MadTV: The journal

200th Post for Madtv
20/02/2007
I haven't blogged for ages and if anyone cares I'm sorry. It's just that I managed to give myself "bloggers block" by realising it was my 200th post and deciding that I'd put up a special post to mark the occasion. After waiting ages for inspiration to hit me I've instead been prodded into anger on a subject dear to my heart. So oddly my 200th post will be political.

Some time ago I signed a petition on the governments website that asked for the ID card scheme to be abolished. I thought no more of it and I was well aware that no one would take any notice of it. Imagine then my surprise when good old Tony Blair emailed everyone who signed the petition after it closed.
Here's the transcript of the email :

The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.

But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder.

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.

The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.

Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.

The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.

As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Now I could happily go through point by point of Tony's email pointing out for instance that over 70% of terrorists are believed to operate under their real identities, I could talk about the reasons why I don't believe the government's cost analysis - instead preferring the LSE's less biased estimate, how I don't believe ID cards will make more than a token difference in the cause of crime or immigration but this post would end up an even more unwieldy than it already is. It's easy to point out that ID theft is seen to rise in countries that implement single ID system and very true that biometric technology has serious issues. Instead I will answer the tone of the letter because this is what upsets me the most.

Mr Blair I object to your patronising attempt to explain why I am wrong. What we - the objectors to ID cards - are trying to tell you is that we understand your viewpoint and we understand why you want ID cards (I like to think we even understand the unspoken motives you and your party have on this issue). What we were saying to you via the petition is that we understand but that you are wrong, very, very wrong.
Wrong because you don't really understand security.
Wrong because you use the terror threat - out of all proportion - to remove this country's civil liberties.
Wrong because you don't understand biometrics very well.
Wrong because your government has never delivered a large scale working IT project successfully.
Wrong because you can't even tell HOW these miracle card will stop terrorism/crime/illegal immigration - sure you say it will but you falter when asked about the actual way in which it will help.
Wrong because you are shackling this country with a system that will be ripe for future abuse.
Wrong because you make the establishment of a police state in Britain so much easier.

Mad

Gone Away
Jolly decent of him to reply personally to you though, Mad. I guess it took him so long to get round to you because of all those other 27,999 people he had to write to...
Date Added: 21/02/2007

Gone Away
Oh and congrats on your 200th post! Nearly forgot in all the political uproar. :D
Date Added: 21/02/2007

Mad
Cheers Dad I know I'm not prolific but I am a little bit proud that I've been blogging for nearly four years now.
Date Added: 21/02/2007

Mick
I don't know, you don't blog for ages then you come back with a post so friggin long I haven't got time to read it!.

I got an e-mail as well because I signed the "we-all-really-hate-the-idea-of-road-pricing-but-we-know -you're-going-to-ignore-us-and-do-it-anyway" petition. I haven't read that either.
Date Added: 22/02/2007

Mad
Yeah I know it's far too long for the average blog post Mick but hey after not post for 12 weeks I feel I can do a longer one...

Do you like my new header images? :D
Date Added: 22/02/2007

keeef
George Orwell was an arse. He was at least 25 years to early. No trade unions. No rights to wander about without being watched. No rights in your work place. Charge people to use the roads they paid for so only the rich can drive down them. Anyone would think we were going backwards in time. Why dont we just have signs like we did back in the fifties then we wouldn't need all these counter measures. One at heathrow saying 'No terrorists' like landladys used to have with'no irish' on them. That would solve the issue once and for all. Does this idiot really believe that at an al qaeda terrorist camp they sit about gluing on fake beards and plastic noses? If thats what they get up to why the fuck are we attacking them? we should just employ someone to tug peoples beards as they come through customs.
Date Added: 23/02/2007

Mad
I hope Nu-Labour doesn't get wind of this idea Keef, there'll be an official beard-tugger at every airport in the land set up under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Criminal Beards which will inexplicably use 100000 billion pounds to run...
Date Added: 23/02/2007

TheFractalCat
I wanna job as Beard-Tugger at Heathrow. Ohhh the fun of it!

I echo all about the Wrongness you mention. But Mr. Blair just is NOT going to listen. His ego will stand in the way. We will soon have giant pictures of him all over the place with captions saying how right he is and as much as he sees what others say - He alone is right so get used to it.

200 blogs....? I have some catching up to do!

afc
Date Added: 24/02/2007

Mad
Hi Fractal,
Nice to see you over here. I agree Blair listens to no one but himself; Iraq proved that.
Date Added: 24/02/2007

gices
Hi Mad

I came here a while back when i was looking for some inspiration on blogging. It took me ages to do my blogging site and it's still incomplete, lol. Anyway I like your background image for the comments (comment_bg.jpg) and i've tried it on my blog (http://blog.gices.co.uk). So i was gonna ask you if it's alrite with you for me to use it? If not, i'm gonna take it off.

Thanks,
Gices
Date Added: 27/02/2007

Mad
Hi Gices,

thanks for your comment. I'm more than happy for you to use my comments background. It's very nice that you asked. I had a look round your site and your blog and I must say they're really nice; good semantic mark-up, really nice layouts and images.

Cheers :D
Date Added: 27/02/2007

gices
Hi Mad

Thanks a lot for letting me use the comment background image. Much appreciated! And it's very kind of you for your positive feedback :)

Gices
Date Added: 28/02/2007

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