who don't want ID systems, and who believe that the West's foreign policy is the cause of much upset in the world. And while I may not be overly fond of some of the methods chosen to make a point about this, there definitely appears to be at least an interest in political history by such a group. If we carried out a poll of who knew the history of Iraq/the Middle East to varying extents, and who didn't, would the numbers correlate to the recent for-and-against ID card polls?

So the way I see it, currently, is that the majority of people are happy to let the government do whatever it takes to make sure they're safe, so long as they don't have to know about it.
Unfortunately, this is where democracy turns round and bites the voters on the arse. As citizens of a nation empowered through an equal-rights voting system, we do all have a duty to ensure that our leaders - chosen by us - behave in a manner that is in our own interests. Politics, as they say, affects us all. And while international affairs may not directly concern many of us, the knock-on effects of living in a globalised world certainly do, as we are now seeing.

I think this is my main argument against an ID system. I no longer trust the government to have the ability nor intent to carry out activities for the wellbeing of the general population. Their views differ from mine, given the information available to me and the background reading I have done. What they do makes no sense to me, and it seems that the barriers to entry for getting a point across, however valid it may be, are tied up in bureaucracy and political faff. As such any system that not only has the power and capability to limit my ability to get my point across (along with any of those from others) even further, but also to restrict my access to the services that I need the government to do, is a faulty one from the point of view of democracy.

Yes, the innocent have nothing to fear. But when through technology (including tracking and ammunition) the government gets to define what is criminal in order to serve their own purposes, accountability and the idea of a civilised society goes out of the window.

Any comments welcomed.

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