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Biometric identitification myths

Myth: The card will not be compulsory

In an attempt to garner support for the identity card scheme govermnet officials stated that it would not be compulsory to carry the identification card.

The government has said very little about the proposed biometric identification system that makes sense and the claim that carrying the card will not be compulsory could easily be just another statement made in ignorance.  However, actually this statement might not be merely ignorant, but actually exceptionally deceitful.

A biometric identification system is really quite pointless unless the biometric information can be checked for all critical transactions.  For this discussion, a critical transaction is not necessarily a transaction involving money but simply an event for which proof of identification is deemed necessary.  Examples of such events might include:

  • Passing through immigration control.
  • Making an official witness statement to the police.
  • Buying a travel ticket.
  • Applying for a driving licence or car insurance.
  • Purchasing land or property.
  • Registering a marriage, birth or death.

However merely presenting an indentity card proves nothing unless the information on the card can be verified.  The only way to verify the biometric information is to compare it with the original which means that it must be compared with the person and matched against the central register.  Now the important thing to note about this is that actually the card is completely superfluous.  What is really needed is (1) the person and (2) access to the information contained in the master database — a card isn't needed at all..

I have seen my card, and my card is me

Not only is the card superfluous but it is actually pointless and useless.  Unless the identity of the person making the transaction can validated against the central register of biometric information then the whole system achieves nothing.  We already have a plethora of identification documents; bank cards, driving licences, and birth certificates.  The whole point of the proposed identification biometric system is that all of the existing means of identification can be stolen or forged or otherwise used dishonestly.  The only way that the biometric identification system overcomes the limitations of these other identification documents is if the actual person becomes their own identification document.  In other words you and the card are the same thing and consequently there is no need to actually have a small piece of plastic like a credit card; such a card would serve no purpose at all.

Consequently the government could be speaking quite truthfully when they claim that it will not be compulsory to carry the card because the truth is that the card is superfluous, not needed, and quite useless.  You will not need to carry a card because carrying an identification card would achieve nothing, but you will still be obliged to provide biometric identification checks for transactions and therefore it will be possible for your activities to be tracked — and tracking individuals is the whole point of the system.

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