Thesis - The U.K. Identity Cards Bill and the national identity project present potential legal, security and policy implications, which would significantly impact the British society in terms of personal freedom, civil liberties and human rights.
While the Bill and the stated objectives seem reasonable, and a large majority of the general public believe it to be good idea, there remains confusion and apprehension on the potential implications of the Bill to their privacy and civil liberties, not to mention the cost and policy implications.3 Unlike other means of individual identification, the proposed use of biometric technologies utilising biological information, and the introduction of a computerised National Identity Register, which permits users to track anybody, anytime, anywhere, in the modern networked society, apparently present far-reaching implications on the privacy and security of the individual, as well as the society. A research is deemed necessary to understand the implications of the Bill including that of the technology involved, in terms of the privacy and security concerns, as well as to look at alternative techniques or modes of identification, which may be considered by the government for successful implementation of the identity project.
Researchers observe that biometric techniques, such as fingerprint verification, retina analysis, iris or face recognition, voice recognition, hand-written signature verification, are increasingly used in individual authentication and identification systems.4 While researchers are generally in agreement on the efficacy of the technology, experts in information technology and data security caution the possibility of errors including false matches and multiple identities, and the dangers of manipulations and misuse.5
Many researchers, both in the U.K and elsewhere, have studied the impact of biometric technologies on individual privacy and security.6 Researchers like Zorkadis and Donos observe that, "too wide utilisation of biometrics creates general concern for the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals."7 According to them any human physiological or behavioural traits used in biometric technologies are personal data protected by privacy protection legislation.
The U.K. Identity Cards Bill and the use of biometrics have received widespread criticism by policy analysts and academic researchers.8 The report by Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) raises "a number of concerns relating to the human rights compatibility of the Bill"9. According to academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science the identity card bill proposals are "too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence."10 While the researchers support the concept of a national identity system for the UK, it considers the present legislation and the scheme "as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals."11
Other policy analysts also condemn the Bill as an unwarranted state intervention in individual freedom and privacy-Dolan Cummings states that the ID card proposals are in effect trying to "reconstitute the public as membership organisation" 12 creating a society in which the members have to constantly prove their identity to ...
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