The identity card is just a front, a human barcode that will allow the state and corporations to delve into the bucket of information about us that will be established by the ID Bill, which should be called the national identity register Bill.
How dare the government go on and on about ‘identity theft’ as if it was something new. From the compulsory electoral register, rates & council tax lists and police DNA database they’ve been doing it for decades. Corporations have been up to it too - creating massive debit/credit card and loyalty card computer records that are bought and sold by marketing groups to track our purchases and learn what we buy so they can target us with even more unwanted goods.
So what could be worse than giving them even more personal detail - like every address you’ve ever lived at or every name you may have had in the past - never mind your ‘biometrics’ like face, iris pattern or fingerprints so that all and sundry can use them, supposedly to keep you safe from other people but really to keep an eye on anything you do, and anywhere you go. Once this information is out and sitting in a computer database, it’s hard to get it back –it belongs to someone else to you as they see fit. Even computer scientists admit that a central database is the worse place to store precious data, never mind the Labour government’s plan to make ID information available across the whole state machine and to offer it to private companies which will mean sharing data between dozens of insecure databases.
But it’s not necessarily useful only to exchange scare stories about how children’s information could be misused if younger people get ID through the Children’s Bill, or if a BNP councillor had access to ‘minorities’ data. The government is using fear to sell its ID card and database idea, like they have by going on about ‘entitlement’ (as well as getting hysterical about organised crime and terrorism). This is helping people believe that immigrants and ‘benefit cheats’ are making them personally poorer, when it’s Labour that is actually making it harder to get disability allowances, are hiking council taxes and fees for students, and it's capitalist corporations and their shareholders that are profiting from increasing fuel prices, year on year.
The result, if they win the fear argument, will be a surveillance society that is much more than a police state, but an invasion of computerised bureaucracy into every transaction we make with shops and welfare services – imagine having to have an eye-scan just to buy beer or get your prescription – and, for activists, a much reduced ability to protest in safety.
The Bill makes it quite clear that, at the whim of a Secretary of State, an application for things that we have taken for granted all our lives - the right to apply for a passport, to access our national health service or whatever comes to the Secretary of State's mind will be dependent on showing our subservience to the state. In providing the state with one database on our whole identity, we are giving the state the power to follow us wherever we go. That is what the Bill is about and why it constitutes a deep and savage attack on your liberty and your life. Our liberty is what makes us who we are - individuals and free - not state property to be bought and sold as a commodity of information for exploitation. It was through the work and struggle of people that the long march of everyman secured for us our relationship separate from total state control, but the Bill says otherwise. The Bill says no. The Bill says that the State will measure, identify and control all of us for whatever purpose a Secretary of State so orders.
The Home Secretary is now touting the notion that our phone, email and internet records should be archived for at least a year for use by security services and police. He believes that mobile and internet service providers should create databases containing information on who we email, who emails us, who we phone, where we use our mobile, our account details and the internet sites we visit. The idea is known as "communications data retention" and the national database will be there ready and able to store all this information about you. Rise Up email lists and freedom to express views on Internet sites and blogs in opposition to the government, state, capitalist and corporate interests will no doubt be target number one.
It’s time to get ready to refuse.
If we stand together we can win. Anyone who thinks they have nothing to hide should be very afraid! It’s really much safer to be anonymous, even more so if you want to fight an increasingly oppressive state. In Australia in the face of mass public protests and civil disobedience, the government scrapped ID cards the Australian government had the option of re-introducing the legislation, but did not do so.
At the third reading of the Bill in the Commons it was passed with a small majority of 25, with 309 in favour. Therefore this Bill had one of the lowest support counts and the closest majorities in New Labour's era. Even the War in Iraq got more support. The Bill now moves on to the House of Lords Action in opposition can be effective - it is close oh so close.
What can you do to resist?
Refuse to register.
Renew passports before they add biometrics as this will soon happen across the EU and, after some initial delays, is due to start early next year in UK (Feb 2006) with the addition of a chip containing your digitised photo.
If you feel you cannot refuse to register because you are unable to risk a £2,500 fine or jail sentence there are many other ways that you can legally obstruct the process. Even being mildly obstructive in the “registration queue” and taking an hour instead of 15 minutes will make this whole process unworkable. The legislation specifies a photo of your head and shoulders so - stand with your back to the camera.
Build communities of resistance.
All across the country, people are pledging their refusal to cooperate with the ID registration and people are beginning to organise resistance. Local groups build communities of trust as well as the networks to raise money, organise and promote active resistance. Join or set up a Defy-ID group and use these groups to support each other on the street and in the courts.
