Just over a month ago, I wrote a piece about the ever increasing amounts of data collection happening. As I suspected would occur, the ID card debate has recently got another push along from the Australian government. At the same time, the British government’s plans for an ID card have been knocked back by their Upper House.
Suggesting an ID card is needed to fight terrorism sounds to me to have about the same value as plastic knives on an aircraft – to quote Amanda Vanstone, “to make people feel better as opposed to actually achieve an outcome.” Setting up a universal ID card system will also cost rather a lot more than a truckload of plastic knives and has much greater privacy risks.
My post last month also raised concern about the prospect of our governments having access to material such as Google search data. This seems to have come one step closer, with a story that the US Justice Department’s has subpoenaed Google for “data about every internet search during a one-week period.”
While it appears the immediate intent of the US government in this case – to try to protect children online – is laudable, I fear the wider consequences could be a huge negative. Internet users in places as diverse as Iran and China already know what it means to have governments watching all online behaviour. The negatives of our governments being able to trawl widely through that sort of information would far outweigh any positives.
ADDENDUM: As many readers would know, the Liberal Party that is currently considering introducing an ID card in Australia is the same Liberal Party (also led at the time by John Howard) that opposed the Australian Labor Party government’s attempt to do the same thing in 1987. In a good example of how politics can be very similar in different countries, I found this quote from 1995 by Tony Blair, then Labour Party leader of the Opposition in the UK:
“Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities”