ID Cards

[This was written in 2006 in reaction to a then-proposed Australian benefits card, but it applies to any similar card, proposed by any Government, in any country. The card was intended, allegedly, to support access to welfare; in practice, however, the proposal described an identity card…]

What is on the card now, whether on the face or on the chip, has no bearing on what may be put on the card tomorrow, especially on a chip.

The technology (and the support systems) being put in place are aimed at having every Australian more or less forced to have one of these cards. The card can be updated at any time in the future, possibly even covertly, and the system as a whole gives each cardholders a single number that links them into multiple government systems.

What is there about that little lot to give any of us a sense of comfort?

If the Government is serious about this not being an ID card they should remove the photo from the card face. I’d go further and suggest removing all identifying information off the card face, leaving only the card number and possibly an image or code word of the cardholder’s choice. Information in the card should be accessible only with the cardholder PIN. The information items on and in the card should be exhaustively and specifically listed in the legislation. Additions to the list should not be possible at regulatory level, only at legislative level – i.e., changing the list should mean changing the law. Removal of items from the list should not require legislative change.

Any attempt to use or require the card as ID except in direct connection with the provision of a related Government benefit should be a criminal offence, not merely a civil offence. Any attempt to alter any of the data on the card except in direct connection with the provision of a Government benefit should be a criminal offence. Any alterations should be required by the legislation to be communicated promptly in writing to the cardholder. Government benefits should be obtainable without the card, with a beneficiary who chooses not to present the card being required simply to present the same ID required for card registration.

Only if these conditions (or very similar ones) are met is there any chance that this card will not become an ID card and a privacy/control nightmare.

How many of these provisions are in the proposal? Guess…

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