Government can’t be trusted with our personal information

personaldata.jpgBy Margaret Smith | WE have seen only recently just how incompetent the Government is at keeping our personal information secure. Last year, HM Revenue and Customs lost computer discs containing the personal information of about 25 million people, including their bank account details and National Insurance numbers.

This is on top of the DVLA in Northern Ireland losing the personal details of 6000 people and the loss of details of three million theory test candidates.

It is estimated that the market value of these “identities” lost by HMRC was around £1.5 billion, making this a golden opportunity for fraudsters. It serves as a clear demonstration of the dangers of large databases, and the problems with securing personal details, even with “trusted” organisations.

The danger of databases increases with every increase in the amount of data they hold. A comprehensive national identity database, holding 50 pieces of personal information about every person in the UK, would be the most dangerous database of all. Yet the Government are still determined to press ahead with this scheme.

The Home Office expects the cost of introducing the ID card scheme to be £6bn over ten years, while the London School of Economics has estimated that the cards may cost us up to £19bn. I know which estimate I’m more likely to believe and, lest we forget, this is for a card people don’t even want.

The reality is that ID cards will make little or no difference in tackling crime. The police do not generally have a problem identifying the people they arrest — the problem is in catching the criminals in the first place. It is worth remembering that the terrorists who attacked New York and Madrid were all carrying valid ID documents.

And, far from combating identity theft, ID cards will become a target for identity fraudsters. Claims that the cards will be unforgeable are dubious in the light of past experiences.

In war-time 1939, ID cards were brought in for three purposes: conscription, national security and rationing. By 1950, it was found that this had expanded to nearly 40 different functions. So we have no way of knowing what we would be signing ourselves up to.

I believe the money would be much better spent on putting more police on our streets, and on equipping our police forces with new technology to cut the time they spend filling in forms.

My colleagues and I fought hard in the previous Scottish Executive to secure an agreement that ID cards would not be required for access to services controlled by the Scottish Government. I will be continuing to do all I can to oppose the UK Government’s ID card plans and I hope to have the support of the SNP to ensure that this agreement is protected and that ID cards are not imposed in Scotland.