Identity Cards in the UK
If the government’s proposals go according to plan, ID cards will be introduced in Britain from 2008. The question of ID cards has created intense interest in the UK, dividing the public into those who are ‘for’ and those who are ‘against’ the idea.
Why does the government want to introduce ID cards?
According to the government, ID cards could be useful in the fight against terrorism, fraud, illegal immigration, organised crime and identity theft.
What data would the cards contain?
Not only would the identity cards contain the name, address, gender and date of birth of the holder, but also a micro chip containing biometric face or iris scan details or fingerprints. This will, allegedly, make them extremely difficult to forge. Details such as race, health, criminal record status, religious or political beliefs will not be kept on the cards.
How much will they cost?
The estimated cost of an identity card varies enormously, depending on who is doing the estimating. Official government sources put it at approximately £100 but boffins at the London School of Economics have suggested that the cost may be as high as £300 – a fee which will be paid by the individual applicant rather than through taxation. Not everyone will be required to carry an identity card. Children under 16 years of age would be exempt and special arrangements would be made for the elderly. It has been suggested that the over 75s would have free identity cards.
What are the arguments against ID cards?
There is concern that unauthorised people, such as hackers, may be able to access personal details kept on the central database. Some people point out that no computer system is entirely secure and that therefore the personal information will be at risk. If that is the case, it may even facilitate identity theft rather than tackle it. Whether the system would successfully counter terrorism also seems to be a moot point for many.
Has Britain ever had ID cards before?
During World War II identity cards were introduced as a measure against international espionage. In 1952 they were abolished by the government led by Winston Churchill as they were considered unnecessary in peacetime.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. The __________ cost of an identity card varies enormously.
2. If the government’s __________ go according to plan, ID cards will be introduced from 2008.
3. The identity cards would contain the __________, address, gender and date of birth of the holder.
4. The personal information will be at __________.
5. In 1952 ID cards were __________ by the government.
6. The __________ School of Economics has suggested that the cost may be £300.
7. ID cards may be useful in the fight against illegal immigration and __________ crime.
8. Details such as race, health and criminal record __________ will not be kept on the cards.