ID systems / Privacy and mass surveillance

Liberty responds to Government’s “digital ID cards” plans

Posted on 02 Sep 2020

Liberty has responded to Government plans to create a national digital ID system, widely likened to a digital form of ID cards.

Responding to the plans, Gracie Bradley, Liberty’s Policy and Campaigns Manager, said:

“The Government has given us plenty of reasons to be wary of its digital projects. Recent months have seen backtracks over the planned contract tracing app and exams algorithm, and only last year the Home Office had to apologise to EU nationals and Windrush citizens in the space of a week for data breaches.

“National digital ID systems tend to rely on creating huge central databases, meaning all of our interactions with the State and public services can be recorded. This personal data could then be accessed by a range of Government agencies or even private corporations, potentially in combination with other surveillance technologies like facial recognition.

“This digital ID proposal would resurrect the failed and expensive experiment by the Labour Government in 2006 when it tried to introduce ID cards. The difference is, this version is likely to be even more intrusive, insecure and discriminatory than last time round, while making it harder for some people to access essential services.

“The pandemic has laid bare the many urgent issues in society the Government should prioritise – an expensive and unjustified ID scheme that threatens our rights isn’t one of them.”

A national ID cards system was unsuccessfully promoted by the Labour Government in 2006, until the proposal collapsed in the face of campaigning from Liberty and others. By the time the Identity Cards Act 2006 was scrapped in 2010, the cost to the public purse was already £4.6 billion. Research from the LSE estimated that the true overall cost of the scheme would have been in the range of £10.6 billion and £19 billion over ten years.

As recently as April 2019, Government Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said “The introduction of identity cards would be prohibitively expensive and would represent a substantial erosion of civil liberties.”

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