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Roger Clarke's 'National Identity Cards'

National Identity Cards? Bust the Myth of 'Security über Alles'!

Roger Clarke **

Panel Notes of 8 February 2006

For an invited presentation to a Session on 'National Identity Cards: The Privacy-Security Balance', at the 7th Annual Privacy & Security Conference of the Government of British Columbia, 9-10 February 2006, Victoria BC

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National identity cards are an extremist measure, attuned to the needs of countries subject to central planning and despots, not to the expectations of free countries.

The dangers of the card are serious enough, but the real focus needs to be on the dangers of the 'national identification scheme' that provides the infrastructure to go with it.

Proponents of national identity cards are confronted by the obligations to demonstrate that:

These obligations are extraordinarily onerous.

No proponents of any national scheme have ever been able to produce evidence that major benefits will accrue.

On the contrary, when proposals have been subjected to analysis, it has been found that:

Invocation of the 'national security' sacred cow must never be accepted at face value, but questioned at every turn.

The title of the session is seriously mis-judged: there can be no reconciliation between privacy and security that involves a national identity card.

Appendix: Elements of a 'National Identification Scheme'

Proponents of national identification schemes like to present them as being something simple and unthreatening. Most commonly, they focus on it being all about 'just another card'. And they promote real and mythical advantages of the card, e.g. it will reduce 'wallet-bulge', and it will provide a single authoritative identification token that every government agency and company will accept.

But such a scheme involves many elements. Moreover, the benefits claimed cannot be achieved unless very tight control over society is achieved. Hence:

Further information is provided on the many elements that make up a national identification scheme:

  1. A Database
  2. A Unique Signifier for Every Individual
  3. An (Id)entification Token (such as an ID Card)

A set of Resources on national identification schemes is also available.

Presenter Background, and Generic Resources

Roger Clarke is a consultant with expertise in strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy.

He has spent 35 years in the I.T. industry, in Sydney, London, Zürich and Canberra, as professional, manager, academic, consultant and company Director and Chair. He holds degrees, including a doctorate, in Information Systems (MIS). He spent 1984-95 as a senior academic. He has held visiting professorships at universities in Switzerland and Austria, and has current visiting professorships in Australia and Hong Kong. Biodata here.

This presentation draws on over 20 years' research, consultancy and advocacy experience in relation to these topics. Papers relevant to this topic are indexed here.

My lengthy list of publications in these areas is indexed here.

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 18 January 2006 - Last Amended: 8 February 2006 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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