Thursday, November 06, 2008

ID Cards, Every Little Helps

Rather interesting - if you happen to be a geek, like wot I am - news today on the introduction of ID Cards.

First up, the Government seem to have backed down a bit from their initial proposal to force all airside workers to have ID Cards. Well, Government issued ID Cards that is; they currently all do have ID Cards - issued to them by the airport after they've undergone a far stricter vetting process than the one the Government is proposing for the new shiny Government issued ID Cards. But I digress.

The Register is saying that the plans for ID cards for airport workers are in deep trouble, with the news that next year's rollout has been downscaled to an 18 month trial at only two airports, Manchester and City of London. According to a report in the Financial Times, the Home Secretary is due to announce the trial on Thursday but that no agreement has yet been reached on whether or not the trial would cover existing workers, or only new employees.

According to the FT, Manchester and London City only signed up to the scheme "in principle" after the government agreed to provide a further £500,000 for pre-employment checks for airport staff. Nor, says the paper, is there any guarantee that the scheme will be extended to the rest of the airline industry after the trial concludes. Opposition within the airline industry has been virtually unanimous, however, and the sudden appearance of a lengthy trial at two smaller airports - as opposed to a general rollout across the industry - suggests strongly that the Home Office is losing this fight.

The Home Office, however, denied the 18-month trial was a retreat on plans to issue all 200,000 airside workers with cards: "We made it clear when we published the Delivery Plan in March 2008 that ID cards for critical workers would be 'starting in the second half of 2009' and we are on track to meet this commitment," a Home Office spokesman said. No2ID have said it was a "transparent attempt to save ministerial face" after anger from airport unions and airline bosses.

The Unite union, which represents airport workers, has said staff are already extensively vetted before being given airside passes. Airport unions have been resisting the scheme, saying workers would have to pay £30 for a card to do their jobs. Airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet, also spoke out against the plan, saying it was "unjustified" and would not improve security.

So the Government think it's a good idea, and everybody in the affected industry says it's a stupid and unnecessary idea which will do nothing to improve security.

You can see how this is going to end, can't you?

The Government will claim (but without giving any information as it would "undermine efforts by the security services") that a plot to smuggle a bomb/suicide bomber aboard a plane has been stopped and that they simply MUST improve security by introducing these passes. The airlines, unions and airports won't be able to complain - as there's no actual evidence - and the plans will be forced through.

Thinking about it, doesn't the timing of this story seem just a little suspicious? An MP walks through security at an airport carrying a large knife in her bag and no-one notices. So she reports it to the papers. Yet she's not arrested for carrying a knife? Or attempting to carry a knife onto a plane? Wouldn't things have been oh so different if a Muslim teenager had done exactly the same thing? I digress again, but my point is, that it seems kinda odd to me that this story comes out THE DAY BEFORE this announcement by Smith.

Smith has been busy though, sadly, as her stupid mind has also let her think that we would be far happier giving all our fingerprint details for ID Cards (the ones EVERYBODY will have to carry, not the Airside ones) to the supermarkets, rather than have to go to a special Government unit.

On plans to involve retailers and the Post Office in the ID cards scheme, a spokesman said it would be "more convenient" for people than the government's original plan to set up enrolment centres in large population centres.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) would continue to carry out enrolment at its offices but a spokesman said it also wanted to
"drive down costs using market forces and competition" and was talking to a "range of high street retailers and other organisations". He stressed that security of data would remain the "utmost priority". "Any third party involved in enrolment would be accredited and audited to ensure they meet and continue to meet robust and strictly administered security standards.

"System design standards will ensure that no data is stored locally and that all data is transmitted directly to IPS using a secure communications link. In addition all locations and personnel will be subject to strict security standards set by IPS."
Let's hope that their standards are a bit higher than everyone else in Government, and all the details won't be left on a USB key in a pub car park or on a train.

I - along with a few others - are wondering just which retailers would sign up to this scheme. There doesn't seem to be much incentive for doing so. Both the Tories and the LibDems have said that they would scrap the ID Card scheme, so any company making the necessary investment in the equipment are likely to discover it redundant after an election. Similarly, any retailer involved would surely be the subject of a campaign to stop people shopping there. In the current financial climate, that would surely put a damper on even the most enthusiastic company chairman (no doubt eyeing themselves a peerage).

Unless. Unless there's a HUGE incentive for a retailer to take part in this scheme. Like being the only official supplier of alcohol in the UK? Like being the only supermarket allowed to open 24 hours a day all week? Surely the lure of a peerage can't be enough to entice a major retailer into the moneypit with the Government.


Just seen this on Guido and it made me howl. While giving a speech elsewhere today (hasn't she been busy, eh?) a No2ID sympathiser nicked the glass she'd been drinking from. Her fingerprints will be copied from it, and if there's any DNA on it, that too will be taken.

Not too secure with your data, are you love?

(deep breath)


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