ID cards are used by many countries around the world but the UK is about to introduce one of the most ambitious schemes yet with a biometric card for all citizens that aim to tackle terrorism, illegal immigration, cut spending and other crimes. The government said there is widespread support among the population for the card, however shows the figures was exaggerated and that the majority of people. Underpinning the ID cards will be a central database storing information on all UK citizens, which can be used by public agencies including the police and NHS to check someone’s ID.
Does anyone have anything to fear from being correctly identified? On the other hand, is there everything to fear from having your identity stolen or misused? This Group essay will try to argue the case for and against the issues of a national ID Card.
The Home Office argued that the scheme would result in cost savings by reducing money spent on illegal immigration, benefit fraud and terrorism and from having all data needed by different agencies held in one place1. Research carried out indicates a far higher majority of the public are in favour. Evidence also shows that the benefits of the identity card scheme will far outweigh the costs.”
ID Cards will help the police to be able to track down criminals faster and more easily, the government will know who is in the country because we will be put all on one national database. The biometrics part of the ID cards will make identity fraud harder to commit because our biometrics are individual to each person. The incorporation of biometrics into the new ID cards scheme will increase document security2.
ID cards should be welcomed as biometric technology has already been recognised as imperative, as is clear through international passport agreements requiring its use. Using biometrics for an ID card system is logical to make it effective in the fight against terrorism and crime, in particular identity theft.
The ideas of a national Identity Card has strong public support, opinion polls, consultations and surveys have consistently shown that a majority of the public favour an ID card scheme3.
Home Office polls shows that 81 per cent of voters support the introduction of compulsory identity cards. Fifty-six per cent voters also agree that ID cards will help Britain fight terrorism than agree that ID cards would not make a difference.
One could argue that the Identity Cards Scheme will help employers to check that people in positions of trust are who they say they are’. ID cards will help tackle illegal working, abuse of the immigration system, and fraudulent use of free public services all of which can undermine people’s belief in a fair distribution of the UK’s burdens and benefits4, and thereby undermine communities
Home Secretary Charles Clarke stated, “Being able to prove who we are is a fundamental requirement in modern societies. A national ID card will be a robust, secure way to establish that identities are real, not fabricated.”
Right across the world there is a drive to increase document security with more secure biometric passports. ID cards will build on this with little extra cost, but with many additional benefits.
ID cards are not a threat to people. To a certain extent, our liberties will be strengthened if we are able to protect our own identity and live in safer and more secure communities.
In addition, ID cards could have helped the police identify and catch the perpetrators of the London bombings, thereby preventing them from committing further atrocities. The Times May 31, 2005.
However, introducing identity cards will also have its drawbacks. It is currently suffering from much disapproval by the public, as polls also discovered public hostility to the controversial scheme is soaring.
ID cards as a measure would be too costly in terms of both expenditure and, more importantly, civil liberties. It is felt that ID cards would do little to enhance our security, but instead would merely undermine individual freedom and be used to discriminate against society’s minorities.”
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said several aspects of plans for ID cards could give the police new scope to victimise blacks and Asians. “There is scope for police officers to use ID cards to inconvenience ethnic minorities unnecessarily, and authorities in France and Germany have been accused of discriminating against ethnic minorities with on the spot requests for ID cards even where this is forbidden”5.
In terms of underlying reasons for the cards’ introduction, arguably, this has not been answered satisfactorily by Politician. There have been various talks about “it’ll stop terrorism”, which of course it will not. Even David Blunkett has said, “Only 35% of
terrorists had false identities”, meaning that most people who turn out to be terrorists use their legitimate identities. In addition, if they are suicide bombers or similar, then knowing who it was for ‘next time’ will not really help6.
Moreover, it was argued by the USA Senate and Priminister Blair that ID cards can assist in the ‘war on terror’, however, Mohammed Atta and others connected with 9/11 were in the US as legal citizens before carrying out their attack. This, one could argue, is just an excuse to try to get everyone behind what is a blatant mass invasion of privacy.
In addition, Spain’s ID cards did not prevent the Madrid atrocities. Stella Rimington, the ex-head of MI5, says, “I don’t think that anybody in the intelligence services would be pressing for ID cards”. Also, relying on one form of ID may well make problems worse7, both America and Australia have far worse problems of identity theft than the UK because both of them rely on a single, widely used, identity number.
The Government argues that compulsory National ID Cards will cut benefit fraud; this is a very misleading claim. It is true that there is a huge amount of benefit fraud. It is false to suggest the ID Cards will wipe this out.
The Inland Revenue argued that, most benefit fraud is not identity fraud. Instead, it comes from people claiming benefit whilst actually working or otherwise lying about their circumstances. Identity Cards will do nothing to prevent this8.
David Davis (MP) argued that ID card would create”surveillance from cradle to grave Britain”. Liberal Democrats said the plans would “not help fight terrorism9.”
In Conclusion, Public support is based on a false understanding of ID cards; the public lack knowledge of how the system would work, particularly the National Identity Register database that would hold detailed personal data.
Weighing up the risks and benefits of identity cards is hard as it is a very complicated issue. You do not have to be absolutely for or against the plans in order to see the advantages and disadvantages. Many people do not object to identity cards in principle but have serious reservations about how they are implemented, for example, you may want to make sure that while it should be compulsory to have identity cards, it should not be compulsory to carry them.
The Identity Cards Scheme may help employers to check that people in positions of trust (e.g. nannies, child minders, carers for the elderly) are who they say they are’, it might help to also tackle terrorism and other crimes, however this may both be financially costly and invade on peoples life styles.
The questions we all should be asking is why should we trust complete strangers with our personal data? In addition, why cannot the government look for alternatives to strike a balance between security and civil liberties?
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