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Chris Lightfoot
Posted on 21 Apr 2006 5:58 pm

"The national identity register will hold much less information than databases that are administered by various private companies, for example credit card issuers and supermarket loyalty schemes."

This is false. Credit card companies and loyalty card schemes do not, for instance, hold photographs and fingerprints of each customer; nor do they hold an audit trail which is likely to record, for instance details of occasions on which the customer visits an NHS clinic or a benefit office, or when they travel in or out of the country. In any case the comparison is irrelevant because enrollment in the loyalty card database or the credit card database is voluntary and governed by the Data Protection Act, whereas Burnham and his chums want to make enrollment in the National Identity Register compulsory and the Identity Cards Act allows the government to circumvent safeguards in the DPA.

"The Identity Cards Act ensures that personal reference numbers which would tend to reveal sensitive personal data cannot be held on the register. The PNC [Police National Computer] number for example, could not be added to the register as this could suggest that the individual had been of interest to the police, or that the individual had a criminal record."

This of course is irrelevant, since an individual's record in, say, the Police National Computer could be annotated with their National Identity Registration Number, and that would make it trivial to connect information between the two databases. The Home Office claim that this policy of "data sharing" will make government more efficient; it will certainly make it more intrusive.

(By the way, while it is true that a PNC number itself could not be added to the NIR because the Identity Cards Act doesn't allow the storage of numbers which tend to reveal sensitive data about an individual; there would be nothing to prevent the text of an individual's criminal record, or a flag to indicate that they had a criminal record, from being added to the NIR.)

"A function of the national identity scheme commissioner [...] will be to keep under review the extent to which the arrangements of the scheme make appropriate provision for securing the confidentiality of the information stored in the register."

--and if the Commissioner reports anything embarrassing, the Home Secretary can use his powers under s.23(4) to prevent those parts of his report from being published, simply by claiming that they would prejudice "national security" or "the prevention and detection of crime". Since those are among the (statutory) functions of the scheme itself this exception could presumably be used to cover any criticism of the scheme's operation.

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