‘Does an ID card restrict your right to live your life as you choose? No. Does it restrict your right to freedom of speech and association? No. Does it restrict your right to work or to enjoy your spare time in the way you want to? No. Nor does it restrict your right to go to school, seek hospital treatment, claim a pension or access public services.’
– Labour Students’ Mike Joslin
Reading Mike Joslin’s, chair of Manchester Labour Students, defence of ID Cards it is very hard to not to suppress a sigh: the ‘if-you’ve-done-nothing-wrong…’ line has always been ultra-naive.
ID cards will restrict freedom of speech and association. Many people will be dissuaded from engaging in peaceful protest because ID cards will make it easier for police to store their personal details on criminal databases.
That the Metropolitan Police already keeps private information and photos of protesters for seven years, (people who have not been convicted or accused of any crime), comes of no surprise to those of us in the habit of refusing to share our names and addresses with police officers. The police routinely abuse the powers they already have; I’ve been in a minibus pulled over for a ‘random roadworthiness test’, photographed and asked for a name and address.
The police defence that those who engage in lawful protest may go on to break the law is contemptible. It assumes those who dissent have a tendency towards criminality.
ID cards not only threaten liberty, they are a risk to the person, as they will require a monumental and exceptionally valuable database to which a large number of people will have access.
Criminals may already buy our data; car number plate checks, telephone number reverse look-ups and the like. The husbands of battered wives have bought the addresses associated with their victims.
Access to criminal databases kept by the police has been bought and that may include a list of demonstrations attended.
Major players in the construction industry have bought personal data – including political affiliation – on prospective employers, effectively blacklisting some workers.
Mike Joslin’s argument that ID cards will help track down bail absconders, reduce identity fraud and help fight terrorism is unproven and there is no evidence that ID cards have helped fight these evils in countries that have them already.
Meanwhile, Joslin argues that ID cards will make student life easier as the kids will find it so much simpler to prove their age, but there are already a number of proof of age schemes around.
Should the use of ID cards prove widespread, many people will feel that not having one will restrict their right to live their lives as they choose, to work and to spend their spare time in the way they want to. They may find that not having an ID card makes accessing public services a hassle.
People may feel compelled to take an ID card – to surrender a little of their liberty and expose themselves to risk – for an easier life.