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Biometric identitification myths dispelled

A biometric identity card is unlike other forms of identification.

Many people have remarked that they see no difference between carrying a biometric identity card and other carrying other forms of identification such as a driving licence.  In fact there is a huge difference between the two systesm particularly with regard to their social implications.  Indeed if there were not a huge difference there would be no point having a new system ...

Introduction

In the opening decade of the 21st century most people in the United Kingdom possess some sort of document that is used as a proof of identity.  The most common examples are driving licences, passports and plastic bank cards.  In general we perceive these documents to be beneficial, allowing us to assert our right to enter and exit the United Kingdom, assert our right to drive a car, and allowing us secure and reliable access to our hard-earned money.  We do not generally perceive that our privacy is affected by possessing these documents and having to produce them on demand to police, immigration or bank staff.  This is a fair assessment.

The issue is not privacy, but liberty and safety

A biometric identification system is quite different and should it ever be implemented its consequences will be far reaching and very likely disasterous.  However, it is not privacy that will be threatened, but the liberties that we in Britain have, enjoy and to expect to retain.

Many lessons can be learned from a study of past societies, among those lessons are these:

  • Stability is maintained by a balance of power.
  • When a government or other body obtains sufficient power to have the be able cause oppression, it does cause oppression.  In other words, it is the nature of governments and organisations to become oppressive and it is only a carefully and deliberately maintained balance of power that prevents them from becoming so.
  • When a government becomes oppressive the ordinary person needs to be able to hide.

A biometric identification system will shift the balance of power significantly towards the government and other organisations and thus, history teaches us, oppression will occur.  However a biometric identification system will also severely limit the ability of the individual to hide.

The very system that the government of the United Kingdom proposes to introduce to supposedly safeguard British subjects will almost certainly become the tool that by which those same people will be persecuted and oppressed.

The dangers are here and now, not far away in the future

To date (just after the 2005 general election) the British government has shown no indication that it understands the hazards of its proposed system, has already exhibited totalitarian tendencies, has already practiced deceit in an attempt to persuade the country to accept biometric identity systems and has shown little willingness for discussion.  In short, the warnings signs of impending of oppression are already present.  In particular:

  • The so-called "intelligence" used to justify the 1992 war in Iraq has been shown to be completely unreliable.  On the basis of expert opinions formed in secret and not open to public review, the government led the United Kingdom into a war.  Thousands of people have been killed because the “intelligence” was wrong.
  • The government has shown little regard for long established principles of British justice and has attempted to detain people without trial.  The government has justified this course of action by saying that those thuse detained were free to leave the country if they wished, but while that is certainly an important point it is not sufficient.  If those persons are suspected of a crime they should be charged and convicted in a public court of law.  If they are illegal immigrants then they should be deported.  Otherwise they should be at liberty.
  • The government has attempted numerous explanations for why an identification system is necessary.  The reason so many explanations have been given is because none of them has been accepted by the public, none of them are adequate justification.  The reality is that the biometric identification system that the government talks about in public will not solve any problems at all and will quite likely introduce several new ones or exacerbate existing problems.  The government is not listening to reasoned argument and is not interested in discussion; instead the introduction of a biometric identification system has become a matter of dogma.

So, the warning signs of forthcoming oppression are already present.  The government pushing for the introduction of a biometric identity system is the same government that dogmatically refuses to accept argument, refuses to discuss the hazards, refuses to acknowledge that our intelligence systems have been proven dangerously unreliable, and that has shown scant concern for justice and liberty.  Only a fool would trust such a government with increased powers.

 

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