A Comment on the UK National ID Card Program

An amusing Flash animation featuring a musical opinion of Clarke's proposed UK national ID card.

Posted on July 4, 2005 at 9:16 AM • 19 Comments


hmmmJuly 4, 2005 11:02 AM

Why don't you use today to comment on American security issues instead of British ones?

The latest IE exploit in the wild is a good one to start with.

PaulJuly 4, 2005 11:14 AM

Well, how about comparing and contrasting US National (Federal) Drivers License standards and the UK National Personal Information Database (and associated ID card)? Or the US implementation of biometrics in passports, how well that programme is going, and what this means for a UK ID card roll-out?

One interesting aspect of the UK debate is that the population at large seem to be more concerned about the potential cost of the cards than the alleged affect on civil liberties.

I predict the UK Database and ID cards will be rolled out, botched, be very expensive, and the next government will promise to 'review' it, but carry on with it anyway.

...and given it is July 4th, how successful woud the War of Independence have been without French help? (Note that the French model of ID cards seems to be more intelligantly worked out)

DavidJuly 4, 2005 12:04 PM

America is a great country that managed -- mysteriously, I suppose -- to grow powerful and rich without any such national IDs. Apparently, its greatness has run its course and cannot proceed without documenting its people, tracking their whereabouts, etc.

America used to be the home of the brave. Now everything makes Americans afraid, including miserable tyrants afar and its people at home.

JJuly 4, 2005 12:52 PM

Brilliant piece of work, thanks for publicising it. WS Gilbert would have been very pleased!

ArikJuly 4, 2005 1:22 PM

This is great - I love it.

We need more of those - this is exactly the way security can be explained to the lay person. Long speeches about how bad it is to lose our privacy just don't work.

-- Arik

Davi OttenheimerJuly 4, 2005 1:49 PM

Brilliant! A fine entry for Independence Day.

Only thing missing is the benefit of audience participation, ala London's famous Pantomime acts. Singing along in a cube and bouncing popcorn off the monitor just doesn't have the same effect...perhaps this will have a run in one of the theatres this winter?

And in the spirit of British humor, I wonder if anyone will be establishing a "Commonwealth State of Nonentities" to issue independently valid ID cards?

MikeJuly 4, 2005 5:39 PM

Hmmm: Why would an IE exploit be an American only issue?

Paul, I couldn't agree more with your prediction of how the ID card scheme will pan out over here. I also agree about the French help to the American revolution .. hehe. One good thing about it was that we then learned how not to manage a colony and managed to keep hold of the others. Perhaps another bad thing was allowing all our religious zealots to go there ... look where that's got the world!!

Bruce SchneierJuly 4, 2005 7:55 PM

"Why don't you use today to comment on American security issues instead of British ones?"

I thought I was commenting on American security issues. And, as someone else noticed, I thought this was a good Independence-Day post.

Bruce SchneierJuly 4, 2005 7:56 PM

"Well, how about comparing and contrasting US National (Federal) Drivers License standards and the UK National Personal Information Database (and associated ID card)? Or the US implementation of biometrics in passports, how well that programme is going, and what this means for a UK ID card roll-out?"

It's a holiday. That sounds too much like work.

HarryJuly 4, 2005 8:16 PM

"Why don't you use today to comment on American security issues instead of British ones?"

#1: Since an amendment committing the US government to creating ID card was tacked onto a recent (appropriations?) bill in the US -- and was passed, iirc -- the experience of the UK in this matter, and the responses and actions of its population, might suddenly have great relevance to Americans.

#2: Not only Americans read this blog.

#3: The experiences of other countries with security matters is of relevance to everyone. We all have plenty to learn from each other's successes, mistakes, and failures. America is not the centre of the universe.

JarrodJuly 5, 2005 11:49 AM


I believe the amendment to which you refer is the Real ID Act, which was discussed at length (and then some) here. It doesn't create a true national ID, but sets standards for state-issued driver's licenses and IDs to allow them to be recognized by the federal government for such purposes as passport issuance, border access, and boarding planes. I realize it's something of a semantic difference, but there are ways that the states can opt out, in part or in total.

jammitJuly 5, 2005 12:04 PM

PUPPIES! HOW CUTE! But seriously, I didn't know we weren't the center of the universe (thanks Harry for pointing that out :-) . To this day, I don't know what exactly a national ID would do. It would be silly, in my opinion, to put it anywhere except in a safe deposit box, forget putting it in my wallet. Too much info in one little package. Perhaps someone out there in a non US country who do have a nat'l ID could let us (and US) know what it's used for. Like buying beer, or a replacement for a drivers license.

jammitJuly 5, 2005 1:45 PM

Ahhh, I forgot to follow the money ;-) . I would like to ask another question, who is using a nat'l ID system now and how does it work for them? I will do a google on it, but I could use input from those who are actively using it.

HarryJuly 5, 2005 2:24 PM


Well, that doesn't sound so bad - unlike ours. See: http://musingsofharry.blogspot.com/2005/06/... for a fairly "Schneier-based" blog post about it.

As for what a national ID would actually do, or rather, could actually do... it does have some advantages. It would make access to welfare and government services easier. It could be a tremendous help to law enforcement - everyone's fingerprints would be on file. These advantages, however, are just nowhere near worth the cost - financially or socially.

There's a public meeting next week near where I live, held by No2ID (a campaign group), to which I'll be going. I hope any other British readers will get involved in the campaign in their area. I really do think that it's terribly important.

RobbieJuly 5, 2005 3:21 PM

For those interested, the LSE report on the UK Id cards proposal is here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/...
In addition to a critique, it has a couple of very interesting sections (18 & 19) towards the end proposing an alternative solution that could do with some analysis itself...

Davi OttenheimerJuly 5, 2005 6:06 PM

"Increase the profits of a few companies."

Indeed, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, a mandate/standard can actually spur competition and innovation. But according to the Register this system is headed in the opposite direction (little/no innovation coupled with high-profit opportunities):


"As far as Government departments are concerned, one can envisage the National Identity Register as acting as a kind of gatekeeper deriving an income per transaction, while the consequent increasing 'popularity' of the ID scheme will mean the number of transactions will steadily increase. On the evidence of Blair's press conference, the Government may also be looking at online services as a potential source of income, despite the fact that a biometric ID card isn't a lot of use online."

pigletJuly 6, 2005 4:10 PM

Can anybody comment on how the planned British ID system differs from that of other countries where national IDs have already been in place for a long time? It appears that the UK government is keen to establish one national mega-database with all the data. This isn't the case in Germany, and I think it would even be judged unconstitutional (alas, Her Majesty's subjects must do without a constitution). Anybody knows how this is handled in other countries?

The cost of the German ID is 8 EUR, and of a passport, 26 EUR. Why should the British version be so expensive?

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