The loss of two computer discs containing the personal and banking details of 25 million people has inevitably cast fresh doubts over the Government’s plans to make us all have identity cards. There is good reason for these concerns.
If the Government cannot be trusted to safeguard the sensitive information contained on the lost discs can it be trusted to look after a national identity register which would contain a wealth of useful information for criminals and terrorists. Ministers will no doubt assure us that the system for protecting the data on the national identity register will be so robust that we need have no fears. A few weeks ago, however, they probably would have said the same about the information provided by child benefit claimants – the information which has now gone astray.
There is a fundamental point here. We live in a society where the Government and other authorities are entrusted with more and more information about us. We are under almost constant surveillance from a battery of CCTV cameras in every town and city. The police have a growing database of people’s DNA profiles, many of whom have not been convicted of any crime. ID cards will shortly mean that even more information will be stored about us.
All of this sensitive data is held on trust. We have no idea whether Governments in the future might misuse this information or, more likely, simply mislay it in a similar blunder to the one we have witnessed this week.
This error should give us all pause for thought, particularly over the issue of ID cards. Are we really happy to have yet more data stored about us? Will it really make us more secure, as the Government claims, or more vulnerable? It is difficult not to feel a sense of deep unease about the further cataloguing of the entire population.