Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Home Secretary to trust sex offenders, can he do nothing without biometric ID cards?

The BBC are reporting that the Home Secretary wants sex offenders to register their chat room nicknames.

What is the guy on? It shows a complete misunderstanding of the issues, the whole problem with sex offenders and the internet is that is easier to be anonymous than identified, and this proposal pretty much assumes that sex offenders can be trusted to comply, or that the forces of Law and Order in the UK are capable and have the capacity to detect non-compliance.

As if.

Of course the deeper, wider, and more well hidden part of this iceberg is the Home Office's ill concealed realisation that its job is almost impossible in a state where there is currently no incorruptible way to prove identity. If we had his Biometric ID cards the police might just start to have the capability.

From the word go identity, from the Government's point of view not Descartes', is based on a foundation of hearsay.
When you register a child you don't need to provide any evidence of the child's unique existence, only a slip from the hospital, it is circumstantial evidence that the child really exists, and certainly doesn't provide any way for the child to be uniquely distinguished. From that point you can get a genuine Birth Certificate and start the process of accruing other "evidence of identity".

On the whole the process would be too complicated and take too long to make it worth the effort of establishing such a "real" false identity, but in theory you could do it, that loophole undermines the validity of pretty much every other form of evidence.

The Home Office have pinned their colours to the mast with Biometric ID cards for UK Citizens, and a giant shared database, well kind of, which one assumes will use your ID number as the primary key.

I can see the attraction of not having to make people enter, time and again, information which is already on record in some other part of the government's big pit of data. Give me your ID number and I'll look it up myself for you, you won't have to fill in forms and you won't have to prove it by sending me stuff because I can verify it with the people I get it from, and cross reference you with a load of other people who know other things about you.

As a citizen I have a Big Problem with this.

I believe that I have a right to certain services provided on my behalf by a government whom I elect. I accept that I may have to prove my entitlement to those services, and that the government may have a reasonable reason for collecting retaining and using this information for this purpose.

I really object to the notion that this information might be made available for any other purpose without my explicit consent.
The fact that we're increasingly seeing proposals and examples of special exemptions to the data protection laws suggest that this activity is truly not in my best interest, those laws exist to protect us.

What has all this to do with on line paedophiles?
Not a whole lot in truth but the story reminded me of a conversation I recently had at work. We were talking, in a "water cooler" way, about the problem of identity verification and I explained the reasons why digital signatures/certificate authentication weren't proof of identity and we wound up with an obvious solution, we need to use your biometrics, to log-on you need to put your ID card in the slot, and your eye up to the scanner.

If I'm thinking these things who knows what is going on in the basements of Whitehall.

Can we please stop this madness before it is too late?


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