Pessimism over new technology must end

Brian Glick, editor of Computing, writes in his diary column:

Clearly, nobody wants to see George Orwell proved right. Privacy and personal freedom are fundamental tenets of our society and should never be compromised. But surely, adhering to knee-jerk reactions to any new technology that could be perceived as potentially infringing these rights is every bit as much of an example of the totalitarian tendencies that Orwell’s 1984 was all about.

The only difference is that the jerking knee means the agenda is being controlled not by an intrusive state but by a reactionary minority with their own agenda and political dogma.

I have often heard the argument that the danger with something like identity cards is how do we know a future government might not want to use the information in ways we can not foresee.

Frankly, if we find ourselves with a government that thinks that way, ID cards will be the least of our worries.

Gov. resists ID card scrutiny

Mark Ballard writes in The Register:

The Office of Government Commerce has appealed against an order by the Information Tribunal that it must publish official documents that assess the justification for the government’s identity card scheme.

Meanwhile, speculation over Prime-Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown’s support for the programme has been see-sawing for lack of any real substance.

The clerk of Mr Robin Tam QC, the OGC’s legal representative, ran round to the high court this morning to file the office’s appeal against an order given by the Information Tribunal on 3 May that it should publish the Gateway Reviews it had performed on the identity card scheme in 2003 before the project was given official approval.

The OGC refuses to publish Gateway Reviews on the grounds that their disclosure would discourage their contributors from making truthful submissions to the process. Aside from giving a traffic-light indication of a project’s health, early Gateways give an indication of whether a project is likely to succeed, what it would cost and so on.

The feasibility of the identity card project – including its likely cost – has been one of the main arguments used by opponents of the scheme. The government is regularly accused of underestimating the challenges it faces getting the scheme running.

Brown should back open government

The FT leader-writer has learned that The Office of Government Commerce is to appeal to the High Court over the Information Tribunal’s ruling that the ID Cards gateway review should be published, and disapproves:

[The] tribunal found that while a “safe space” may be needed for a time to conduct such reviews, the passage of time leads to the public interest in disclosure outweighing that. On a project as critical and controversial as ID cards, that is clearly the case. It is to be hoped that the High Court, too, sees it.

Assaults on our liberty will spark a real crisis

Ian Bell writes in The Herald:

This is the most surveilled – apologies for the grotesque verb – society in the western world. Anonymity, discretion, a private life are no longer permitted. We have cameras like a voyeurs’ orgy on every village lamppost and a data file for every subject in every Tesco. We will shortly endure identity cards, bio-specific plastic parasites to match our store cards, without which ordinary life will become impossible. Loyalty, then, with bonus points, for all. And will we be more safe?