Don’t renew things
Try not to renew driving licenses as new ones already require a photo and we don’t yet know where or when they will start to collect the data, which could happen as soon as the Bill is passed even if we don’t fill in an ID form (driving licenses are being used to introduce ID cards in the USA).
Confound or get off government lists if at all possible.
Misspellings and other dyslexic tricks which then go into the data base, multiple registrations etc
It’s plastic poll tax.
Do not give notification of “every prescribed change of circumstances” as the Bill requires. What if you are someone with a frequently changing address, those moving from shelter to shelter or from one rented room to another? In London, 40 per cent of the population changes address every year. If you change your name - opps that another “prescribed change of circumstance” and thank you very much that’ll be a £1000 fine if you “forget” to give notification. Fact is they will never be able to keep up with population movements and they can not put us all in jail – remember the poll tax - that didn’t last long did it?
There will be a discussion hosted by the WOMBLES about Identity Cards and the broader issues of the increasing securitisation of normal life - id cards, bag checks, ASBOs, surveillance, mixing asylum issues with terrorism etc.
This dicussion is intended to discuss practical solutions to surveillance, police/societal control and information security.
All welcome (no tiin foil on the heads please).
7.30pm Tuesday 6 December 2005
Autonomie Club, upstairs at Freedom Bookshop
84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1.
Nearest tube = whitechapel or aldgate
buses, 25, 253, 106
The group meets monthly (usually third Monday) - see Veggies/Sumac Centre events diary for details: http://www.veggies.org.uk/arc.php?output=veg
Come along and help build local action against the ID database and cards!
Some additions for Nottingham, Britain, Europe, the World...
ID cards update: Are we ready to resist? – we’d better be!
Things are moving furiously fast on the ID cards & database front. Here are some developments over the last month or so.
* ID card trials are being organised in the UK. We hear that 'gun crime' Steve Green, Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire is planning to have Nottingham as a trial area for the ID cards, prior to the nationwide introduction of the scheme. And the bill hasn't even got through yet - does that tell us something about whether writing to your MP would work?
* Driving licenses are a problem. The UK's vehicle licensing authority DVLA is working towards adding more and more information. If you apply for a license you already have to have your photo on it and, along with the Passport Office, they have been conducting trials with iris scans.
* Bristol City Council has joined eight other councils who have already voted to refuse to implement ID cards. This might sound good, but this is a LibDem led council. Local council ‘don’t implement’ pledges during the anti-Poll Tax campaign didn't amount to much even when Labour was in opposition – so let's not forget it was the people wot stopped it!
* The European Council has asked their 'Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum' to agree (by the start of December 2005) a set of “minimum security standards for Member' States national identity cards”. These are already drawn up, and include the biometrics that must be used - face and two fingerprints incorporated into a radio frequency chip. Other standards involve making it compulsory for applicants to appear in person, and use of information on existing databases (civil registers, passports, driving licenses). This has been described by Statewatch as introducing ID cards “by the back door”. Don't forget that the US government has already sneaked in a federal identity card by means of the REAL ID Act, based on driving licences and tacked on to a wide-ranging military spending bill.
* Dutch ID card refusers have been fined and taken to court in Holland. A new law came into effect in January 2005, making it compulsory in the Netherlands for everybody above the age of 14 to carry an official ID. Getting stopped without one means at least a fifty Euro fine, which has happened to tens of thousands of people already (many of these children), and a first batch of 250 people was taken to court in September in the city of Utrecht. In January 2006 “all 16 million people in the country will get a new Citizen's Service Number, turning the country into one big jail”.
* In Paris, leading up to the riots across France, ID checks were implicated in the deaths of teenagers who were electrocuted hiding from police in a power substation, because some of them did not have a card. Interior ministry forces continually harass suburban residents with ID checks, scooter checks and racial abuse.
The lessons here are firstly that to build an effective fighting movement against ID, lobbying parliament is pointless – instead we need to strengthen and set up more local activist groups and organise public meetings. Secondly, the move to biometric ID and databases is already happening through passports and driving licenses. Thirdly, it is clear that that the ID cards problem is much wider than Labour's own Bill, and international solidarity will be needed. The Dutch experience is set to be repeated across Europe, and the world, if we don’t put a stop to it by popular revolt and our sharing of experiences across national borders.
For more news and updates read the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin, Resistance. The AF’s anti-ID pamphlet, Defending Anonymity is available on the web from http://www.afed.org.uk, or in print for free (but send SAE) from BM ANARFED, London, WC1N 3XX.
Direct link: http://www.libcom.org/hosted/af/ace/anon.html