Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The innocent may well have nothing to fear. Yet.

Whilst a large chunk of the British nation basks in the warm glow of nostalgia and low-key self-congratulation, watching Mrs Windsor wave at the Fleet to commemorate Admiral Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805, its government is debating whether or not to build the foundations of a police state. And there appears to be precious little concern about this amongst much of the electorate. The only serious mass opposition to the scheme seems to be based on the realisation that it will cost around £300 per person to implement. However the financial cost is really irrelevant. It wouldn't the first time that a government blew a stupendous amount of money on an ill-conceived, harebrained scheme.

The problem with this plan is not how much it will cost financially, it is what it will cost us in terms of liberty, in terms of the nature of our relationship with the State. If implemented as currently proposed, the proposed ID cards will record the following information on each citizen: his full name, other names by which he is or has been known, his date of birth, his place of birth, gender, address, previous addresses, other addresses, a photograph of his head and shoulders, signature, fingerprints, other biometric information about him, residential status, nationality, entitlement to remain in the United Kingdom where that entitlement derives from a grant of leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, the terms and conditions of that leave, and I can't be bothered with this any more. Just have a look here if you want to see the truly staggering amount of information that the government wants to keep on people: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4630045.stm.

Think about this for a second: do even you yourself even know that much about yourself? The odds are you don't. This is an absolutely incredible level of what amounts to surveillance on the part of the State.

Now there are many out there who will say something along the lines of "So what? The innocent have nothing to fear" or equivalent. Well maybe they don't. Not now. Because they haven't done anything illegal. Not anything that is currently illegal in any case. And maybe this government won't ever abuse this information, maybe it won't use it to keep tabs on everyone. Maybe the next one won't either. But ask yourself this: do you really believe that with that amount of information at its disposal, no governments or part of the machine of government will ever give in to the temptation to use it in a way it isn't supposed to? Perhaps even with the best intentions, just this once. But then you can become used to that sort of thing very easily. And I find it very difficult to imagine that any government, once they have created or inherited such a system, would ever dismantle it. You never know when it may come in useful after all.

Finally, once you have this system, once it's in place and you've become used to it, and everyone more or less complies, and you have nothing to fear because you're not a criminal, some less scrupulous government in twenty years' time may well decide to make you a criminal by making something that you consider perfectly normal illegal. At which point you will have something to fear.

So right now, please all go and plead with your MPs to oppose against this scheme at every possible opportunity. Thank you.

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