11 May 2009

You've Picked the Wrong City, Jacqui

I have to admit that I'm pleased that the government's decided to trial ID cards in my home city of Manchester, because it's almost certain to result in failure.

If this had happened two or three years ago, I might have been a bit more concerned; at the time, there appeared to be more people in favour of than against ID cards, with a lot of people sat on the fence who weren't especially averse to the idea. Now it's a different matter; the catalogue of government data losses have all but silenced the cries of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" and the majority seem to have moved towards opposing the scheme, firstly because of data insecurity and more recently, because of the cost.

Not only is there now a general sense of animosity towards the scheme within Manchester, the city is a particularly unsuitable candidate for the host of a successful trial, as there is a sense within the area that it is treated as an easy guinea pig by the government, because it views the city council is a safe Labour stronghold. This feeling is particularly strong at the moment, following the congestion charge referendum, so the tolerance within the city towards being used as a testing ground for another government scheme is low.

The selling job that's being carried out isn't exactly filling me with a sense of dread either. Take this comment from James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service:

“Many people currently use their passport for such purposes [confirming your identity] but it is not a terribly convenient method, and 300,000 of them are either lost or stolen every year.”

In that context, the inconvenience of a passport is part of its beauty; it means that people only carry it when they need to and put it somewhere more secure the rest of the time. Put people in a position where they use an ID card which they are likely to be carrying round more frequently and I would expect far more than 300,000 of them to be lost or stolen. Given that the DVLA estimated that in 2008-09, 980,000 driving licences would be lost, stolen or destroyed [1], the figures for passports look comparatively good.

1. http://www.dvla.gov.uk/media/pdf/consultations/fees_consultation_2007.pdf

No comments: