How I learned to stop worrying and love identity assurance

Toby Stevens writes on his blog at Computer Weekly:

Like many, the National Identity Scheme radicalised me. It provoked me into speaking out against the government, something which I had never considered before. As I worked with the likes of the London School of Economics, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and (oddly) the Identity & Passport Service, I believed I’d channelled my inner privacy advocate. But over time I came to realise that in fact my objections stemmed not from a civil liberties motive, but as a taxpayer: I was angry that the government was willing to pay something between £6bn and £17bn (depending upon who you believed) for a system designed to serve the needs of civil servants seeking a ‘deep truth’ about every individual in the UK, driven by a ‘gold standard of identity’. It was designed around their needs, not those of the public.

The scheme was lunacy. It had to be stopped. And then in 2010, with the new government, it was. ID Cards went out, and the National Identity Scheme was literally put in a shredder. The ‘Intellectual Pygmies,’ as a former home secretary nicknamed the privacy advocates, had won the battle, and danced their victory dance.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and without a clear strategy for population-scale ID, what would fill that space? The Coalition promised it wouldn’t be another National Identity Scheme. But politicians’ promises can’t, ahem, be treated as cast-iron guarantees. A vestigial tail of National Identity Cards still exists in the Foreign National Biometric Residence Permit, and some Opposition MPs still speak of their ambition to bring the scheme back from the dead. If those of us who care about privacy, and about how much tax we pay, wish to drive a stake through the heart of intrusive identity schemes, then we need to build something better to take its place. Something so good that nobody would throw it out. And that’s where Identity Assurance comes in.

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